Australia Day Ambassadors
The Australia Day Ambassador Program aims to capture the true spirit of Australia Day by connecting high achieving Queenslanders to communities across the state to support the celebration of this important national day.
Australia Day Ambassadors include past recipients of the Australian of the Year Awards, talented athletes, medical professionals, business leaders, media personalities and community workers who provide inspiration and pride to Australia Day events.
Ambassadors generously volunteer their time and energy to contribute to local Queensland celebrations. They participate in a diverse range of activities which have included providing an inspirational address, presenting Australia Day awards, judging contests and meeting with locals.
Participation of an Australia Day Ambassador in community events is regularly cited as one of the highlights of community celebrations.
The Ambassadors for the 2023 Australia Day Ambassador Program were:
Alison Alexander OAMHost council: Etheridge Shire Council
Alison Alexander OAM
Alison Alexander OAM is a Brisbane-based food consultant and the inaugural Queensland Food Fellow and Food Ambassador for the Scenic Rim Regional area. She was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in the 2020 Australia Day Order of Australia Awards and in 2013, was awarded the Citibank Professional Excellence Award to honour her major contribution to the restaurant industry.
Alison is highly regarded by the local industry for her renowned food knowledge and frequently celebrates Queensland produce and producers. Alison has been a guest presenter on ABC Radio for 25 years and has written for numerous publications. She regularly leads food tours within Queensland to encourage awareness of regional produce and appears as a guest chef, cookery teacher and speaker at events. She is often asked to judge food competitions and has been a Chief Judge for the Royal Queensland Show Preserves section.
Dr Tim BakerHost council: Western Downs Regional Council
Dr Tim Baker
Dr Tim Baker is a successful author, thought leader and international consultant, and is the managing director of WINNERS-at-WORK Pty Ltd, which specialises in leadership development and performance. Tim has written sixteen books, including his latest, WINNING TEAMS: The Eight Characteristics of High-Performing Teams.
He was voted in the 50 Most Talented Global Training and Development Leaders (World HRD Congress), a finalist in the Learning Professional of the Year (Asia Pacific Institute of Learning Professionals), listed in the Top 10 Change Management Consulting Services Companies in APAC 2020 (HR Tech Outlook), named in the 20 Australian Leadership Experts to Watch in 2021 (The Australian Business Journal) and named in the top 10 Emerging Change Management Companies 2021 (Manage HR Magazine).
Ronnie BenbowHost council: Redland City Council
Ronnie Benbow is the Founder and Director of The Carers Foundation. The Carers Foundation provides unique wellness programs to support the emotional, physical and mental wellbeing of unpaid carers. Having trained as a Registered Nurse and with a Degree in Health Science, Ronnie is passionate about caring for and helping others, especially care givers in the community.
In 2021, Ronnie was a Queensland nominee for the Australian of the Year Awards and was awarded the Moreton Bay Citizen of the Year. In 2019, she was nominated for the Telstra Women’s Business awards and won the Femeconomy Queensland Voices award in conjunction with the Queensland Government, for women’s health and wellness.
Elijah Buol OAMHost council: Maranoa Regional Council
Elijah Buol OAM
Elijah Buol is the Chairperson of the Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland, the Queensland State Lead for Migration Support Programs with the Red Cross and member of the Responsible Gambling Advisory Committee with the Department of Justice and Attorney-General. Elijah has established and has been part of several government and not-for-profit organisational boards and advisory committees.
Since arriving in Australia as an unaccompanied minor refugee from South Sudan in 2002, Elijah has worked tirelessly to advocate for the young and disadvantaged. He is a passionate advocate who believes in justice and empowerment for all Australians to realise their aspirations and potential.
Elijah was named among Logan City’s 40 Powerful and influential People of 2021 by the Courier Mail and among Logan City’s 10 most powerful and influential people of 2019. He was the recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia 2019, 2020 Australian National University Student Volunteer of the Year (Postgraduate) and was the 2019 Queensland Local Hero of the Year.
Justine ChristersonHost council: Mckinlay Shire Council
Justine Christerson moved with her family from Biloela to Brisbane in 2012, and started up a program, Breaking Down the Barriers for Rural Patients in City Hospitals, assisting thousands of patients, carers and families who are required to travel to Brisbane to access healthcare services not available locally.
Justine spends her days providing free services to many, including airport pick-ups and drop offs, cooking and delivering home cooked meals, toiletries and advice on the healthcare system, patient travel subsidy scheme, accommodation options or just general information about getting around Brisbane.
