Australia Day celebrations were held at the Burdekin Memorial Hall on Friday 25th January 2019 where residents were recognised for the their community spirit. The Burdekin Shire Council Australia Day Awards recognise members of our community who have made an outstanding contribution to the community, and for exceptional achievement in many areas.

Citizen of the Year

Nominees – Richard Kelly, Bill & Betty Lucas, Vince Papale, Robert Sutcliffe, Melissa Torrisi

Winner – Bill & Betty Lucas


The 2019 Citizen of the Year Award is presented to a pair who have selflessly devoted their time for the betterment of the Burdekin community for many years. They are members of countless community groups – so many in fact, I’ll have to do my best to keep this brief!

Members of the Home Hill Choral Society, Merle’s Pearls and the Friends of the Theatre, this pair are a performing powerhouse. They act; they sing; and he recites poetry – together they make a great team. Most weeks you’ll find them performing for the local aged homes, pensioners’ groups or at local community events.

Fundraising is also an important pastime for this couple. Not only do they attend working bees for the Home Hill Choral Society and Merle’s Pearls, they have also hosted a couple of successful Stew & Damper nights at Wunjunga, with all proceeds raised donated to the Burdekin Combined Chaplaincy.

A former Sunday school teacher, she continues to prepare and preach services in the Church, whilst he serves as a member of the Burdekin Tourism Group, Lower Burdekin Landcare Association, Burdekin Bowen Integrated Floodplain Management Advisory Committee, and Wunjunga Progress Association. He is also the local Fire Warden for Wunjunga.

They’ve fostered numerous children over the years; raised money for the Flying Padre Mackay Patrol; and their generous hospitality means everyone is always welcome at their table and there is always room for one more.

The 2019 Citizen of the Year Award is presented to Bill and Betty Lucas.

Each year the Burdekin Shire Council sponsors the Acquisitive Art Prize section of the Burdekin Art Society Water Festival Exhibition.

The winning piece of artwork is presented to the Citizen of the Year.

Young Citizen of the Year

Nominees –  Christie Gist, Caitlin Holmes, Sarah McDonnell, Jacklyn Walters

Winner – Caitlin Holmes 


The 2019 Young Citizen of the Year Award is presented to a young woman who has shown great dedication to her sport, her school and her community service in 2018.

After being elected as Ayr State High School’s Vice Captain for Community Service for 2018, this young woman approached her teachers at the beginning of Year 12 with a plan to reconnect the Ayr State High School Interact Committee with the Ayr Rotary Club. She undertook a personal commitment and worked tirelessly within the school and wider community to reignite relationships between the Ayr Rotary Club members and the students at Ayr State High School and the Ayr State High School Interact Committee.

As part of this self-driven initiative, she attended Rotary meetings, volunteered at numerous Rotary and school-based events, and independently coordinated and organised a group of students to help at various events including the Norm Perry Duck Race, Burdekin Walk against Domestic Violence and clean-up efforts after the Black Dog Race.

In addition to her school-based volunteering, she is also a volunteer coach at Junior Touch Football and referee at Senior Touch Football; she marched in the 2018 ANZAC Day Dawn Service and the Ayr State High School Anzac Parade; and has volunteered at many sporting event canteens.

Her 2018 academic achievements include the Norm Perry Rotary Citizenship Award; acceptance in, and subsequent attendance at, the National Youth Science Forum; runner up to Senior Dux of year level and the Dux of Biology and Information and Communication Technologies.

She has admirably fulfilled her role as School Vice-Captain for Community Service, exceeding expectations and going above and beyond the duties of this role on many occasions. The commitment and dedication shown to her sport, her school and her community service is an outstanding exemplar for other young people.

The 2019 Young Citizen of the Year Award is presented to Caitlin Holmes. 

Life Time Contribution Award

Nominees – Gloria Vass

Winner – Gloria Vass


The recipient of the 2019 Life Time Contribution Award has been a dedicated member of the Burdekin Netball Association for more than four decades.

She first joined the association when she moved to the Burdekin in the early 1970s as a school teacher. Since then, not only has she payed netball, including representing North Queensland in an international game against South Africa, she has also coached countless junior teams at local, regional and state level. She has held the position of Selector and Head Selector for many years, and she continues to umpire every week.

