2023 Queensland Australian of the Year award recipients announced

Published Tuesday, 15 November, 2022 at 08:00 PM

Premier and Minister for the Olympics
The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk

First Nations composer and educator William Barton is the 2023 Queensland Australian of the Year.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk congratulated Mr Barton, ahead of the national Australia Day awards at Canberra in January.

In the other categories:

  • The 2023 Queensland Senior Australian of the Year is Bravehearts Foundation fundraiser Claude Harvey OAM.
  • The 2023 Queensland Young Australian of the Year is community advocate Talei Elu.
  • The 2023 Queensland Local Hero is humanitarian and aide for vulnerable mothers Melissa Redsell.

Premier Palaszczuk said the recipients were role models for communities across Queensland and Australia.

“Their work in our communities, and that of all 16 Australian of the Year nominees, show us that a brighter future is possible with dedication and compassion,” the Premier said.

The recipients are among 32 people being recognised across all states and territories as part of the Australian of the Year program, which began in 1960.

The Premier said the four Queensland recipients would represent the State at the national awards ceremony on the eve of Australia Day 2023 in Canberra.

“The 2023 Queensland Australian of the Year recipients are remarkable people who have inspired us through their words and actions, and they will be wonderful representatives of our great State at the national event in January,” the Premier said.

“I congratulate the recipients and all of the nominees for their great work and achievements which help to make Queensland such a great place to live, work and raise a family.”

For more information on the Australian of the Year Awards visit www.australianoftheyear.org.au

Profiles – Queensland Australian of the Year Recipients

Queensland Australian of the Year – William Barton

Proud Kalkadunga man William Barton is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, didgeridoo player and renowned classical composer.

Growing up on Kalkadungu country, Mt Isa, he learned didgeridoo (yidaki) from his uncle, Arthur Peterson, a Wannyi, Lardil and Kalkadunga elder. William left school at 12 to concentrate on music. By age 17, he had performed with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.

William, who holds honorary doctorates from both Griffith University and the University of Sydney and an associate professor at ANU, has released five albums on the ABC Classics label including Heartland with Véronique Serret featuring the words of William’s mother Aunty Delmae Barton.

He was the 2019 artist in residence at Melbourne Recital Centre, a Creative Consultant for Australia Day Live and has won multiple awards, including the 2021 Australia Council Don Banks Music Award for his sustained contribution to music. In 2022 William’s ‘Of The Earth’ opened the new Opera House Concert Hall.

Queensland Senior Australian of the Year – Claude Harvey

Many would excuse former gardener Claude Lyle Harvey OAM if he put his feet up after a lifetime of hard work. Instead, Claude is spending his retirement trekking around Australia to increase awareness of child protection and raise funds for Bravehearts, a not-for-profit dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse and assisting survivors.

Over the past 17 years, he has pushed his trusty lawnmower ‘Moyra’ tens of thousands of kilometres around Australia. He’s brought in more than $1.5 million for Bravehearts with the aim of hitting $2 million by the end of 2024.

He keeps walking, saying: “If I can save just one child from this crime that harms one in five Australian children, I will have achieved what I’ve set out to do.”

Queensland Young Australian of the Year – Talei Elu

Talei Elu decided to focus on her enthusiasm for her Torres Strait culture after six years working for the Federal Government.

Talei is a Saibai Koedal (crocodile) woman from the Torres Strait Islander community of Seisia in Cape York. She used her government experience, knack for media creation and community organisation skills to start initiatives that have had a positive effect in Seisia.

Since returning home during the pandemic, Talei has worked with the Australian Electoral Commission to enrol and educate more Indigenous people about the importance of voting.

She also arranged for local women to receive free feminine hygiene products, baby necessities, and beauty and self-care items and she started Seisia Sports and Rec, a free sports equipment hire initiative for youth.

Talei regularly organises beach clean-ups and was recently named as the youngest member of the First Nations Consultative Committee and co-chair.

Queensland Australia’s Local Hero – Melissa Redsell

Melissa had been coping with a dysfunctional family life when she became pregnant at 16. Despite constantly being told her life was over, Melissa finished high school when she was seven months pregnant.

She had very limited family support and struggled to buy essentials but worked hard. Melissa attended university as a single parent with a one-year-old in tow and became a registered nurse and midwife.

Working in healthcare, she recognised the need for better support for teenage and young mothers.

She started gifting newborn essentials to young mums who were struggling. Within 12 months, she’d started A Brave Life. The charity supports young mothers dealing with domestic violence, poverty, trauma, relationship breakdowns, unplanned pregnancy and homelessness.

It provides essentials such as baby supplies, emotional nurturing and paths to education and employment. By mid-2022, Melissa had delivered more than 8,000 baby bundle care packages.


Media contact: Zoe Russell – 0439 982 347