Justine was also a finalist in the 2016 Queensland Local Hero Australian of the Year Awards.
Jeremy (Jerry) Coleby-WilliamsHost council: South Burnett Regional Council
Jeremy (Jerry) Coleby-Williams
Jerry is the Director of the Seed Savers Foundation, a community organisation which conserves rare and heritage plants, and is a member of the Australian Institute of Horticulture.
Inspired by his family of gardeners and farmers, Jerry has been gardening since the age of four and initially trained at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Royal Horticultural Society in the United Kingdom. Jerry is qualified in horticultural estate management, soft landscape design, arboriculture, conservation, horticultural and botanical sciences.
Jerry has managed both public and private sector horticultural enterprises in Britain and Australia: nurseries, amenity tree maintenance, inner city parks and gardens, running a busy garden centre, and helping to establish Sydney's Mt Annan Botanic Garden.
Jerry has been a consultant for Sydney city renovation projects, including Darling Park, Central Station, St Mary's Cathedral, the Conservatorium of Music, and the Sydney International Airport. During 2001, Jerry was the horticultural consultant for the inaugural 'ABC Gardening Australia Live' in NSW. For twelve years, Jerry managed the horticultural estate at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney.
In 2003 Jerry moved to Bayside Brisbane to create a sustainable house and garden. His house generates solar power, recycles sewage and grey water, and harvests rainwater for house and garden use.
Jerry has been a familiar voice and face to most gardeners, having appeared on ABC Radio Talkback Gardening since 1995 and ABC Television’s Gardening Australia program since 1999.
Emeritus Professor Ken Donald AOHost council: Cloncurry Shire Council
Emeritus Professor Ken Donald AO
Ken has had a long career in medicine and medical education. As an academic he has published extensively in peer reviewed journals and textbooks. He has held numerous senior positions including Head of the School of Medicine at The University of Queensland, Director of Pathology Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Deputy Director-General of Queensland Health, General Manager John Hunter Hospital, and Director of Medical Services Royal Darwin Hospital. Ken’s loyalty and commitment to the health of Queenslanders is unrivalled.
He was honoured as a Queensland Great in 2012 and awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia for contributions to medicine, education and veterans’ health.
Dr Dimity Dornan AO and Peter Dornan AMHost council: Balonne Shire Council
Dr Dimity Dornan AO and Peter Dornan AM
Dr Dimity Dornan AO
Dimity established Hear and Say in 1992 as a leading not-for-profit organisation for deaf children learning to listen and speak, particularly with surgically implantable hearing technology like the bionic ear. She is currently sharing her experience for the benefit of the stakeholders in the wider bionics industry.
In 2016, she founded Bionics Queensland, which was formally incorporated in 2018 and officially launched in 2019. As Chair of the Board, she has been working to promote the Bionics Industry and help bring new bionics solutions to market for the benefit of people with previously untreatable medical problems. These include not only hearing but also visual, neurological, limb and organ conditions.
Dimity was also awarded the Queensland Senior Australian of the Year in 2018.
Peter Dornan AM
For over 50 years, Peter Dornan has been a physiotherapist in the fields of sports medicine and manipulative therapy, working for many international sporting teams. For his achievements, he was awarded the commemorative 2000 Australian Sports Medal. Peter has also been freelance writing for many years across a range of topics including sporting injuries, prostate cancer, pelvic pain as well as military books.
He is a passionate men's health activist and in 1997, Peter created a forum for men and their partners to gain support and be better informed about matters relating to prostate cancer. In 1998, he was influential in forming the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.
He has also been a classical sculptor for over forty years and has works in many institutions. In 2002, Peter was appointed as a Member of the General Division of the Order of Australia and in 2020, he was the Queensland Senior Australian of the Year.
Dr Sharon BoyceHost council: Toowoomba Regional Council
Dr Sharon Boyce
Dr Sharon Boyce is a published author, advisor, consultant, lecturer at the University of Southern Queensland, disability advocate and a person with a disability.
Sharon is in the process of completing her PHD in the area on inclusion and holds a Master of Education and a Bachelor of Arts. Her aim is to promote a true understanding of disability and diversity and works hard to break down barriers by using experiential education to share lived experience and story, across many networks.
She is also Chair of the Queensland Disability Advisory Council and has received numerous awards and recognition such as the Judy Antonio Memorial Award, 2022 Toowoomba Disability Business Awards and the Community Award (Individual), 2008 Australian Human Rights Medals and Awards, to name a few.
