2019 Lord Mayor's Australia Day Awards

The 2019 Lord Mayor's Australia Day Awards recognised Brisbane's unsung heroes. The awards paid tribute to the special people in our community who have gone above and beyond to help improve the lives of others and contribute to the city's vision of a diverse, friendly and strong community.

2019 Lord Mayor's Australia Day Award winners

Winner profiles

Citizen of the Year - Umesh and Usha Chandra

Umesh and Usha Chandra are exceptional leaders within the Brisbane community. Not only do the husband and wife duo contribute significantly to the Indian community, generously giving their time to support migrants, but Umesh and Usha are also dedicated to supporting people from all backgrounds and religious groups. By supporting numerous multicultural community events every year, Umesh and Usha have been able to strengthen the connection between the city's many cultures, promoting social harmony and multiculturalism in Brisbane.

Umesh and Usha were heavily involved in the construction of the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Roma Street Parkland in 2014. As members of the Global Organisation for People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), both Umesh and Usha played an instrumental role from the beginning. Mahatma Gandhi's statue was unveiled during G20 with the Prime Minister of India in attendance.

Umesh has contributed to the Indian community in other significant ways. Umesh has played an instrumental role in the honouring of the indentured Indian Labourers by hosting commemoration events. He has used platforms such as the Brisbane Indian Times and Australian Indian Radio to promote Brisbane as a welcoming and harmonious place to live. Umesh also volunteers at a Hindu Temple in Brisbane's north.

Umesh is an Ambassador of White Ribbon, where he devotes many hours of his time to spreading the message of preventing domestic violence and mental illness in the community. In additional to his charity work, Umesh also volunteers in a social band, providing entertainment at numerous cultural events throughout the year, with the aim of fostering a love of arts throughout the culturally diverse community of Brisbane.

Usha is also a familiar figure in Brisbane's Indian community, continuously volunteering her time to organise both social and fundraising events, including the India Day Fair that has become a feature of the Brisbane calendar. Through her involvement in GOPIO, Usha has actively promoted networking and business events that have been essential in helping migrants to feel settled in the Brisbane community. Usha has also supported new migrants by inviting authorities, such as the Queensland Police Service, to join local community members at meetings. These meetings aim to build good working relationships between the groups.

"Umesh and Usha are team players that make themselves available to everyone. They are role models for new migrants."- Nominator

Young Citizen of the year - Connor O'Grady

Since the age of four, Connor has aspired to be a fashion designer. As a child, Connor began sewing and designing clothes, taking any opportunity he could to put his work towards a charitable cause. At the age of eight, Connor designed clothing to be auctioned at 'Think Pink' Breast Cancer fundraising event. Connor has also donated his time and money to the Wesley Hospital's Choices Cancer Support Centre by making turbans for women being treated for cancer.

Over the past 10 years, Connor has competed in, and won, a number of competitions including the Natural Fibres Make and Model Competition, held annually at the Royal Queensland Show, the Apex Australia Teenage Fashion and Arts Youth Festival and the Australian Wool Fashion Awards. In 2017, the Royal Queensland Show invited Connor to be a judge, after becoming a three-time Grand Champion in the Natural Fibres Creations Competition. It is Connor's commitment and focus that has landed him an offer to study at the London School of Fashion this year. 

Overall, Connor has not only made his mark in the fashion industry, but also put his passion and skills towards giving back to the community. Connor is a great example of a young person following their dreams.

"Connor is a wonderful young man who is a pleasure to know." - Nominator

Senior Citizen of the Year - Robyn Everest

Robyn is a well-known face at St Andrew's War Memorial Hospital. She has volunteered at the hospital's auxiliary for more than 45 years and has been the president for most of this time - the longest-serving president since the auxiliary was formed in 1947.

Robyn is a stalwart for patients and staff. She volunteers an average of 26 hours a week in her role as president and also fills in for other members when they are unable to work. Her responsibilities include food preparation, serving staff, patients and visitors, cooking cakes for sale, shopping for goods, and training and rostering volunteers. It brings her great joy to donate the profits of the group's fundraising efforts to the hospital.

Robyn has a caring nature and is always thinking of how she can help other people. Being a caring and loving mother and grandmother, Robyn raised four children and cared for her mother at home until she had to go into a nursing home. Robyn also has a lifelong involvement with the Presbyterian Church and still makes an active contribution at the age of 84.

