Thursday, February 1, 2024


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

From Woodchopping Wonder To Lifesaving Guardians Meet Your Australia Day Community Champions

Mackay Regional Council faced a tough call last week as they made the difficult decision to cancel this year's Australia Day Awards Gala, originally set for Thursday, January 25. The cancellation came as a precautionary step, considering the unpredictable weather conditions tied to TC Kirrily.

Mayor Greg Williamson acknowledged the heaviness of the situation, stressing the council's commitment to community safety.

He said the fact that we had a cyclone forecast to cross the coast late at night about the time the event was set to conclude was something they couldn’t ignore.

“We don’t want 400-plus people on the road coming from all parts of our region if there is severe weather,’’ he said when he announced the cancellation last week.

Despite the cancellation, the unveiling of the Australia Day Award recipients, including the prestigious titles of Citizen and Young Citizen of the Year, went ahead as planned on Australia Day, January 26.

Peter Reedman is a pillar of the community whose selfless contributions have created a resurgence in junior rugby union in the Mackay region.

For his dedication, selflessness, support and community building efforts, Peter has been named the 2024 Mackay Regional Council Australia Day Citizen of the Year.

Mayor Greg Williamson said Mr Reedman’s commitment went far beyond what was typical of a volunteer.

“Peter offers support to anyone and everyone at the blink of an eye – he is selfless and has a genuine care for others,” Mayor Williamson said.

“Whether it is providing coaching support, spending his evenings mowing and marking fields, driving children to tournaments, or ensuring they have access to referees, Peter consistently goes out of his way to support the rugby community,” he said.

“Peter has had a huge impact on regional junior rugby union and his efforts are greatly appreciated by that community.

“In fact, the judges had not one, but five nominations for Peter to consider – each detailing different ways in which he has gone above and beyond for young players and their families.”

From Rugby Revival to Mental Health Advocacy

Mackay's Australia Day Winners' Diverse Triumphs

Mackay's Australia Day Awards not only serve as a stage to honour individuals but also highlight the collective brilliance within the Mackay community.

From the resurgence of junior rugby union led by the passionate Peter Reedman to the unwavering dedication of Jasmine Fuhlbohm in advocating for lifesaving defibrillators, the nominees' accomplishments span various fields, underlining the depth and diversity of their impact.

Jasmine Fuhlbohm was announced as the winner of the Young Citizen of the Year.

After losing her father at only 10 years of age, Jasmine has made it her mission to ensure our community has lifesaving defibrillators on hand where they can save lives.

Mayor Williamson said Jasmine had created the "Help Keep Hearts Beating" raffle, a GoFundMe campaign and additional fundraising endeavours whilst also promoting a healthy lifestyle.

“Jasmine is an exceptional young person who is working to create safer, healthier places for residents in our region,” he said.

Mayor Williamson said the Lori Burgess Community Volunteer of the Year award also went to an exceptional community champion.

“The positive impact Kimberly Doyle has made in the lives of people with intellectual disability and autism is immense,” he said.

“She spends more than 25 hours per week in her volunteering capacity with Special Olympics Mackay Fire and Special Olympics Queensland and she constantly uses her own annual leave to attend club trips and Special Olympics conferences outside the region.”

Mayor Williamson said the judging panel was amazed by the number and quality of nominations submitted this year.

“Selecting a winner in each category was incredibly difficult and is a real testament to just what an amazing community we have – there are just so many selfless people doing tremendous things,” he said.

“We had 183 nominations across the eight categories, and we would like to acknowledge the 74 nominators, many of whom nominated multiple individuals or groups.”

Mayor Williamson said council was currently looking at options around an appropriate way to celebrate the winners and nominees at a later date.

Meet Your Australia Day Award Winners

Citizen of the Year: Peter Reedman

Peter Reedman has been involved in and supported the Mackay District Junior Rugby Union as president, vice president, groundsman, referee, official and coach for the past decade.

He has been a major driver of junior rugby union in the region, along with his wife Kelly. The Reedmans have overseen a massive increase in kids wanting to play rugby, both girls and boys, from ages 6 to 16.

Peter's presence at every rugby game with a smile on his face creates a positive and welcoming atmosphere for players, coaches and spectators alike. His active involvement in various roles within the club helps foster a sense of community and camaraderie among the members.

By driving children to tournaments and ensuring they have coaching support, Peter actively contributes to the development and growth of young athletes, making a positive impact on their lives.

He is also a key driver of the Nyrie Contor Cup, the largest junior carnival of rugby in our region, where close to 500 kids descend on Mackay to play. He is a life member of Slade Point Rugby Union, a club he has played more than 300 games for.

Overall, Peter Reedman's continuous support, dedication, selflessness, mentorship and positive influence within the Mackay and Central Queensland rugby communities make him extremely deserving of recognition.

Young Citizen of the Year: Jasmine Fuhlbohm

Jasmine’s goal is to save lives in our community and to hopefully prevent other families from going through a tragic event, like she did. Jasmine unexpectedly lost her father to a heart attack when she was only 10 years old. He was just 39 years old.

This event has inspired her to help raise awareness around heart attacks in our community and highlight that heart attacks don’t only happen in older age; they can happen earlier in life and can be a very unpredictable health issue for many people. Jasmine has worked tirelessly to raise funds and raise the awareness of the need for defibrillator machines across various charities, organisations and locations within the Mackay community that would otherwise not have access to this vital resource.