Tim FairfaxHost council: Goondiwindi Regional Council
Tim Fairfax is a Company Director, pastoralist and philanthropist. Tim takes an active leadership role in promoting philanthropy in Australia. He is passionate about supporting rural, remote and regional communities, particularly students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. He has a range of business interests including operating nine rural properties in Queensland and New South Wales involving beef cattle, fine wool and grain.
Tim is Chairman of the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation as well as the Director of the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, Australian Philanthropic Services and Cambooya Pty Ltd. He is also the President of the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation and a member of the Philanthropy Australia Council and National Gallery of Australia Council, and a Honourary Councillor with the Australia Business Arts Foundation
Tim was named as a Queensland Great in 2013 and Queensland Senior Australian of the Year in 2016.
Vanessa Fowler OAMHost council: Longreach Regional Council
Vanessa Fowler OAM
Vanessa is the sister of the late Allison Baden-Clay and is the Director and Chair of the Board of The Allison Baden-Clay Foundation. Since her sister’s death ten years ago, Vanessa takes every opportunity to speak publicly to corporate and community groups to share Allison’s story and talk about the signs and consequences of family violence. Through Strive To Be Kind Day, Vanessa works with schools, businesses and community groups to share the message of kindness and respect.
She is an outstanding achiever and role model to others. She has won many awards including the 2018 Pride of Australia Medal, Queensland Pride of Australia Medal, Australia Post Award, and the 2019 Ipswich Citizen of the Year. Vanessa also Co-Chairs the Queensland Government’s Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Council.
Dr Tahnee BridsonHost council: Cook Shire Council
Dr Tahnee Bridson
Following the suicide of a well-known doctor in 2016, Dr Tahnee Bridson learned that many of her friends and colleagues were also suffering in silence – too scared to speak up out of shame, fear and stigma. It was then that she decided her future would be dedicated to mental health.
With the encouragement of some high-profile health leaders, Tahnee founded Hand-n-Hand Peer Support in March 2020, to assist healthcare workers who were experiencing wellbeing or mental health difficulties.
What began as a small WhatsApp group chat quickly became a collective of more than 2,000 healthcare workers on social media. Tahnee’s work for Hand-n-Hand is done on a volunteer basis, in addition to her full-time job as a Psychiatry Registrar.
Tahnee was also named Queensland Young Australian of the Year 2022.
Olivia HargroderHost council: Central Highlands Regional Council
Olivia Hargroder ran a successful campaign to have athletes with Down Syndrome included in the Paralympics. She has taken her message across Australia and the world and addressed the United Nations in New York. Tireless in her efforts, she genuinely has a message that she wants the world to hear, and the world is listening.
A graduate of the National Institute of Dramatic Art’s, Young Actors Studio, she is forging ahead with her career on stage and screen and has also released a short film called ‘See Me For Who I Am’.
In 2018, Olivia Hargroder was a Queensland nominee for Young Australian of the Year and named Moreton Bay’s Young Citizen of the Year.
Gitie House OAMHost council: Goondiwindi Regional Council
Gitie House OAM
Gitie is the President of the Toowoomba International Multicultural Society Inc, Chair of the Toowoomba Languages and Cultures Festival and the International Street Fiesta. She was a member of the Premier’s Regional Community Forum for the Darling Downs and served on the Queensland Multicultural Advisory Council.
In 2017, Gitie was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for her services to the community. Gitie was named Multicultural Ambassador for Queensland in 2013 and received many awards including the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom Peacewoman, Young Women's Christian Association 125 Leading Women in Queensland and the United Nations Zonta Woman of the Year.
Gitie’s professional background is in project management in software engineering, and she has also co-authored books on understanding wild birds and their social lives.
Gail Ker OAMHost council: Cassowary Coast Regional Council
Gail Ker OAM
Gail has recently commenced a new role with The Social Policy Group as Special Advisor, Settlement.
A nationally lauded and award winning visionary, Gail was formerly the Chief Executive Officer of Access Community Services Ltd where she was the lead in creating social, cultural and economic experiences and opportunities that transformed the lives of individuals and communities. Renowned for her expertise in innovative service solutions, Gail is a recognised thought leader in needs-based community planning, innovative business models, social cohesion, strategic partnerships, employment pathways, funding opportunities and strategic direction.
She formerly served on several boards and advisory committees, including the Settlement Services Advisory Council and the Community Advisory Committee of SBS.
Jay LarkinsHost council: Charters Towers Regional Council
Jay has dedicated himself to helping people with disabilities live their best lives.