In 2018, the Association expanded their committee in an effort to reduce the onus on existing members, however this person elected to also take on the role of Canteen Officer, which resulted in her working tirelessly in the club canteen between 4pm to 9pm every Thursday night. This selflessness saw her deservedly voted as Burdekin Netball’s Club Person of the Year in 2018.

Despite the fact that her children stopped playing netball in the Burdekin long ago, she has never stopped being an incredibly hard-working member of the association. She holds the title of Patroness of the Burdekin Netball Association – one of the highest honours within the club.

She strives to improve the standards of the Association by continually encouraging junior members to better themselves and by encouraging new parents to become involved in the sport.

The 2019 Life Time Contribution Award is presented to Gloria Vass.  Glenys Brotto accepted the award on Gloria’s behalf as Gloria was unable to attend the awards evening. 

Community Event of the Year

Nominees – Burdekin Singers 25 Yrs – A Musical Memory hosted by Burdekin Singers & Theatre Company, 2018 Queensland Country Home Hill Harvest Festival Street Parade and Street Party hosted by the Home Hill Harvest Festival, 2018 Shane Muspratt Cup hosted by Burdekin Junior Rugby League and the 2018 Sweet Days Hot Nights Festival hosted by Burdekin Shire Council.

Winner – 25 Yrs – A Musical Memory – hosted by Burdekin Singers & Theatre Company


The 2019 Community Event of the Year Award is awarded to a group who have been a part of the Burdekin landscape for almost one hundred years. Formerly known as the Ayr Choral Society, this group started out as a place where like-minded people were able to join together and perform at various choral competitions. Soon after, they began to share their talents with the wider community when they started performing musicals, plays and theatre restaurants.

In order to expand the opportunities for their members to perform in a wider body of work, this group became an incorporated body, thus the Burdekin Singers and Theatre Company was born.

This group has brought many stage productions to life, including Phantom of the Opera, The Secret Garden, Big River and Chicago to name a few.  To celebrate the achievements over the past quarter century, they set about the ambitious task of producing a concert featuring highlights from the last 25 years. Two years in the making, the anniversary concert was not only an opportunity for the community to reminisce on some of the musical highlights of the past 25 years but was also an opportunity for past and present members to come together and celebrate the vibrant history of this singing group. More than 100 cast and crew members were involved in producing this special performance, which sold out almost immediately.

The 2019 Community Event of the Year is presented to the Burdekin Singers and Theatre Company for 25 Years – A Musical Memory.   The award will be accepted by Treena List.


Community Event of the Year Achievement Award

Winner – 2018 Sweet Days Hot Nights Festival – hosted by Burdekin Shire Council


This year the judges have decided to present an Achievement Award in the Community Event of the Year category.

The 2019 Community Event of the Year Achievement Award is presented to an organisation whose inaugural event combined a number of pre-existing events together to create a vibrant festival which celebrated the rich agricultural history of the Burdekin.

Held in late May, the First Fire event marks the very first cane fire of the season. As with other years, the First Fire in 2018 featured paddock to plate food, but this year saw the introduction of live music, a variety of unique food trucks and a Burning Man effigy. Films and photographs depicting the sugarcane industry in the Burdekin were also projected onto the purpose-grown cane crop at Home Hill Showgrounds before the first fire of the season lit up the sky.

This cane was then used for the other main event, the Australian Hand Cane Cutting Championships, where attendees were able to experience the dirty, back breaking work of days gone by.

As a result of the significant rebranding and reinvigoration of these events, this organisation was able to attract record crowds when more than 5,000 people attended this event across the two days.

The 2019 Community Event of the Year Achievement Award is presented to the Burdekin Shire Council for the 2018 Sweet Days, Hot Nights Festival. The award was accepted by Doug Chappell.


Senior Environment Award

Nominees – Francisco (Frank) Mugica

Winner – Francisco (Frank) Mugica


Over the past few years, the recipient of this award has emerged as a true leader in progressive and environmentally friendly sugarcane farming practices.

A third-generation grower, the recipient first learnt about the effects of his management practices by testing cane runoff from his cane and grazing property in Dalbeg. He has since installed a recycle pit, shielded sprayer and spray controller, all improving efficiency and reducing environmental impact.

