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    The Honourable Campbell Newman

    Queensland finalists named for Australian of the Year Awards

    The Honourable Campbell Newman

    Friday, October 18, 2013

    Queensland finalists named for Australian of the Year Awards

    Sixteen outstanding Queenslanders have been named as state finalists for the 2014 Australian of the Year Awards.

    Premier Campbell Newman said the finalists came from a wide range of backgrounds but they have all made significant contributions to the state.

    “Each year, the call is made for Queenslanders to shine a light on someone they admire and nominate them as part of the national Australian of the Year Awards,” Mr Newman said.

    “Our Queensland finalists have now been chosen and represent a group of inspirational people who are working to make our state a better place.

    “Across the four categories we see a breadth of experience, backgrounds, achievements, purpose and integrity.

    “Each of our finalists should be very proud of this great accomplishment and I wish them all the very best in the next stage of this national program.

    “I am honoured to be recognising and celebrating our great Queenslanders.”

    The Queensland award finalists are:

    Queensland Australian of the Year

    ·         Li Cunxin - ballet director (Ascot)

    ·         Bronwen Healy - community support worker (Mount Gravatt)

    ·         Gail Ker OAM - social inclusion advocate (Runaway Bay)

    ·         David Riley - disability advocate (Robertson)

    Queensland Senior of the Year

    ·         Dr Jim Aylward - scientist (Indooroopilly)

    ·         Hugh Cornish AM - entertainer (Victoria Point)

    ·         Dr Robert McGregor - paediatrician and fundraiser (Karana Downs)

    ·         Beverley Mirolo OAM - blood cancer specialist (Hamilton)

    Queensland Young Australian of the Year

    ·         Jordyn Archer - child protection activist (Wurtulla)

    ·         Nicole Gibson - mental health campaigner (Surfers Paradise)

    ·         Jacob McLuskie - defensive driving advocate (Clontarf)

    ·         Chern’ee Sutton - artist (Calavos)

    Queensland Local Hero

    ·         Katrina Beutel - women’s champion (Thornlands)

    ·         Jim Deem - community sport supporter (Bundaberg)

    ·         Jay Larkins - Paralympic football coach (Keperra)

    ·         Suzy Wilson - Indigenous literacy champion (Bulimba)

    The Queensland Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Local Hero recipients will be announced in Brisbane on Wednesday 13 November. These recipients will then proceed to the national Australian of the Year Awards, which will be announced in Canberra on 25 January 2014.  

    The Queensland Australian of the Year Awards program is managed by the Queensland Government on behalf of the National Australia Day Council.

    The Commonwealth Bank is the major sponsor of the Australian of the Year Awards 2014.

    For more information on the Australian of the Year Awards visit

    Bios of finalists below.

    [ENDS] 18 October 2013

    Contact: Premier’s Office 3224 4500

    2014 Queensland finalists

    Australian of the Year

    Li Cunxin – ballet director (Ascot)

    Born into extreme poverty in rural China, Li Cunxin was spotted by Madam Mao’s Beijing Dance Academy at age 11 and his life changed forever. After a gruelling seven year training regime, Li became one of China’s foremost ballet dancers. Awarded one of the first cultural scholarships ever endowed in China to study in America, Li subsequently defected to the West in 1981. He went on to dance with the Houston Ballet for 16 years and became one of the best dancers in the world. While in London he met and fell in love with Australian-born ballerina, Mary McKendry and in 1995 moved to Australia to become Principal Artist with The Australian Ballet. Li’s awarding-winning autobiography, Mao’s Last Dancer, is an international bestseller which became a blockbuster film in 2009. Today, Li is Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet, a motivational speaker and mentor. Li encourages many ballet dancers with his passion for dance and devotion to artistic excellence, and his story of hardship, perseverance and success is an inspiration to all Australians.

    Bronwen Healy – community support worker (Mount Gravatt)

    As the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Hope Foundation, Bronwen Healy’s mission is to help women wanting to be free from addiction and prostitution. A former heroin addict and sex worker, Bronwen established the charity seven years ago to help other women transform their lives. Since then, Bronwen has dedicated herself to the service of others, providing love, guidance and practical support. Bronwen drives a program of fundraising, events, counselling and services such as Hope Haven – a place that welcomes women with open arms. Each year, she oversees two outreach celebration events – Valentine’s Day and Christmas in July – which show women that they are loved through lavish meals, chocolates, flowers, cards and gifts. She bravely shares her story to demonstrate that triumph over adversity is possible. As a community leader, mentor, motivational speaker, author and mother of three, Bronwen brings about real, positive change and has pioneered outreach for some of the community’s most vulnerable and often forgotten members.