He founded the Brisbane Paralympic Football Program (BPFP) in 2006 after he couldn’t find a community sports group willing to include his son Jarrod, who has cerebral palsy. Jay created the program so people of all abilities can stay active and engage in their community through sport. Through BPFP, Jarrod and many other young people with disabilities are going on to represent Australia in their chosen sports. Jay builds each participant’s capacity, confidence and competence. His goal is to improve the overall health and wellbeing of people with disabilities and their families.
He’s also engaging with universities. Each year, more than 100 students from a range of faculties (from occupational therapy to law) join game sessions – providing opportunities for them to better understand individuals living with disability, something they’ll take through their careers.
John LazarouHost council: Somerset Regional Council
John Lazarou co-founded The Coffee Club in 1989 and turned a single café in Brisbane into Australia’s largest coffee shop group, with over 500 stores globally. John's vision, along with his PR and marketing skills has seen The Coffee Club branch out into more than nine countries.
Over the past three decades, The Coffee Club has donated over $11 million to various charities such as The Children's Hospital Foundation, and John has also been involved with many fund raisers such as the 2008 Great Walk to Beijing.
Professor Peter Leggat AMHost council: Torres Shire Council
Professor Peter Leggat AM
Peter is the Co-Director of the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Vector-Borne and Neglected Tropical Diseases at James Cook University in Townsville. His passion for more than 30 years has been combating some of the world’s most lethal and disabling tropical diseases. An accomplished author and former Fulbright Scholar, he has published widely with more than 600 papers, books and chapters contributions.
Peter has also had a parallel career as a doctor-soldier serving in the Australian Army, both full-time and Reserve forces, for over 30 years. His overseas deployments have included Thailand and East Timor. He was promoted to his current rank of Colonel in 2013. In 2019, he was appointed as Honorary Aide-de-Camp to the Governor-General.
His other passion is volunteering and he has provided several decades of community service for St John Ambulance Australia, including assisting with major disaster events. In 2013, Peter was admitted as a Member of the Order of Australia for significant services to Medicine and in 2021 was promoted to Knight of the Order of St John.
Assistant Professor Nick Marshall OAMHost council: Western Downs Regional Council
Assistant Professor Nick Marshall OAM
Nick was awarded the 2020 Australian of the Year Local Hero for Queensland in recognition of his work in creating the country's first ever inclusive surf lifesaving nipper program, the Albatross Nippers. A program that not only has spread across the state and country but has spread to other areas of the world. This program also led to Nick being awarded a 2020 Churchill Fellowship.
Nick is an Assistant Professor of Physiotherapy and the Sports Physiotherapist for Swimming Australia, Boxing Australia and The Australian Surf Lifesaving Team, to name a few. He is also the President of the Australian Physiotherapy Association in Queensland.
Melissa and Peter McGuinessHost council: Maranoa Regional Council
Melissa and Peter McGuiness
Melissa and Peter McGuinness are the founders of YOU CHOOSE Youth Road Safety. Highly acclaimed by students, parents, police, educators and academics, YOU CHOOSE Youth Road Safety is the award recipient of the 10th Annual Australian Road Safety Award Recipients for School Programs. The program has recently surpassed 175,000 participants Australia-wide.
The YOU CHOOSE program takes an innovative, social-project approach to road safety education for teens, which focuses on peer-advocacy as integral to changed behaviours and attitudes. Developed to complement orthodox skills and re-enactment courses, YOU CHOOSE places participants into profound personal reflection about connections between intentions, choices, actions and loved ones. They are equipped to give each other permission in advance to speak up and to act in favour of good choices in moments-that-matter.
Melissa was a Queensland nominee for the Australian of the Year in 2021 and 2022 and was also the 2020 Gold Coast Woman of the Year People's Choice.
Dr Robert (Bob) McGregorHost council: Flinders Shire Council
Dr Robert (Bob) McGregor
After obtaining paediatric qualifications at the age of 27, Bob commenced practice in Ipswich. He was Ipswich's first paediatrician and in the first year, he raised funds to provide Ipswich Hospital's small Special Care Babies nursery with vital modern equipment, followed by a long program to make the kids' ward more attractive.
For over 30 years, Bob served on the Boards of Ipswich Hospital and St Andrews Hospital and for 31 years as a Foundation member of the Ipswich Hospital Foundation Board. He founded the annual Ipswich100 charity ride in 2000, which has since raised over $1.6 million supporting local charities.
Bob served as Chair of the Ipswich and West Moreton Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Team for 31 years and has held executive positions with a local Australian Medical Association, serving three terms as President.