In 2014, he trialled banded mill mud and subsequently practiced this farm-wide. He joined another project supporting growers adjacent to wetlands to trial nutrient and irrigation efficiencies and has reduced his nitrogen use by 20kg per hectare. Recently, he adapted machinery for strip tillage for green cane trash blanketing. By 2022, he plans to be a fully accredited Smartcane BMP farmer.

To encourage wildlife, he began revegetating the farm perimeter, planting 100 native trees in 2017. He continues planting and weeding for habitat, shade and erosion control.

Last year, he was announced as the 2018 Prince of Wales Environmental Leadership Sustainability Runner Up in the Reef Champion Awards. He was also awarded the Reef Conservation Runner Up.

The recipient isn’t hesitant to share his knowledge or promote the Burdekin. He has been profiled by ABC Rural, Project Catalyst, North Queensland Dry Tropics and many more. He was also a guest speaker at the 2016 North Queensland Australian Water Conference and the 2017 Burdekin Water Forum.

He has embraced every opportunity to better manage nutrient use, improve irrigation efficiency and raise awareness of important environmental issues, both locally and among the wider farming community.

The 2019 Senior Environment Award is presented to Frank [Francisco] Mugica. 

Senior Cultural Award

Nominees – Erin Brennan, Melissa Torrisi, Carolyn Starkey

Winner – Erin Brennan


The 2019 Senior Cultural Award is presented to a person who has played a major role in bringing countless Home Hill Choral Society productions to fruition over the past 15 years.

During her tenure with the society, she has helped with many aspects of the organisation, including assisting with costumes, scripts, promotion, organisation of sound and directing. She has also been President of the Home Hill Choral Society for almost 10 years now.

She is often responsible for selecting which productions she thinks the community would enjoy, and casting members most suited for the roles. Importantly, she happily spends time with the cast members, providing feedback to help improve their performance.

She spends countless hours, often well into the evening, working on these productions with the aim of producing a professional and enjoyable performance.

Over the years, many residents and visitors have enjoyed her productions, and for this she is the recipient of the Senior Cultural Award.

The winner of the 2019 Australia Day Senior Cultural Award is presented to Erin Brennan.

Senior Cultural Achievement Award

Winner – Carolyn Starkey


This year the judges have decided to present an Achievement Award in the Senior Cultural Award category.

The recipient of the 2019 Senior Cultural Achievement Award has been an avid potter for nearly 50 years and is the backbone of the Burdekin Potters.

Back in 1982 when the group was still called Ayr District Potters, she led the group in obtaining enough funds so they could secure a space to call their own. After their successful fundraising efforts, the group had enough money to lease a space at Plantation Park – thus Plantation Park Pottery was born.

Since then, she has helped with countless fund raisers, including the hosting of fairs where other clubs were invited to sell their wares. For many years, the group have held beautiful exhibitions at the Burdekin Theatre, allowing the community to enjoy their work.

The recipient has continued to better her skills, having travelled to many workshops over the years. She is selfless with her knowledge, as she often teaches others the tools of the trade.

She has been President of the Burdekin Potters for many years and today she is recognised for her significant contribution.

The winner of the 2019 Australia Day Senior Cultural Achievement Award is presented to Carolyn Starkey.

Junior Cultural Award

Nominees – Brendan Kolb, Olivia Licciardello, Lauren Raitelli

Winner – Brendan Kolb 


The recipient of the 2019 Australia Day Junior Cultural Award, is an active member of a wide range of cultural groups. Similarly, to our two Junior Cultural Achievement Award recipients, he is a member of the Burdekin Singers and Theatre Company and Perform Music Studios families.

He has been a member of the Burdekin Singers for over eight years now. He has performed in eight junior productions, five senior productions, as well as the 2017 Christmas Spectacular. He has also worked behind the scenes, bringing events like the 2018 It Takes Two to life.

He is heavily involved with the Ayr State High School’s cultural department. He is a valued member of the choir; has performed every year in the interschool drama festival; and has been a part of school musicals, including this year when he performed in a lead role. He has represented his school in many choir performances, notably the Commonwealth Games Baton Relay celebrations.