    Gail Ker OAM – social inclusion advocate (Runaway Bay)

    Over the past two decades, Gail Ker has built one of Australia’s most innovative and successful not-for-profit settlement and employment centres – ACCESS Community Services. Working in one of Australia’s most disadvantaged areas, Gail has built a hub of inclusion for migrants, refugees and other people needing a helping hand. Believing that everyone has potential to be unlocked, Gail works with local businesses to address a culture of disadvantage and to foster an atmosphere of opportunity. Under her inspirational leadership, Gail’s team helps the most unemployable find pathways to participation. Recognising the need for national coordination in her sector, Gail established the Settlement Council of Australia, and was instrumental in founding the Migration Council of Australia. Her programs have set new national standards, and many people who pass through her programs become leaders both in their areas of work and in their new community. No task is too difficult and no job too big for Gail to tackle.

    David Riley – disability advocate (Robertson)

    In 1995, David Riley was an active 33 year old with two young children and working as a senior business consultant at TAFE. However, David’s life was turned upside down when he was hit by a car while cycling to work. Left with high-level quadriplegia, David has been dependent on a ventilator and around the clock care ever since. David’s university degree in Sports Science gave him a deep understanding of spinal cord injuries and their consequences, and today he dedicates his life to supporting people with these injuries, and advocating for better access and choice. As President and Chairman of the Board of the Spinal Injuries Association, David was a vocal advocate for DisabilityCare. He mentors others with similar injuries, and promotes injury prevention messages. He motivates others who have been recently injured, and empowers them to embrace fulfilling lives with choice and independence. David is a role model for many – not just those with spinal cord injuries – and provides a daily demonstration of ability rising above disability.

    Senior Australian of the Year

    Dr Jim Aylward – scientist (Indooroopilly)

    65 years old

    An insignificant weed introduced to Australia from Europe now treats skin cancer, thanks to medical research scientist Dr Jim Aylward. After observing his mother using the milky sap from Euphorbia peplus to treat her sun spots, Jim approached the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in 1997 with the sap. In a decade-long collaboration with QIMR scientists, Jim isolated and patented the active principle, formed his company, Peplin, and pursued clinical development. The result is Picato – a prescription-only sun spot gel, arguably Australia’s first ever cancer therapeutic drug.  Jim’s discovery has the potential to help the 434,000 people who are treated for non-melanoma skin cancers each year, and could help save the lives of many of the hundreds of Australians who die each year.  The discovery may also drastically reduce the need for surgery in many skin cancer cases – cutting hospital waiting lists as a result. After Peplin was sold to a Danish pharmaceutical company in 2009, Jim now advises biotechnology startups in a mentoring capacity.

    Hugh Cornish AM – entertainer (Victoria Point)

    79 years old

    The first face to appear on Queensland television in 1959, Hugh Cornish has made an outstanding lifetime contribution to the media industry, the arts and the community. Among his many achievements, Hugh is a recording artist, radio announcer and television presenter. Tragedies in his own life have driven Hugh to make a difference. He is a committed fundraiser and charity worker, helping raise $9 million through nine telethons and more than 100 concerts that he produced and compered.  He has been an ambassador for Wesley Hospital and has supported many other charities that assist Queensland’s disadvantaged.  Today, Hugh devotes his time to improving the quality of life of people living in retirement villages. Using his gift for ‘making things happen’, Hugh has established a regular entertainment program at the Renaissance Retirement Village, and he is currently involved in a study of care for people with advanced dementia. In 2013, he and other residents of Renaissance published a calendar to raise money for cancer.