Bob has received the highest awards of both Lions and Rotary International, respectively the Mervin Jones and Paul Harris Awards for community service, and was named the Queensland Senior Australian of the Year 2014. He was a Queen's Baton Holder for the recent Commonwealth Games and was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Science by the University of Southern Queensland.
Bruce Morcombe OAM and Denise Morcombe OAMHost council: Western Downs Regional Council
Bruce Morcombe OAM and Denise Morcombe OAM
Following the abduction and murder of their son Daniel in 2003, Bruce and Denise Morcombe committed to making communities a safer place for children. The establishment of the Daniel Morcombe Foundation in 2005 highlighted their goal to educate young people about how to stay safe in physical and online environments while supporting young victims of crime in their often-harrowing journey to recovery.
While some people would have been destroyed by losing a child, Bruce and Denise have embraced the desire to ensure other children don’t suffer Daniel’s fate, that parents and carers are informed and that young people themselves know the signs and what do to do if they find themselves in potentially dangerous situations.
Bruce and Denise’s personal commitment to the safety of children was recognised when they were named joint Queensland Australian of the Year recipients in 2012 and by the Medal of the Order of Australia awarded to them in 2013. They are also Child Safety Ambassadors, and through the foundation have delivered important safety education to Queensland and the nation. They were named Queensland Greats in 2020.
Dr Dinesh Palipana OAMHost council: Redland City Council
Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM
Dinesh was the first quadriplegic medical intern in Queensland and the second person to graduate medical school with quadriplegia in Australia. He is the co-founder of Doctors with Disabilities Australia, works in the emergency department at the Gold Coast University Hospital and is a senior advisor to the Disability Royal Commission. He is a lecturer at Griffith University, researcher at the Menzies Health Institute of Queensland and doctor to the Gold Coast Titans physical disability rugby team.
Dinesh was awarded the Gold Coast Health's 2018 Junior Doctor of the Year, Medal of the Order of Australia in 2019 and the Queensland Australian of the Year in 2021. He was also the third Australian to be awarded a Henry Viscardi Achievement Award and was listed 33rd in the Courier Mail’s top 100 power list for Queensland’s most influential in health and wellbeing. His autobiography, Stronger, was published by Pan Macmillan in 2022.
Leigh SkinnerHost council: Southern Downs Regional Council
Leigh Skinner started his trade as a motor mechanic in 1981, three years later he was diagnosed with a tumour in his spinal cord which crushed the nerves to his legs. Leigh has since been diagnosed as an incomplete paraplegic.
In December 2008, Leigh was introduced to Para sport by Sporting Wheelies in Brisbane. In March 2009, Leigh competed in his first Para Powerlifting event and qualified for the Para Powerlifting Australian Team. He holds several Australian and International records, both in Para Powerlifting and Able Body Bench Press, and has competed at three Commonwealth Games (Delhi 2010, Glasgow 2014 and Gold Coast 2018).
Now retired from Para Sport, Leigh devotes his time to helping young athletes with disabilities create a better life through sport.
Lakeisha Patterson OAMHost council: Isaac Regional Council
Lakeisha Patterson OAM
Lakeisha, otherwise known as Lucky, has become Queensland’s very own golden girl. Lakeisha started swimming at the age of five as a form of hydrotherapy to help ease her muscle stiffness from Cerebral Palsy left Hemiplegia.
To date, Lakeisha is a three time Paralympic Gold medallist and dual World and Commonwealth Champion. She has represented Australia at two Pan Pacific Championships, two Commonwealth Games, three World Championships and two Paralympics with other international events, medals and records in between.
Lakeisha is an ambassador for numerous organisations and charities as well as an Order of Australia Medal recipient. When she isn’t swimming, Lakeisha studies at university, volunteers within the community, speaks at numerous events, and raises education and awareness about inclusion, diversity and resilience.
Chris TamwoyHost council: Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council
Chris has ties to Badu, Boigu and Darnley Islands in the Torres Strait and is a self-taught guitar virtuoso in the making.
Since a video of a school performance went viral, his stage presence and emotive musical gift have been making an impression on the Australian music scene. Chris has opened for John Butler Trio at the Byron Bay Blues Festival, played at the NRL Indigenous All-Stars game, and appeared on NITV’s Unearthed, JJJ and ABC radio. His first EP (extended play) is in production.
Chris’s other passion is reconciliation. In 2013, his neighbourhood in Logan became the focus of so-called race riots. Chris joined other Indigenous youth to form the Logan First Nations Youth Assembly, to tackle the negative portrayal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth. Chris is involved with the ‘Recognise campaign’, facilitates for the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy and is co-chair of Logan Youth Arm – Australia’s first youth reconciliation group affiliated with Reconciliation Australia.