2019 is already looking like another exciting year for this recipient, as he has been accepted into the North Queensland State Honours Ensemble Program for Music. He has also been named as Ayr State High School’s Community Service Vice Captain.

He has displayed exemplary leadership qualities through his actions, which include directing a number of school choir performances; being an integral member of the organising committee of the Ayr State High School Big Day Out; and by always assisting fellow cast members with learning lines, dance rehearsals, costumes and creating props.

He is a quiet achiever who is always the first to arrive and last to leave, and today I am happy to announce that

The winner of the 2019 Australia Day Junior Cultural Award is Brendan Kolb.

Junior Cultural Achievement Award

Winners – Olivia Licciardello and Lauren Raitelli


Due to the high calibre of entrants this year this year, the judges have decided to present two Achievement Awards in the Junior Cultural Award category.

The first recipient of the 2019 Junior Cultural Achievement Award has been involved in cultural organisations from a very young age, having first joined the Burdekin Singers and Theatre Company family at the age of five years old. Since then, she has been involved in both senior and junior musicals and is a valued member of the choir.

She regularly performs at many community events, such as the Water Festival, the Readers and Writers Festival, Community Christmas Carols and the Queens Baton Relay to name a few.

She also regularly contributes to the Burdekin Catholic High School community by performing at school masses, assemblies, eisteddfods and other school performances. As a result of her dedication to the arts within her school community, she has been elected as the Burdekin Catholic High School Cultural Captain for 2019. In addition to these community and school events, she also regularly sings at the Lower Burdekin Home for the Aged and her local parish.

Recently, she introduced a new class at Perform Music Studios dedicated to improving young students’ confidence and overall musicality in a small group setting, called ‘Little Voices’.

She actively tries to make the arts more engaging and inclusive for her peers. When approached by a teacher asking whether she could make a promotional video for the Burdekin Readers and Writers Ignite Your Mind festival, she involved other students and recorded a professional track with vocals as well as creating complementary footage, turning this from an individual to a group project. In doing so, she exemplified the values of mateship, inclusiveness, egalitarianism and respect.

The first recipient of the 2019 Junior Cultural Achievement Award is Olivia Licciardello.

The second recipient of the 2019 Junior Cultural Achievement Award is heavily involved in the Burdekin performing arts through a wide breadth of groups such as the Burdekin Singers and Theatre Company, Perform Music Studios, Burdekin Speech and Drama and Simply Dance, as well as her school’s extracurricular performing arts activities.

In 2018, this individual took to the stage countless times, performing in no less than three musicals and two showcases, as well as numerous choir performances. These included the Burdekin Singer’s productions of 25 Years – a Musical Memory and Madagascar; Ayr State High School’s production of Popstars; Perform Music’s showcase Encore; and the Simply Dance end of year concert. She also performed in a group and individual capacity at the Burdekin Junior Eisteddfod and Burdekin Festival of the Arts.

In addition to her numerous performances, this young lady also completed her Trinity Grade 5 Speech and Drama Exam with Merit as well as her Australian Music Examinations Board Grade 1 Musical Theatre Exam with Honours.

Not confined to singing, dancing and acting, she is also a confident public speaker. She successfully competed in the 2018 Rostrum Competition, winning the Ayr State High School Junior Section as well as the Burdekin District Final. She went on to represent the Shire at the Northern Districts Regional Final, where she was named Runner Up.

In addition to her personal successes, this recipient regularly gives back to her school community. She often attends music workshops at primary schools where she mentors other students and choir members. She also wrote the junior drama festival script for Ayr State High School and, with the help of her drama teacher, directed the play. Being a role model and encouraging others to join the arts is something she relishes.

The second recipient of the 2019 Junior Cultural Achievement Award is Lauren Raitelli.

Sports Administrator Award

Nominees – Russell Dingle, Sara Smith

Winner – Sara Smith


The 2019 Sports Administrator Award is awarded to a person who has gone above and beyond her role with the Burdekin Junior Rugby League Football Club.

She has been a devoted Manager for the now Under 10 years team for past three years, however in 2018, she also took on the roles of Grants Coordinator and Shane Muspratt Cup Coordinator.

In fulfilling her role of Grants Coordinator, she has worked tirelessly on seeking out and applying for numerous grants for the club and has been very successful on a number of occasions.

