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Reflect, respect and celebrate the spirit of community on Australia Day 2024. We’re all part of the story.

The North Burnett Regional Council celebrated and congratulated inspiring residents and community groups at its 2024 Australia Day Awards ceremony in Biggenden on Friday, January 26, 2024.

On Australia Day, residents came together as a united North Burnett community to reflect, respect and celebrate. All of us, across the region and beyond, are part of and contribute to the story of Australia. It’s a day to reflect on our achievements as a community and as individuals. These awards showcase the contributions of our region’s many unsung heroes.

Mayor Les Hotz said, “Today we celebrated some of the North Burnett’s most extraordinary citizens and community groups in areas such as sport, creative arts, culture, volunteering, active citizenship and community organisations. We recognised humble, courageous, generous, talented, and respected members of our community who give tirelessly in their pursuit to make our region a great place.”

“On behalf of Council, I wish to extend my congratulations to our award winners for their selfless contributions in another year of unmatched challenges. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to nominate an outstanding individual or community group,” Mayor Hotz said. “We would also like to thank the numerous community groups, organisations and individuals that contributed to a successful event and ceremony.”

During the ceremony, Council paid tribute to all of the award nominees, ranging from young Australians to those rich in years. The nominees have inspired us all by living, serving, and upholding our nation’s values of compassion and generosity, courage and initiative, our ingrained sense of fairness and our deep belief in service to the community.

Council was successful in receiving a 2024 Australia Day Community Events Program grant, ‘Assisted by the Australian Government through the National Australia Day Council.’ We would like to thank and acknowledge the National Australia Day Council for their support in assisting Council in delivering our Regional Australia Day community celebration in Biggenden.


2024 North Burnett Australia Day Award Winners
Regional Awards

Russell Mills, North Burnett Citizen of the Year

For over 15 years, Russell has passionately dedicated himself to helping individuals and families with mental health conditions and fostering an environment to promote understanding and awareness of mental health in the North Burnett region. Russell has served the community in the areas of suicide prevention, community recovery through drought and floods, support coordination and disability work. Actively looking for new ways to promote mental health and wellbeing in the community, Russell is a regular guest speaker at community events, providing educational sessions and workshops. Rusell has coordinated suicide prevention training in the region and led a project to roll out R U OK bright yellow seats in parks across several North Burnett towns. Russell is described as a humble leader, great listener, professional, friendly, approachable, reliable, empathetic, goes above and beyond to help work colleagues and people within the community and is an inspirational and positive role model for students at Biggenden State School and Monto State High School. We thank Russell for his outstanding contribution and commitment to the people and welfare of the region.

Bella Southern, North Burnett Young Citizen of the Year

Bella has demonstrated outstanding personal resilience, courage and determination following an accident on her family farm in 2022. Since May 2022, Bella has been a frequent flyer with Angel Flight, an Australian charity providing free flights for rural families in need. Bella has empathy and compassion for others, is generous with her time, and through fundraising, has contributed enormously to organisations such as Angel Flight where her incredible efforts raised over $10,000 in just one night. Bella volunteers at the Ridgehaven Retirement Complex in Monto and contributes to events and functions. She spends quality time with individual residents and small groups, providing companionship and genuine conversation with elderly persons in care. Bella shares her love of horses with residents by bringing her pony to Ridgehaven’s Melbourne Cup lunch for pats and photos, which is a highlight for many residents, friends and family members. Even in the face of adversity, Bella is known for her radiant energy, incredible positive outlook on life, cheery smile and incredible leadership. She is an excellent role model, supporting those around her, showing selfless care for others, and inspiring others to strive forward. Bella is an inspiration to her peers and brings immense joy to the community.

Brian Lowe, North Burnett Volunteer of the Year

Brian has served his community for the past 10 years as an SES controller and trainer, providing critical emergency management support in the North Burnett. Brian’s incredible dedication has had an impact across the entire North Burnett Region, protecting the safety of his team, residents, and visitors, and preserving the liveability of the region through multiple flooding events and the recent 2023 fires. Brian is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ready to help and answer the call to support and protect his beloved community when the need arises. As a member of the Local Disaster Management Group, he has worked tirelessly alongside Council, Police, Fire, Ambulance and Rural Fire services. During his tenure, the Regional North Burnett SES has won seven awards, including the 2020 North Burnett SES Unit of the Year, the 2016 Regional SES Member of the Year, and the 2014 finalist for Wide Bay Volunteer of the Year. Brian is known for his calm approach, and inspires and encourages existing members and newcomers to be involved in the SES and serve the community. Brian is a remarkable example and a positive role model to the community, sharing his valuable knowledge, building camaraderie within the SES, and contributing to the safety and welfare of the North Burnett.