Professor Peter TimmsHost council: Lockyer Valley Regional Council
Professor Peter Timms
Peter is Professor of Microbiology at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. He is a microbiologist and a highly regarded global authority on chlamydial infection and disease in humans and animals. In particular, he is the world leader on chlamydial disease in koalas, a world expert on koala retrovirus (KoRV) and a pioneer in developing vaccines for koalas. Today he is leading the race to develop vaccines to safeguard this Australian icon from extinction.
Peter’s key personal focus is the impact he is having by taking applied research through to a real-world vaccine for koala Chlamydia; “Research into Reality”. While the future of koalas is under threat on several fronts, chlamydial disease is responsible, staggeringly, for up to 50% of current and future threats. Peter’s team is spearheading the development of a vaccine. Results suggest that the vaccine could be a game-changer for the koala’s future survival. His inspiring research and translation effort may therefore be the critical factor to save our Australian koala populations.
Selina TomasichHost council: Burdekin Shire Council
Selina founded Hair Aid Inc in 2010, an Australian not for profit organisation that sends teams of volunteer hairdressers across the world to teach those living in critical poverty how to cut hair. The teams teach the skills required to increase their livelihood, allowing them to earn money to feed, clothe and house themselves and their children.
Selina holds five university qualifications as well as an international inventor's patent for creating online technology. She has created eight apps, written academic books and is published in peer reviewed journals.
Karyn Walsh AMHost council: Hinchinbrook Shire Council
Karyn Walsh AM
Karyn established and has led Micah Projects for over 25 years. She has been responsible for the development and implementation of innovative and effective policies for community services which addresses homelessness and domestic violence, supports young parents and people with a disability, mental illness and substance use disorder and aims to prevent child abuse, ensuring reparations for people who have experienced institutional abuse.
During COVID-19, Karyn worked with the Department of Housing and other non-government services in its response to support homeless people in Brisbane during the lockdowns, resulting in 1700 people accessing emergency housing. This included women and children escaping domestic violence. Karyn advocates a “Housing First” and an integrated approach, leading to statewide and nationwide homelessness practice that enables the most vulnerable to access healthcare and support services to sustain their tenancy.
Dr Barbara WoodhouseHost council: Rockhampton Regional Council
Dr Barbara Woodhouse
Barbara, Australia’s first dual qualified female oral and maxillofacial surgeon, has led a lifetime of dedicated service. She pioneered several Australia-first surgical techniques and worked to establish maxillofacial services in rural and regional areas.
Barbara was president of the Queensland branch of the Australia and New Zealand Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and is a director of the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons. She successfully lobbied for legislative amendments to ensure children with significant facial deformity have equitable health access.
Barbara continues active involvement in training the next generation of maxillofacial surgeons, which remains male-dominated. A mentor to high school and university students, she frequently lectures nationally and internationally. She is also a passionate advocate for the mental health of junior doctors and for equality and inclusion.
Since 2001, Barbara has self-funded trips to the Asia-Pacific region to perform life-changing surgery and, more importantly, train local surgeons.
Barbara was named a Queensland Australian of the Year nominee for 2023.
Distinguished Professor James Dale AOHost council: Paroo Shire Council
Distinguished Professor James Dale AO
Distinguished Professor James Dale AO leads a research program at the Queensland University of Technology involved in the genetic improvement of bananas, the world’s most important fruit crop. The most advanced project is to alleviate vitamin A deficiency in Uganda and surrounding countries by developing cooking bananas with high levels of pro-vitamin A. These bananas are in regulatory field trials in Uganda with a release date coming soon.
Panama Disease tropical race 4 is the greatest threat to banana production worldwide and is present in Australia. James is working on a project to generate Cavendish bananas containing a disease resistance gene from a wild banana, with stage two field trials nearly completed in the Northern Territory. The bananas have progressed through initial field trials in Malawi with promising results.
James was the 2019 Queensland Senior Australian of the Year and was honoured as a Queensland Great in 2015.
Daniel ClarkeHost council: South Burnett Regional Council
Daniel is a passionate conservationist for the critically endangered orangutan populations in Borneo and Sumatra. Since 2008, Daniel, with the help of his brother William, have highlighted the species’ plight and raised more than $1 million dollars to help protect the animals and their habitat. The funds have supported orangutan care centres by building new holding enclosures and enabling investment in veterinary equipment. The brothers have also sponsored more than 50,000 hectares of orangutan habitat.