    Dr Robert McGregor – paediatrician and fundraiser (Karana Downs)

    68 years old

    A medical practitioner specialising in child health, Dr Robert McGregor has made an outstanding contribution to Queensland’s community.  Bob has devoted nearly four decades to his role as consultant paediatrician at Ipswich Hospital.  Many of his current patients are the children or even grandchildren of former patients.  Bob was the long ¬≠time chair of a hospital fund which raised more than $110,000 for medical equipment, child-friendly nurses’ uniforms and toys for the special care nursery.  He has been involved in community outreach programs to prevent child abuse and has presented many papers at medical conferences.  He is equally dedicated to his community, working in a number of voluntary roles for local schools and Lions clubs.  A keen cyclist, Bob was the inspiration and driving force behind the Heritage Bank Ipswick100 Bike Ride fundraising event. By 2013, the 14th annual Bike Ride attracted nearly 1,000 riders and raised $100,000 for the Ipswich Hospital Foundation, local charities and Lions’ projects.

    Beverley Mirolo OAM – blood cancer specialist (Hamilton)

    73 years old

    For almost four decades, Beverley Mirolo has been improving the lives of Queensland patients living with blood cancer.  During her career, which has included time as Chief Executive Officer for Haematology Oncology Clinics of Australasia and President of the Leukaemia Foundation of Australia, Bev has pioneered nursing care and played a pivotal role in the establishment of a bone marrow transplant unit in Queensland.  As a registered nurse at the Royal Brisbane Hospital in the 1970s and 1980s, Bev was one of the driving forces behind ‘day only’ services which enabled leukaemia patients and others with blood disorders to recuperate at home. Bev and colleagues established the first support group for haematology patients, and raised money to provide practical support. She co-authored Australia’s first leukaemia information booklet, and travelled overseas to study bone marrow transplant units, returning with knowledge to improve facilities in Australia.  Bev continues to actively campaign for people with blood cancer, and to care for patients and their families.

    Young Australian of the Year

    Jordyn Archer – child protection activist (Wurtulla)

    21 years old

    At just 16 years of age, Jordyn Archer established her own not-for-profit organisation, Chant4Change. In the last five years, Jordyn’s fundraising concerts have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the work of Destiny Rescue, a charity which frees girls from sex-trafficking and provides them with a home, skills training and a fresh start to life.  Jordyn has lived in Cambodia, working among Destiny Rescue girls in a voluntary capacity, teaching English and dancing, and managing the café which employs some of the girls. Jordyn is equally passionate about issues on her own doorstep, and together with her brother Joel, hosts weekly barbecues for homeless people in the Sunshine Coast area.  In 2013, Jordyn was asked to sit on the Advance Kawana community advisory body to provide input into issues facing her community.  Jordyn is positive proof that neither financial resources nor celebrity status are necessary for someone to act on social injustice.

    Nicole Gibson – mental health campaigner (Surfers Paradise)

    20 years old

    After overcoming mental health challenges as a young person, Nicole Gibson is channelling her energy into motivating other young people to be the best they can be.  In 2011, Nicole established The Rogue & Rouge Foundation to reverse the stigmatisation of mental health, body image and self-esteem issues in Australia’s young people. As the Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer, Nicole dreams that every teenager can look in the mirror and smile. A communications student at Bond University, Nicole is tackling the epidemic of low self-esteem by creating community outreach programs and working directly with schools and education departments. Nicole has conducted workshops at 250 schools across Australia, and is the driving force behind fundraising which provides financial assistance for young people and their families while they undergo treatment for mental health challenges. Nicole strives to inspire, educate and connect youth with their passion in life, and is dedicated to helping young people ‘see beauty differently’.

    Jacob McLuskie – defensive driving advocate (Clontarf)

    25 years old

    The car accident that claimed 21 year old Jason Rich’s life in 2009 did not involve alcohol, drugs or fatigue – but it was preventable.  The tragedy of losing his friend inspired Jacob McLuskie to develop a program that teaches young people defensive driving skills to prevent accidents resulting from inexperience. Since establishing the Jason Rich Foundation, Jacob and his friend’s mother, Tracey Rich, have staged golf days, fashion shows and fun runs to raise money. Almost 600 young people in Central Queensland have attended defensive driving courses as a result of Jacob’s energy and enthusiasm.  When he’s not running his personal training business or delivering motivational speeches, Jacob devotes his time to his cause, with his ultimate goal to put one million Australian Year 12 students through defensive driving courses by 2070. Jacob is committed to ensuring that Jason’s death is not meaningless, and is helping to educate young drivers and change the way young people act when behind the wheel. 