"Robyn continues to serve the hospital and its community - her work ethic is like no other that I've seen." - Nominator

Australia Day Sports Award - Pamela O'Neill

Pamela is a trailblazer for female jockeys in Australia and has contributed a lifetime of service to her industry. Pamela campaigned for almost 18 years to change the rules of racing and have female jockeys licensed to ride in general competitions in Australia. In 1979, Pamela became the first female jockey to be granted a licence in Australia and became the first Australian-based female jockey to win a professional race.

After her retirement from race riding, Pamela became the senior riding instructor at Queensland Race Training, preparing apprentice jockeys for a life in the saddle. She has also worked with the National Jockeys Trust since its formation to help with, and progress the rehabilitation of injured jockeys, and provide advice in relation to financial matters for them and their families.

Away from the racetrack, Pamela has been a tireless worker and advocate for jockey rights as well as conditions for riders. She has been involved in countless charity functions to raise money for injured or distressed racing jockeys.

"Pamela, now at the age of 73, has given most of her life to the Queensland racing industry." - Nominator

Australia Day Cultural/Arts Award - Recovered Futures Art Exhibition

A signature event of the Mental Illness Fellowship Queensland and Richmond Fellowship Queensland is the 'Recovered Futures Art Exhibition', which coincides with Queensland Mental Health Week and World Mental Health Day. This event aims to raise awareness of, and destigmatise mental health as well as educate the community about the importance of mental health and wellbeing in everyone's lives.

2018 heralded the 27th year of this event. In 2018, the week-long event featured 256 unique pieces of art by 139 artists with a lived experience of mental illness and recovery. The event aims to give marginalised artists a platform to showcase and sell their artwork. All artwork is for sale throughout the event with the exhibiting artists retaining 90% of their artwork proceeds. 

This event strives to stamp out misconceptions commonly associated with mental illness while promoting deeper inclusivity throughout society.

Community Event of the Year - MacGregor Lions Health and Wellbeing Expo

The MacGregor Lions Health and Wellbeing Expo is a community event held at Hillsong Brisbane Central Campus and is focused on the seniors of Brisbane. The annual event offers free information sessions and subsidiary information stalls that encourage seniors to take a proactive approach to their health and wellbeing. Hosted by the Lions Club of MacGregor, the event also includes a morning tea and light lunch for visitors.

Over the years, with the support of the community, the event has grown and, in 2018, there were 30 exhibitors and eight keynote speakers. Topics covered by speakers include how to avoid scams, understanding your pension, misadventures in medication, sleep disorders and melanoma risks. Displays from organisations such as Diabetes Queensland, Uniting Care Queensland, Alzheimer's Australia and Queensland Ambulance Service also feature. The MacGregor Lions Health and Wellbeing Expo is a perfect example of an event that works with multiple community groups and different levels of government to ensure the seniors of Brisbane are well-informed and cared for.

Green Heart Award - Wolston and Centenary Catchments Inc

Wolston and Centenary Catchments Inc (WaCC) is a not-for-profit organisation giving back to the community through their contribution and dedication to natural assets surrounding local catchments. In 2008, with the support of Brisbane City Council, WaCC was formed by a passionate and dedicated band of volunteers from local environmental groups, Centenary and District Environment Action (CDEA) and Friends of Pooh Corner (FoPC).

The long-term goal of WaCC is to conserve the major wildlife corridor surrounding Wolston and Bullockhead creeks by developing ongoing ecological restoration projects aimed at gradually restoring the connectivity, biodiversity and water quality. WaCC also has a strong focus on community engagement and education, encouraging participation and holding events for National Tree Day and Clean Up Australia Day.

In addition to participating in these events, WaCC has also developed their own initiatives, including BushWaCCers. BushWaCCers is a roving bushcare group that aims to facilitate volunteer follow-up maintenance on various WaCC ecological projects, through partnerships with various community groups. In 2018, WaCC partnered with Multicultural Development Australia to deliver training to trainees from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. As part of this Friends of BushWaCCers program, 12 participants undertook traineeships in conservations and land management.

Australia Day Achievement Awards

Charles and Tracy Alder

During 2018, the impact of the drought on farmers and their stock became a nationally significant issue. However, this is not something new to Charles and Tracy Alder, who have been working hard to support farmers for many years.