Daniel and William’s literary work on orangutan conservation has been incorporated into the New South Wales Department of Education Curriculum and Daniel has spoken to more than 60,000 students Australia wide. Additionally, their conservation efforts have been recognised by the previous United States President Barack Obama, Dame Dr Jane Goodall and Sir David Attenborough.
Daniel was also named 2021 Queensland Young Australian of the Year.
Peter DavisHost council: Longreach Regional Council
Peter launched Blood Bikes Australia several years ago, a volunteer brigade of motorcyclists that ferry urgent blood and medical supplies between hospitals for free. The money saved on transporting blood and supplies can then go to other healthcare services.
Peter first started making deliveries in Brisbane on his own, but it soon grew to nine volunteers. Blood Bikes Australia has now grown to 280 qualified volunteers across Australia.
His team of riders has made nearly 4,000 last-resort pick-ups and deliveries for 50 healthcare providers from Cairns to Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Tasmania. They’ve delivered life-saving blood, biopsies, COVID tests, stem cells, corneas for transplant and clinical trial tests, along with files and patients’ personal items. Peter’s long-term goal is for more hospitals to use Blood Bikes Australia, saving more lives and healthcare dollars.
Peter was also named a Queensland Local Hero nominee for the 2023 Australian of the Year Awards.
Paul Dellit OAMHost council: Maranoa Regional Council
Paul Dellit OAM
Paul is an actor, musician and producer. As an actor he has performed with the Queensland Theatre, La Boite Theatre Company, Opera Queensland, Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) and the Adelaide Festival Centre. He has also worked as Musical Director and Director for Queensland Theatre Company and La Boite Theatre Company.
In 2001, Paul was the recipient of a Centenary Medal for his services to the Arts in Australia and in 2017 he was honoured with a Medal of the Order of Australia. For 12 years from 2009 to 2021, Paul was one of QPAC’s most versatile and experienced producers working on projects as diverse as international ballet productions and major concerts featuring Broadway stars. In 2022, Paul received the Gold Matilda Award from the Brisbane theatre critic and the Alan Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award from the Actors’ and Entertainers’ Benevolent Fund of Queensland.
Paul is driven by his passion for the performing arts and those who work within it and is currently the Manager of the Moncrieff Entertainment Centre in Bundaberg.
Rowena DionysiusHost council: North Burnett Regional Council
Rowena is from Kingaroy and has been the Chair of South Burnett Relay for Life for 11 years. She is wholeheartedly dedicated to her role and volunteers countless hours organising events throughout the year to raise funds for Cancer Council Queensland.
In 2021, an event that Rowena and her team organised raised well over $100,000 and what makes Rowena’s volunteer work even more remarkable is that a small town like Kingaroy has been able to raise over $1.7 million dollars for Cancer Council Queensland.
Rowena’s efforts have resulted in the funding of vital services that Cancer Council Queensland provide in Kingaroy and South Burnett, including accommodation and travel assistance, counselling support, and education and prevention campaigns that directly target the needs of rural communities.
Rowena was also a finalist in the 2022 Queensland Volunteering Awards.
Gerrard Gosens OAMHost council: Winton Shire Council
Gerrard Gosens OAM
Gerrard Gosens is a vision-impaired adventurer, three-time Paralympian, project manager, chocolatier, small business owner and motivational speaker. He represented Australia at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games in the team sport of Goalball. Gerrard returned to his former sporting love, distance running, and represented Australia at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games in the 5000 metres, 10,000 metres and marathon (42.2km). He has also represented Australia at the 2012 Marathon World Cup, 2008 Beijing Paralympic games and six Athletics World Championships.
Gerrard was honoured with an Order of Australia Medal in 2012, for his outstanding service to sport, and people with disability. He is the owner of Chocolate Moments, creating hand-made chocolates while running two retail chocolate stores in Brisbane and conducting chocolate cooking experiences.
He is currently writing a book which will provide insight into the many unique and entertaining experiences that he has encountered with his guide dogs.
Daniel (Danny) Hoyland OAMHost council: Sunshine Coast Regional Council
Daniel (Danny) Hoyland OAM
Danny has devoted his life to a range of causes including Surf Life Saving, the Australian Air Force Cadets and radio broadcasting.
He is one of the lifesavers responsible for bringing helicopter surf rescue to Queensland and has dedicated decades of his life to the service. Danny ensured volunteers were always well trained, were provided the necessary heli-lifesaving skills and committed his Friday and Saturday nights to taking volunteers through hospital emergency departments so they could learn from front line medical staff.