    Chern’ee Sutton – artist (Calavos)

    17 years old

    A young Indigenous artist of extraordinary talent, Chern’ee Sutton uses her passion to share messages of reconciliation with her community. A proud Kalkadoon woman, Chern’ee gives her time and skills to assist individuals and groups, and she has donated more than $40,000 through the sale of her artworks. Many charities have benefited from her generosity and artistic gift – from people with cancer to victims of flooding.  Chern’ee is conscious of her position as a role model to young people, and volunteers her time to teach primary school children how to paint using Indigenous art techniques. In 2012, Chern’ee was chosen to represent Indigenous electorates at the Queensland Youth Parliament, and has two paintings hanging in Queensland’s Parliament House. Motivated by a commitment to reconciliation, and a desire to share her culture, history and art with others, Chern’ee is helping to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

    Local Hero

    Katrina Beutel – women’s champion (Thornlands)

    Challenged by her local church to turn $100 into something meaningful to help others, Katrina Beutel launched the Pink Pamper Pack project in 2008.  Katrina’s idea was to provide two packs each week to women struggling through difficult times.  Less than three years later, Katrina had distributed nearly 600 packs and established the Redland Centre for Women to empower and connect women in her local area.  Today, Katrina leads a group of passionate volunteers, drives the distribution of Pink Pamper Packs, and oversees an education program which helps first time young mums, encourages women to set goals, and to live their best lives.  Katrina also spearheads large fundraising events, including a women’s expo which has attracted more than 1,100 women.  Originally a single mother, Katrina is now married with three children, and juggles her voluntary role while working alongside her husband in the family business. Admired for her hands-on approach, Katrina is an inspiring example of how one person can make a difference.

    Jim Deem – community sport supporter (Bundaberg)

    From a young age, Jim Deem was a keen sportsman.  His passion for public service and supporting the sports he loved began in the 1950s, when he became involved with his local hockey and cricket clubs. A founding member of the Bundaberg Junior Cricket Association, Jim was a prime mover in the development of a former council dump into a junior cricket complex, devoting many hours to preparing wickets and outfields, and building the first clubhouse. He was registrar, treasurer and then club president for more than 20 years, organising state carnivals and championships, umpiring games and transforming the association grounds into one of Queensland’s best. His efforts with his local hockey and senior cricket clubs are just as impressive. Jim rolls up his sleeves to help where he’s needed – whether that’s umpiring a match, running a club canteen or rebuilding a clubhouse after the devastating 2011 and 2013 floods – and his efforts have benefited the community for over 50 years!

    Jay Larkins – Paralympic football coach (Keperra)

    After his son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Jay Larkins became passionate about Paralympic football. Jay established the Brisbane Paralympic Football Program in 2006, and today coaches more than 100 children with disabilities, giving them opportunities to engage in team sport and exercise.  As head coach, Jay oversees a team of assistant coaches, managers, volunteers and a regular physiotherapist and dietician, who are all committed to helping the young athletes be the best they can be.  Jay’s ‘never say never’ attitude has been inspirational to many participants in the program, with four athletes representing Australia, and others working towards qualification for the 2016 Paralympic Games. More importantly, the Brisbane Paralympic Football Program provides people with an inclusive environment for young athletes with disabilities to develop their skills and confidence.  Jay is now helping to develop similar programs in other parts of Queensland.  When asked about his coaching philosophy, Jay’s answer is simple: “I teach people motivation and self-belief.”

    Suzy Wilson – Indigenous literacy champion (Bulimba)

    Disturbed by low rates of literacy among Indigenous Australians, bookstore owner Suzy Wilson organised the first Riverbend Readers’ Challenge in 2004, raising $25,000 for Indigenous literacy projects.  Determined to do more, Suzy subsequently established the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, which provides books and literacy resources to more than 200 remote Indigenous communities around Australia.  A former teacher, education consultant and university lecturer, Suzy is passionate about literacy, and has become a catalyst that is changing children’s lives through literature.  In 2013, the Foundation raised nearly half a million dollars, translated dozens of early childhood books into the first languages of Indigenous communities, and supplied 100,000 books to people around Australia. More than 20,000 students now support the Foundation through annual Great Book Swaps and other fundraisers. Suzy’s vision for a fair and equal Australia is helping to level the playing field, so that all our nation’s children have the same opportunities to develop a lifelong love of reading.