To this end, she has created the "Help Keep Hearts Beating" raffle, a GoFundMe campaign and additional fundraising endeavours whilst also promoting a healthy lifestyle.

Lori Burgess Community Volunteer of the Year: Kimberly Doyle

Kimberly Doyle is an outstanding volunteer with Special Olympics, a coach, mentor and an advocate for accessibility and inclusion.

She undertakes a host of volunteer duties, including facilitating Kung Fu and Tai Chi classes weekly and coaching Special Olympics sports every Saturday. These include powerlifting, table tennis and three sessions of basketball.

Kimberly also mentors and arranges training for athlete leaders, raises funds, prepares all Special Olympics Mackay Fire grant applications, plans and manages all Special Olympics Mackay Fire sporting events and choreographs all travelling competitions. She recently managed a 12-day trip for Special Olympics athletes to Perth for the Special Olympics WA State Games.

In April 2023, Kimberly was appointed Special Olympics Queensland Chair, with her main aim to see Queensland clubs and programs provide inclusive training and competition in a variety of sports.

Arts and Culture Award: Margaret Ross

Margaret Ross has worked tirelessly in the Mackay and Sarina areas with people experiencing mental illness, other disabilities and loneliness.

She is constantly coming up with new ways to reduce the stigma associated with mental health disorders and is striving to provide a happier and more meaningful life to those she works with. Through her amazing talent with music and music therapy, she has provided remarkable programs and a wonderful safe, welcoming and accepting space through the Choir of Unheard Voices.Those involved in the choir report that “Margie’s” work has performed miracles, including people with disabilities so debilitated that they could not communicate with others now emceeing at major events and performing to large crowds.

She has also been working with individuals, through The Bee Creativezz, helping them create marketable items made by them and, in so doing, giving them a sense of purpose and confidence. Plus, she volunteers most years to organise and bring together talented musicians and singers to perform for the Sarina Surf Lifesavers’ annual carols, which is their main fundraiser.

Environmental Achievement Award: Mackay and District Turtle Watch Association  

Mackay and District Turtle Watch (MDTW) is a volunteer group dedicated to monitoring and protecting marine turtles. The group formed in 1992 when Queensland Parks and Wildlife put an advertisement in the local paper looking for interested members of the public to come to a meeting about starting a turtle watch group.

The group later became their own incorporated body, which has remained strong and has 39 members this year. Very early each morning, from October right through to March, before most people are even out of bed, MDTW volunteers are out searching 20 of the region’s beaches, looking for turtle tracks or signs of nesting or hatchlings. This daily monitoring occurs throughout nesting season so these dedicated volunteers can collect data on nesting turtles and hatchlings and relocate at-risk nests.In addition, they respond to marine strandings year-round and collect data about females nesting at beaches across our region.

The group also works hard to increase awareness by educating our community about habitat protection and the importance of conservation for future generations.

Community Group Award: Sarina Surf Lifesaving Club

Sarina Surf Lifesaving Club is seen as the guardian of sand, sea and community spirit in Sarina.

More than just lifesavers, this small but mighty group of volunteers embody the spirit of community service, safeguarding beach goers every weekend and on public holidays between September and May. Their commitment extends far beyond patrolling the waves.

The club passionately invests in its community, training members in their Bronze Medallion, Surf Rescue Certificates, First Aid and CPR awards. Open to all community members, regardless of experience, it's fuelled by volunteer coaches, age managers and water safety officers. This dedication nurtures a pipeline of young lifesavers, ensuring the club's future while fostering a strong sense of belonging. They train a dedicated team of athletes, coaching multiple sessions a week and providing them with crucial opportunities to compete in local, state, national and even world championships.

The club also actively engages with local schools, sending volunteer guest speakers and distributing informative literature to educate parents and children alike about beach safety and the club. As well, the Sarina Surf Lifesaving Club coordinates a yearly community event: Carols by Candlelight.

Senior Sports Award: Heath Galletly

Heath Galletly has been involved with local rugby league most of his life, having started as an under nine and progressing through to A grade in Mackay.

Once he started his family, his three boys also started playing and Heath started coaching – from under sixes to under 16s.

From 2016 to 2019, he went on to executive positions with the boys’ club (Wanderers Junior Rugby League), including vice president, secretary and president. These roles also formed the pathway into roles as Elected Director of Rugby League Mackay and District (RLMD) and Director of Mackay Cutters.

Heath was instrumental in the merging of the local Mackay junior and senior rugby league associations in 2019. 

He was chair of RLMD in 2020 when COVID hit, and while many other leagues played no football at that time, Mackay did, and even took in Townsville Clubs due to their league not playing in 2020.

Junior Sports Award: Takiah Moore-Barrett

Takiah Moore-Barrett is one of the best underhand women’s wood choppers in the world.

She had a very successful 2023, winning many awards in woodchopping, including the Women’s Championship at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. Takiah also won the Women’s Championship at the Adelaide Show as well as the most successful female competitor award. She has also been successful against the men, winning open handicap underhand events.  

Takiah picked up her first axe when she was just five and comes from a family of wood choppers. In fact, she is a fourth-generation wood chopper and regularly competes with her father in events.

In other news