Coming from a family committed to helping others, Charles and Tracy initiated the Buy a Bale campaign in 2013 after reading about the plight of Queensland farmers. Following the success of the Buy a Bale campaign, Charles and Tracy founded the charity Rural Aid in 2015, to expand services and support to rural communities suffering through natural disasters and in need of help to remain in existence.

Seeing the increasing impact of the recent drought on the wellbeing of farmers and their families, Charles proactively worked with the Channel 7 Sunrise program to bring attention to difficulties faced in the outback. Additionally, Charles and Tracy have personally driven trucks to deliver hay and household necessities to farmers, organised community events to raise the awareness of the drought, coordinated fundraising calendars for sale at the EKKA and established a Black Tie & Boots Ball.

The Buy a Bale campaign has distributed more than $10 million worth of fodder to farmers around Australia. Charles and Tracy have demonstrated that people in the city truly care about our farmers.

Robert Bailey

Robert is actively involved in Brisbane cricket and contributes to several organisations including the Australian Cricket Society (Queensland) and as a board member of the Brisbane Junior Cricket Association.

Robert is determined to increase the participation of girls in cricket. By 2028, he is aiming for a third of all junior cricketers on Brisbane's northside to be girls.

Robert has successfully engaged multiple local cricket clubs and established the first all-girls inter-club cricket competition on Brisbane's northside. To give girls the opportunity to play cricket over winter, Robert worked tirelessly with Warehouse Cricket to establish the inaugural all-girls winter competition in 2018.

Robert has also established competitive pathways to enable girls to play at a higher level and progress within the game. These include the opportunity to play in an elite all-girls competition and to play in representative teams.

Robert also instigated pre-season come and play programs and summer holiday camps. Robert has successfully worked with the Catholic Secondary Schoolgirls' Sports Association to add cricket to the list of sports available to girls at Catholic high schools across Brisbane.

Ronald Baker

Over the past 30 years, Ronald has made an outstanding contribution to the Brisbane community, especially in Coorparoo and the surrounding suburbs.

As a retired architect, Ronald has actively championed the preservation and appreciation of buildings on Brisbane's southside by leading groups such as the Coorparoo and Districts Heritage Group, whose mission it is to record and preserve the history of the local area. Recently, Ronald was re-elected as president of this group, volunteering his time to organise the bi-monthly meetings, as well as arranging the guest speakers who attend.

Since the 1980s, Ronald has also volunteered his time at a large number of community organisations including as president of the Coorparoo School of Arts, and also the Stones Corner Rotary Club, Architects Small Practice Group, National Trust of Australia (East Brisbane Branch), Coorparoo Community Association and the Royal Institute of Architects (Queensland Chapter). According to his peers, none of these organisations would be as successful as they are today without the application of Ronald's personal drive and friendly personality.

Simon Chong

Simon's dedication to community service and selflessness is well recognised in the Chinese community of Brisbane.

Simon has been a member of the Lions Club of Brisbane Chinese (BC Lions) since 1999 and consistently offers his services to other Lions clubs. He was the president of his Lions Club in 2004 and has been the treasurer of the club for the past 10 years.

Simon runs an electronic equipment business which enables him to provide audio systems for many other non-profit organisations at no charge. He sets up electric and electronic equipment and utilises his personal van to transport furniture, equipment and volunteers. He recently bought an SUV to replace the van to continue his service. Simon is an unsung hero in his community.

Dane Christison

Dane is a former Australian soldier who served overseas in order to protect lives and is working towards saving lives today.

After overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the challenges faced from transitioning from military to civilian life, Dane realised that clinical treatment alone wouldn't get the results that he and his fellow servicemen and women desired. Based on his first-hand experience, Dane developed an online 'Survive to Thrive' program to train former servicemen to come home.

Dan is striving to ensure no other lives are lost to PTSD. The program takes participants on a mental health and transitioning journey, which allow them to regain control of their lives and rebuild resilience so they can not only survive but also thrive. The program also offers participants 24/7 access to online peer support and face-to-face mentoring from fellow veterans who have excelled in the program. 

Dane is currently developing another program to help emergency services workers to overcome trauma and has the inspiration to widen his program to help other citizens in Brisbane and worldwide.