He is a life member of the Coolangatta Surf Life Saving Club, Surf Life Saving Queensland, Surf Life Saving Australia and the Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter Rescue Service. Danny was honoured by Surf Life Saving Queensland and the Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter Rescue Service as one of 6 Heli Legends.
Danny has also worked in the media for over 40 years as a reporter and broadcaster at 4BK, Talk 4BC, 4BH, River 949, and currently West Bremer Radio.
Karen JacobsonHost council: Maranoa Regional Council
Karen is an international concert artist, songwriter and speaker whose speaking voice led to a unique pop culture status being in over a billion GPS and smartphone devices worldwide, including the original Aussie voice of ’Siri’. In real life, through her songs, concert performances and speaking presentations, she entertains and inspires.
Karen has shared the stage with Norah Jones, Neil Sedaka, Jon English and Christopher Cross and performed the national anthem at major sporting events in the United States and in Australia.
She is passionate about being an established artist, creating projects to make a lasting impact in Queensland, specifically increasing the arts and culture presence in the Whitsundays region where she is based. It is Karen’s vision that brought to life the inaugural Whitsundays Songwriter Festival in September 2022, as Co-Founder.
Kevin Hughes BMHost council: Isaac Regional Council
Kevin Hughes BM
Kevin’s passion for Australian native animals started in the early 90’s, as he brought awareness to as many people as he could through the establishment of the Endangered Species Supporters Australia.
He travelled around Australia listening, asking questions and educating people in all aspects of Australia’s endangered species and how they can best assist in helping to increase the numbers of those species. He now travels around Australia working with communities impacted by natural disasters to rebuild suitable habitats for local animals.
Kevin has served in the Royal Australian Airforce within Australia and overseas, the Queensland Fire Service and is an active member of the State Emergency Service in Queensland. He is also an active Veterans’ Advocate, representing and assisting veterans who sustained injuries during the military service and is actively involved with the Black Dog Institute.
In 2018, Kevin was selected to run a section with the Queen’s Baton in the Brisbane city for the Commonwealth Games held on Gold Coast.
Taj PabariHost council: Moreton Bay Regional Council
Taj is one of Australia's youngest and most successful social entrepreneurs. He is the Group Chief Executive Officer of The ASE Group which has partnered with Government, the private sector and educational institutions to deliver real and authentic education, entrepreneurial and employment programs to more than 180,000 Australians.
Taj has presented to the Former US Vice President Al Gore in Brisbane and sipped tea with the Prime Minister of Australia in Canberra. His story has been featured by Sunrise, 60 Minutes, The Today Show, National Geographic, ABC, Nickelodeon and CNBC. He has also appeared as an education commentator on Channel 9 and Channel 10, given three TEDx talks and has been a keynote speaker at the World Science Festival alongside Nobel Laureate and Brian Schmidt.
Taj was named The Australian Young Innovator of the Year for 2014 and was awarded Young Australian of the Year for Queensland in 2017.
Habib JamalHost council: Western Downs Regional Council
Habib is the President of the Queensland Muslims Inc and the Chairperson of the Community Leaders Group. In 2020, he was appointed to the executive committee of the Queensland Faith Communities Council.
Habib has led multiple projects including fundraising for bushfire recovery, creating training opportunities for youth, and working jointly with other religions during COVID-19 to develop plans for Places of Worship. He is the Multicultural Ambassador for the Mental Health Foundation Australia and continues his ongoing charity work and fundraising for communities.
He works towards the goal of unifying the diverse Muslim community and supporting others in need.
Natasha (Tash) JohnstonHost council: Paroo Shire Council
Natasha (Tash) Johnston
In 2014, Tash started Drought Angels Ltd, a service that delivers care packages and financial assistance to thousands of drought-stricken farming families across Australia. Originally expected to be a three to six month project to support farmers impacted by the drought, today Drought Angels has raised millions of dollar to support thousands of primary producing families all over Australia impacted by natural disasters.
In 2021, Tash was awarded the Queensland Local Hero and the Courier Mail’s Queenslander of the Year.
Ross McKinnonHost council: Western Downs Regional Council
Ross is the retired Curator-in-Charge of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mt Coot-tha, a position he held for a record 31 years. Internationally regarded as one of the world’s leading sub-tropical botanic gardens, it features significant plant collections including the world’s largest representative collection of Australian native rainforest plants.
In June 2014, Ross was awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International in appreciation of tangible and significant assistance given for the pursuit of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world.