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Reflect, respect and celebrate the spirit of community on Australia Day 2023.   We’re all part of the story.

The North Burnett Regional Council celebrated and congratulated inspiring residents and community groups, at its 2023 Australia Day Award ceremony in Eidsvold on Thursday 26 January 2023.

Australia Day is a time for all Australians to reflect, respect and celebrate. All of us, across the region and beyond, are part of the story of Australia.  It’s a day to reflect on our achievements as a community and also 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 including 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 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 a year of unmatched challenges. I would like to thank everyone who took the time to nominate an outstanding individual or community group, these nominees should be proud of their achievements and their subsequent nomination. We would also like to thank the numerous community groups, organisations and individuals that contributed to a successful event and ceremony,“  Mayor Les Hotz said.

Council was successful in receiving a 2023 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 to assist Council in delivering our first regional Australia Day community celebration in Eidsvold.

2023 North Burnett Australia Day Award Winners

Regional Awards


Estelle Hawkins, North Burnett Citizen of the Year

Estelle has demonstrated wholehearted commitment to serving the community of Monto and the North Burnett for the past 20 years.  Estelle was the key driver behind the Monto Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Op Shop, which opened in Monto during COVID. The ADRA Op shop has made an immeasurable difference in the community by helping those in need and providing opportunities for work within the community.

Thanks to the leadership shown by Estelle acting in her role as the Volunteer Operations Manager, the OP Shop has become a thriving volunteer organisation, that has opened doors for the entire community.  In this role, Estelle has dedicated immense hours to supporting and managing a volunteer workforce and identifying needs in individuals and the wider community, including introducing vouchers to help those in need, and donating funds to community organisations.

Most recently, through Estelle’s leadership and affiliation with ADRA, an international relief agency, Estelle and the ADRA Op Shop were able to assist those impacted by the 2022 floods in the Dallarnil and Biggenden areas, not just once but twice. Estelle is described as an unwavering advocate for kindness, inclusivity, and lending a helping hand to all who need it. She is admired as a teacher, volunteer, friend and carer and is deserving of this award.

Toby and Cassie Worley, North Burnett Young Citizen of the Year

Toby and Cassie are incredibly dedicated, energetic and enthusiastic individuals who never cease to show their passion for the North Burnett Community and Monto High School, where they run the agricultural section. Their commitment extends far beyond the school gate, into the community where they are involved in multiple community groups.

Toby and Cassie are leaders of the School Cattle Club and provide countless agricultural experiences and excursions for their students. They often travel with their students to the North Burnett Shows as well as extra excursions on the weekend. With the help of their Monto High School students, Toby and Cassie also developed a market garden to not only teach but to raise funds for the agricultural program.

Toby and Cassie are an integral part of the Monto Show Society, where they go above and beyond with their commitments and contributions, including being active committee members and stewards for the Monto Show’s giant pumpkin section, and assisting with cattle sections, all whilst mentoring and guiding their students towards incredible achievements.

Toby and Cassie are integral members of the Mulgildie Campdraft and Rodeo Association, bringing new ideas whilst remaining respectful of local traditions. They are a passionate and effective duo who are wholly committed to their students and broader community.  They represent all the best things about young people.

Jenny and Kel Forsyth, North Burnett Volunteer of the Year

Jenny and Kel have strived to support their community for a combined 40+ years and actively seek opportunities for growth in all facets of their community work and groups which they are a part of.

Jenny and Kel donate their time and talents to bring the wonder and magic of Christmas to Monto, as key planners of the Monto Christmas Street Party and the Monto Christmas Decorations. They are both long-time members of the Monto Magic Tourism Action Group.  Jenny is one of the founding members of Monto Magic, where she has been an active volunteer for close to 30 years, holding numerous committee positions.

Kel, is also an active Monto Magic member and has continually devoted his time and talents to this group, to bring members’ ideas and visions to life.  Kel was the inspiration behind the establishment of the Monto Men’s Shed and Jenny supports this group by applying for grant funds to support the group’s growth and facility improvement plans.

The pair are well-loved business owners who donate Café Delicious’s resources and equipment including Kel’s Dingo, for the betterment of community projects. They are role models for their community and the wider North Burnett, dedicated to making our region shine.

Biggenden PCYC Emergency Service Cadets, North Burnett Community Organisation of the Year

The Biggenden PCYC Emergency Service Cadet program was introduced in 2012 and has provided youth aged 12-17 years opportunities to gain critical life skills, leadership and mentoring with Emergency Services.  The cadet program is run by volunteers and is Queensland Government funded through QFES, in partnership with PCYC.