Kay Kane and Margaret Thomas

Over several years, sisters Kay Kane and Margaret Thomas have given their time to the development of the arts and creative community in Brisbane, specifically through their leadership at the Royal Queensland Art Society (RQAS). In their roles as president and vice president, Kay and Margaret have endeavoured to make the organisation an inclusive learning space for all artists to enjoy, supporting each other in developing new ideas and building resources.

Kay, who is an artist herself, has been highly involved with the workshops at RQAS over the past 28 years, conducting drawing and painting classes. Kay is also a great supporter of, and mentor for, young and emerging artists in the Brisbane community.

Margaret has brought her business expertise to the RQAS, volunteering her time to improve the administration and streamline and monitor the organisation's costs. Under Margaret's leadership, RQAS was able to further develop and build on its existing events. 

Together, Kay and Margaret have worked tirelessly to nurture Brisbane's artistic practice. Their efforts within the arts and creative community have helped to create a facility for artists to develop professionally, providing a huge range of support, in both resources and mentoring.

Stephen Papas

Stephen has contributed a lifetime of service to many organisations across Brisbane including the South Brisbane Rotary Club, Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, the Cadmus Society, the Royal Historical Society and the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation.

Stephen has volunteered for the Alumni Friends of the University of Queensland Inc. (Alumni Friends) since its inception in 1967. For the past 51 years, Stephen has worked tirelessly to help students and fellow graduates promote the interests of the University of Queensland and to raise funds for university projects. Over the past 51 years, Alumni Friends has donated the equivalent of more than $8.5 million to the university.

Stephen has been volunteering at the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron for more than 30 years and although he is now 86, Stephen still volunteers weekly.

Prerna Pahwa

Prerna has made a magnificent contribution to several worthwhile causes over the years, including the Australian Red Cross and the Leukaemia Foundation Queensland.

Prerna focuses on individuals who are suffering from cancer and depression. Along with her friends, Prerna successfully helped a young student diagnosed with leukaemia get back to life by raising $88,000 through crowd funding and by providing an immense moral support to him and his family. She also supported a three-year-old girl who was diagnosed with lymphoma, and organised multiple bone marrow drives for an Australian resident who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia Philadelphia positive, in the hope of finding a donor. 

Prerna has also worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the importance of bone marrow donations and stem cell research within ethnic communities. She has focused on engaging with Australians from South Asia and South East Asia to encourage them to become bone marrow donors.

Tess Rowley

Tess has made an outstanding contribution to the Brisbane community as an author, supporter, trainer, presenter and fundraiser.

Tess' commitment to helping the community began in the 1980s when she worked as a child protection officer. During this period, Tess commenced writing and illustrating a series of books to educate children, their parents, carers and professionals on child safety and feeling good about themselves. These books, as well as the accompanying resources Tess created for state-wide workers, are still sold throughout Australia and overseas by not-for-profit organisations. All profits from the sales are returned to the organisations. Tess' work in this area not only supports the development of children's literacy, but it also provides teachers, counsellors and parents with resources to help prevent child abuse.

Over the years, Tess has provided support within the Indigenous community by hosting yarning circles, offering support to grandparents raising their grandchildren full time, and advocating with government departments on behalf of Indigenous women. Tess is also a member of a number of organisations such as Circle of Friends and Aunties and Uncles Queensland.

Tess' contribution to the community has had a wide range of positive outcomes for children, parents and carers not only in Brisbane, but also across the country.

Cheryl Sullivan

Cheryl is the face of the Brisbane Writers Group. She is described by her peers as a lively and positive person, who is passionate about helping writers. The Brisbane Writers Group is a free, supportive community of motivated and creative individuals. The group meets regularly to share and discuss ideas in a friendly and fun environment.

Despite Cheryl's heavy family commitments, she organises multiple meetings per month at the State Library and Brisbane Square Library, write-a-thon workshops and quarterly writers' retreats. Cheryl is also busy writing a novel of her own and according to her friends, is always quick and willing to share her writing experiences in an authentic and friendly manner.

More information

For more information, phone Council on 07 3403 8888.

Last updated: 1 September 2020

Brisbane City Council acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land and their unique relationship with their ancestral country. We pay respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders of Brisbane, and recognise their strength and wisdom.