Mundubbera Hospital Auxiliary Inc., North Burnett Community Organisation of the Year

For the past 44 years, Mundubbera Hospital Auxiliary Inc. has worked tirelessly for the betterment of the community, driven by unwavering dedication to improving the lives of the patients of the Mundubbera Hospital and community. Highlights of beneficial community initiatives include the 2017 Ovarian Cancer High Tea to raise awareness, the 2019 publication and launch of “The History of the Mundubbera Hospital” book, the 2021 creation of “Daphne’s Retreat” for relatives of palliative care patients, in honour of the late Daphne Wilschefski, and raising $50,000 to purchase pressure-relieving mattresses for the additional comfort of patients and to reduce the need for turning of patients by staff. The Mundubbera Hospital Auxiliary’s leadership and collaborative approach has established valuable partnerships and resource sharing with organisations, raised funds and contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars for improvements to the Mundubbera Hospital, increased patient comfort, fostered and strengthened community spirit through social interaction and community engagement, and shared health-related information to raise awareness. The recent 2023 Gala Ball Centenary celebrations commemorating the Mundubbera Hospital are a testament to the organisation’s active participation, collaboration, approach to positive community outcomes, and commitment to healthcare and the wellbeing of the community. Mundubbera Hospital Auxiliary Inc. is a truly dedicated community organisation. Their tireless efforts are appreciated by many in the community and the wider region, and we thank them for their service to our community.

Jane Glenn, North Burnett Cultural Award

Jane’s wholehearted passion, relentless drive, remarkable dedication and profound commitment to the arts industry has invigorated the Gayndah Art Gallery, fellow artists and the community.
For the past two years, Jane has held the position of President of the Friends of Gayndah Gallery, and her enthusiasm, professionalism, leadership and countless volunteer hours has resulted in an increase in membership, volunteer numbers and artist interest. There has been an increase in attendance at exhibitions, functions, and workshops where there were 800 visitors to the Penwhaupel Exhibit alone. As an artist herself, Jane is an inspiration to fellow artists and the community, with unwavering encouragement, support, and determination to nurture artistic talents, mentoring others and sharing her passion and knowledge to support local and emerging artists. Jane has many projects on the go, with more on the horizon, and has been a driving force for tourism and promoting arts and culture throughout the North Burnett. Jane works tirelessly to enrich the community and region through art and culture. Thanks to Jane’s contribution and service to the Gayndah Art Gallery and the North Burnett community, arts and culture will continue to thrive.

Raine Eastcott, North Burnett Sportsperson of the Year

Raine is an extremely gifted athlete with a huge heart. Over the past 12 months alone, Raine has competed in eight state championships, two national championships and two international competitions in the disciplines of softball, volleyball, cricket, netball and athletics. At only 15 years of age, against adversity and overcoming geographical barriers to training and attendance, Raine has already achieved dual National Champion in softball and has travelled the world, becoming a World Cup Qualifier, progressing Australia into the next stage of the 2025 U18 Women’s Softball World Cup. Raine is a natural leader and has been selected as team captain for multiple representative softball and cricket teams. Her ability to encourage team unity, foster inclusion, develop positive relationships and trust, and her desire for high performance encourages and inspires her teammates to perform at their best. Raine is humble, an inspirational role model with incredible mental strength. Her moto of ‘pain is temporary, pride if forever’ reflects her passion, dedication, commitment, and resilience. In addition to her impressive and long list of sporting accolades, medals, long-standing records, and excelling at the highest levels of sport locally, nationally and internationally, Raine has been identified by Softball Australia as a ’player of the future’ for upcoming Softball World Cups and Olympic campaigns. What an honour! We congratulate you on your remarkable achievements, Raine, and wish you ongoing success in your chosen sports.