The program focuses on emergency preparedness and community volunteering, as well as demonstrating the importance of inclusivity, commitment, social contribution, culture, environmental awareness, community spirit, creativity and innovation. The cadet program develops a spirit of volunteering in youth, with the top cadet volunteering 108 hours in 2022, which is a remarkable  achievement. The Biggenden Cadets have gained valuable experience through volunteering in the community, such as cleaning up after the Dallarnil Floods in 2022, ANZAC Day, Clean Up Australia Day, the Biggenden Show and saving over 22,000 items from landfill in 2022, by recycling at Transfer Stations. Cadets train under the guidance of adult mentors and use their newfound skills to make the North Burnett region a better place to live. 

Monto Art Group Inc North Burnett Cultural Award

The Monto Art Group strives to highlight the importance of arts and culture in our communities. They have crafted a supportive, inviting, inclusive and welcoming environment for all age groups and backgrounds in the community, to learn and create through regular workshops, cultural events, exhibitions, and new projects.

The Monto Art Group share their talents by creating and gifting works of art to the community, organisations and individuals. Their most recent project was a large-scale mural titled “Memories”, for the Ridgehaven Retirement Complex, depicting scenery of the local and rural landscape of Monto. This mural was specifically commissioned for residents, to create a sense of belonging – to feel connected to their past, recall and share precious memories and to stimulate conversation.

The Mural incorporated elements to engage the senses, where the residents are able to run their hands over its surface and feel the different textures.  The mural was a combined effort by the group, showcasing their ability to merge their creative talents. The Monto Art Group strive to make art an inclusive experience for everyone. They are open to learning and embracing new mediums, have been successful with numerous grants over the years and actively encourage participation. They are always looking to the future with new ideas, projects, and events to help boost artistic and cultural awareness and knowledge of local, regional and national arts and culture.

Jake Dingle North Burnett Sportsperson of the Year

The Dingle name is synonymous with woodchopping throughout Australia and the world, and Jake Dingle is ensuring the continuation of the Dingle legacy. Jake is a 3rd generation competitor in the world of woodchopping and has been competing at events since he was 14, winning and placing across various local, regional, state and national events in Australia and New Zealand.

His most recent achievements include representing the Queensland Axemen’s Team at the Royal Sydney Show, with the team placing first, winning the prestigious Queensland Champion of Champions in 2022 and the 300mm Underhand World Title Reserve Champion (Toowoomba) Stihl Competition.  Jake was a member of the Australian Axemen Team, though COVID prevented the team from competing.  Jake has represented Australia at various competitions over the years including the STIHL Timebersports Australian Champions Trophy.   Jake is a leader and mentor within the woodchopping arena and is a humble but fierce competitor. Jake is a member of the Queensland Axemen’s Association management committee, which is a reflection of his leadership and mentorship skills and a testament to his dedication to the sport. The North Burnett community looks forward to continuing to follow Jake’s career and wishes him all best in achieving a world title.  Congratulations Jake.

Adrian Brady, North Burnett Service to Sport

The development of sport pathways in rural areas demands dedication, unwavering commitment and passion.  Adrian Brady embodies these qualities and has been integral in reintroducing two sports back into the Mundubbera community – Mundubbera Boxing and Fitness and the Mundubbera State College Volleyball Program.

In addition to being the coach, Adrian wears many hats, including administrator and event’s manager.  Adrian is to be commended for his tireless efforts in building competitive sportspeople and teams. This is evident in 2022, with the Volleyball team competing in not only the State Championships but also National. Adrian inspires his athletes to be more than just competitive sportspeople. He dedicates tireless hours to the sport by promoting these to improve access, inclusion and participation of all kids regardless of ability and financial means. Adrian is passionate about nurturing students’ emotional well-being and team spirit and always manages to get the best from his athletes. To ensure that no child gets left behind, Adrian works tirelessly to reduce the financial costs, by attracting sponsors and fundraising. Adrian has also encouraged volleyball athletes to gain accreditations in umpiring and coaching, which will continue the legacy that Adrian is building. 

2023 North Burnett Australia Day Award Winners

Local Legends


Colleen and Jim Cunliffe, Biggenden Local Legend

Colleen and Jim’s dedication to their community goes far beyond the demands of their day-to-day business at the Biggenden Motel and Café. They are always prepared to go the extra mile and lend a hand, a shoulder, or a sympathetic ear to those in need.  Colleen and Jim were part of the Biggenden Chamber of Commerce for ten years, and Jim spent over five years as an auxiliary firefighter, coordinating the first BlazeAid assistance in 2013. They have acted as an emergency refuge for victims of domestic violence, supported the Biggenden Emergency Service Cadets with recycling, provided transport for the community to make their appointments, and have assisted with groceries and shopping for those unable to travel. After the 2022 January and February flood events, they provided the Motel as an “evacuation centre”, complete with spare folding beds and linen for those who had been displaced. Colleen and Jim show passion and ongoing care for the Biggenden community, which is greatly appreciated by community members and visitors.

Geoff Price, Eidsvold Local Legend 

Geoff Price has devoted his time to serving the Eidsvold community as a Sergeant in the QLD Police and through the community organisations he is part of. Geoff’s compassion, presence, and willingness to always go the extra mile is highly commendable and enriches the lives of many.

When he’s off-duty, Geoff volunteers in many capacities throughout the community – as the Treasurer and Uniform Convenor of the Eidsvold State School P&C, board member for the Lady Gowrie Community Kindergarten, part-time auxiliary firefighter, and supporter of the Mundubbera Touch Football competition.

Geoff actively participates in fitness sessions with Eidsvold State School students and volunteers as a boxing coach at the Eidsvold Boxing Club, sometimes with upwards of 30 children in attendance. Geoff has been described as a respectful, hardworking person who takes the time to build positive relationships within the community. His tireless efforts are appreciated by many in the community and wider region, and we thank him for his service.

Joan Weller, Gayndah Local Legend 

Joan Weller is known for her profound local government legacy, kindness, diligence, and integrity.

Joan served for 21 years as a Councillor for the Gayndah Shire Council – the first woman Councillor in the Gayndah Shire’s history – and has also passionately served for six years as President of the Central and Upper Burnett Local Government Association. In 1987, Joan became Secretary of Gayndah’s Woodmillar Water Board and faithfully fulfilled this role for 28 years. For many years, Joan has been dubbed a ‘Gayndah icon’ for her impact and achievements within the community.

Joan strongly believes in appreciating and recognising others’ achievements, so they may be inspired to go forth and make a difference in their world. Even now, as a resident of Gayndah’s Gunther Retirement Village, she goes out of her way to acknowledge the staff and residents in the home. Her impeccable character serves as an inspiration to the Gayndah community and to all who know her.

Melinda Jones, Monto Local Legend

Most of you will know Melinda as Division One Councillor for the North Burnett Regional Council, elected in 2020. What you may not know, in addition to her Councilor role, Melinda has dedicated her time to serving the Monto community and the broader region through her ‘off duty’ volunteer roles.

Since moving to Monto around 18 years ago, Melinda has been involved with and held committee positions in numerous community groups, including Monto Magic Tourism Action Group and the Monto Dairy Festival, to name a few. Melinda volunteers her time on the Local Management Committee of Monto ADRA Op Shop, is a board member of BIEDO, a long-term Regional Arts Development Committee Member and a member of the Red Earth Community Foundation Board.

Melinda has been a driving force behind numerous initiatives and continues to actively support these, including Monto Christmas Street Party, the Shop Local campaigns between 2019 and 2022 and the Monto RV Stopover operations. Melinda also co-wrote and delivered the Rural Aid Town Makeover project and Monto Rural Art Trail project. Melinda is passionate about the value of investing in people, so that they can be a catalyst for change in their community. Melinda is described as an inspirational leader due to her supportive, inclusive, kind, courageous, informative, fair and brave qualities. Her outstanding contributions to her community and the wider region are commendable and deserving of legendary status.

Doug McIver, Mundubbera Local Legend

Doug has demonstrated a wholehearted commitment to serving the community of Mundubbera for the past 50 years. Doug was elected Councillor for the Mundubbera Shire in 1970 and worked hard for 12 years, before being elected Mayor. He held this position for 22 years, working diligently to support his community throughout these years and beyond. Doug has been involved in numerous community groups and professional organisations, some of which include the Central Burnett Hospital Board, Fire Warden Hawkwood East, Mundubbera Bendigo Bank Inaugural Director, member of the Heritage Rail Committee and President of the Central & Upper Burnett Local Government Association. Doug was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in the 2002 Queen’s Honours List, in recognition of his service to the community and Local Government – a recognition that stands as a testament to his commitment, diligence, and passion for the Mundubbera community.

Patricia Smith, Mt Perry Local Legend

Patricia (Pat) Smith receives this award in recognition of her continued service to the Mt Perry Community for over 53 years.  Pat has researched, documented and preserved the histories of the Mt Perry area and its people, with dedicated rooms of family history, maps, records, photos, and paraphernalia going back more than 200 years, at the Pat Augustine Cultural Centre.

Pat’s service goes beyond the preservation of history. Pat generously places and maintains battery operated candles on the graves of returned servicemen at the Mt Perry cemetery and arranges plaques for unmarked graves, where they can be identified. In addition, Pat is always available to assist locals and visitors with historical and family history enquiries and is generous with her time. Pat has been described as down-to-earth, caring, thoughtful, kind, intelligent, practical, and accomplished. In an ever-changing community, Pat demonstrates strength and stability and her legacy is the preservation of local history, for the benefit of the community and its identity, through her impeccable record keeping for future generations.  Pat is a shining example to others of what a life of good work and perseverance can achieve. Her selfless and continued work is of irreplaceable value to the community and region.

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

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