Kerrie Pointon, North Burnett Service to Sport

For the past 10 years, Kerrie has been an integral part of the Monto Netball Association, volunteering her time as a coach and in committee roles. In 2021 and 2022, Kerrie coached two under-10 netball teams which grew to three teams in 2023, including her existing teams and an under-17 netball team. Kerrie encourages and supports all players as they gain skills, confidence, and a greater understanding of the game. Kerrie’s approach builds a strong foundation for each player to grow and succeed, and she provides a safe and inclusive environment for young people in the community to develop new skills, build relationships, and be active and part of a team. Kerrie’s contribution, commitment and dedication has been instrumental in the growing confidence and respect of young netballers and strengthening netball within the Monto community. Kerrie’s patience, passion, dedication and encouragement of each player and netball overall, is inspirational.

2024 North Burnett Australia Day Award Winners
Local Legends

Julie Just, Biggenden Local Legend

Julie has demonstrated a wholehearted commitment to serving the community of Biggenden for the past 20 years. Julie was the driving force behind the Women’s Shed, with the vision to provide a safe and enjoyable space to meet, whether participating in activities, learning new skills, or enjoying each other’s company. One of Julie’s many contributions includes being a volunteer administrator on the Biggenden Community Noticeboard Facebook page, which has been active for 16 years. Julie is known for providing well-sourced, vital information to the community in a timely manner. This was particularly evident in the 2022 floods and recent bushfires. Julie’s dedication and information is of immense value to the community. Julie leads with empathy, compassion, generosity and courage, and this was at the forefront when, in 2022, she supported a local family and community, enduring a devastating loss. One of the many acts of kindness included organising counselling services for the community and the Biggenden State School. In addition to cultivating strong and lasting relationships with local government, organisations, and community members, Julie’s remarkable dedication, passion, selflessness, resilience, exceptional contribution, and unwavering commitment to the wellbeing of the community is of irreplaceable value to the community and region.

Gordon Brian, Monto Local Legend

Gordon is a true country gentleman and takes great pride in his hometown of Mulgidlie. Gordon is a vital member of the Mulgildie Campdraft and Rodeo Association, where he has dedicated his life to 42 years of service as the club secretary. Much has been achieved during Brian’s service, including an update to the loading ramp, a new toilet block and a power upgrade at the Mulgildie Sportsground in 2022. He eagerly volunteers his time to all activities and events and shares his love of campdrafting at every opportunity. For those that may not know Gordon, he is always on the mower, whipper snipping or spraying to keep the streets in Mulgildie looking well maintained, all of which he does without payment. If there is ever a job to be done, Gordon will be there, rain, hail or shine, supporting his beloved community. His positive outlook and generosity both inspires and encourages the younger generations to be involved. Gordon, your tireless efforts are appreciated by many in the community and wider region, and we thank him for his service.

Wally Benham, Mundubbera Local Legend

Wally Benham has tirelessly volunteered for his community for 40 years across many community organisations including the Mundubbera Show Society, Pony Club, Golf Club and Historical Society. Wally was President of the Mundubbera Show Society for over 30 years and is about to retire as maintenance groundsman after 40 years of service. Wally has been part of the Mundubbera Golf Club for over 40 years undertaking various roles from being part of the Management Committee and Course Committee Chairperson. Over the last 10 years, Wally has generously donated equipment and set up the citrus display at the Mundubbera Historical Society.
As an active member within the community, Wally has built friendships, strengthened community engagement, and has shared helpful skills and knowledge with fellow committee members. Wally is a true gentleman, role model and inspires others to serve their community. Congratulations Wally on your remarkable achievements and significant contributions, enabling others to continue the legacies you have built.

Irene Duda, Mt Perry Local Legend

For the past 15 years, Irene has been an active volunteer in the Mt Perry community contributing positively towards multiple community organisations and causes. As an active and passionate member of the community, Irene is aware of local challenges and issues, and takes action to provide solutions, including seeking grant funding for projects that support the betterment of her community. Irene’s long list of achievements and community service includes volunteering at the Mount Perry Races, assisting at the 60th anniversary celebrations at the Mount Perry Golf Club, being an Executive Member of the Mt Perry Sports and Recreation Club, performing Christmas Carols as a member of the Choir, and coordinating the Christmas Lights competition for residents. She also supported both the Fig Tree Camp Heritage dinner and the Boolboonda Tunnel events in their planning phase. Irene has fingers in many pies and is the ‘go to’ person for promotions in the town, circulating information and providing posters and communication for events in the area. Irene gives generously at every opportunity available, and her courage, initiative and ongoing care is greatly appreciated by the Mt Perry Community and visitors.

For further information please contact Council on 1300 696 272, email or visit

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