As the Shane Muspratt Cup Coordinator, she has spent considerable time redesigning the Cup nomination form and creating programs for the event. She regularly updates the Shane Muspratt Cup Facebook page and is the first point of contact for other team managers from all over the state when they have a question about the competition. She has worked hard with other club members to grow this event, which saw a record number of team nominations in 2018.

She is a very willing volunteer who helps the executive committee with any job without hesitation. She is an exemplar for other parents and club members.

The 2019 Sports Administrator Award is presented to Sara Smith. 

Senior Sportsperson of the Year Award

Nominees – Ross Rickards, Michelle Scott

Winner – Ross Rickards


The 2019 Senior Sports Person of the Year is awarded to a person who represented Australia in 2018 in his chosen sport of powerlifting. For those unfamiliar with powerlifting, it’s a form of weightlifting in which contestants attempt three types of lifts – a squat, bench press and deadlift. Their maximum lifts are then added together to get a total score.

The recipient’s journey to the international stage started in February when he competed in the Barrier Reef Bash Competition in Proserpine. He placed first in the 66 kilogram division, as well as first overall.

He then travelled to Brisbane to compete at the state-level in the North Barbell Competition. He achieved outstanding results by placing first in his division and first overall.

As a result of his state title, he was selected to represent Australia at the Asia Pacific Open which was held in Shanghai. Once again, he placed first in his division, qualifying him for the World Championships. He also achieved personal best results and placed 6th overall.

The Raw World Powerlifting Championships were held in Virginia Beach, America in October. His results from this competition were nothing short of outstanding. He competed in the 67.5 kilogram [sixty-seven point five] division and placed first with a squat of 222.5 kilograms [two hundred and twenty-two point five kilograms], which beat the current world record by a very impressive 12 kilograms [twelve kilograms].

He also bench pressed 132.5 kilograms [one hundred and thirty-two point five kilograms] and deadlifted 245 kilograms [two hundred and forty-five kilograms]. His combined result for these three events was a total of 600 kilograms, which was another world record.

The 2019 Senior Sports Person of the Year is presented to Ross Rickards. 

Junior Sportsperson of the Year

Nominees – Luke Jack, Hayden Lammon, Maeghan Saldumbide

Winner – Maeghan Saldumbide


The criteria used by the judges to determine the winner of the Sports Award was the nominee’s representation at regional, state, national and international levels of competition in the year 2018.

The recipient of the 2019 Junior Sports Person of the Year is awarded to a young lady who had an outstanding year competing in Track and Field events.

After excelling in regional events, the recipient travelled to Brisbane to compete in the Queensland School Sports Track and Field Championships, where she placed second in the Under 14 years Girls High Jump event with a height of 1.66 metres.

Following her impressive results at the Queensland School Sports Track and Field Championships, the recipient was selected as part of the Queensland All Schools 13-16 Years Athletics Team for high jump. This team travelled to Cairns to compete in the Australian All Schools Athletics Championships last month.

Despite being only 14 years of age, she, like Hayden, competed in the under 16 years division. She recorded a personal best height of 1.69 metres at this meet. This jump earnt her second place for her division. It also earnt her an Athletics Australia ranking of equal sixth position for Under 16 years High Jump in 2018.

She also competed in the North Queensland Sports Foundation Student Games and All Comers Championships in Townsville, where she competed against students from across Australia in the Under 14 Years Division. Not only did she place first in High Jump, she also placed first in Long Jump and Triple Jump and set a new High Jump event record in the process. As a result of her successes, she was awarded the Tim Parravicini Trophy for most outstanding Jump performance across all ages and genders.

This young woman’s humble nature masks a fierce determination that has propelled her to achieve great results.

The 2019 Junior Sports Person of the Year is presented to Maeghan Saldumbide.

Junior Sportsperson of the Year Achievement Award

Winners – Luke Jack and Hayden Lammon


The Australia Day Council has made provision for Council to present an Achievement Award to an individual who has made significant contribution to their community or given exceptional service to the community.  This year the judges have decided to present two Achievement Awards in the Junior Sports Person of the Year category.

The first recipient of the 2019 Junior Sports Person of the Year Achievement Award receives this award for his outstanding achievements in Rugby League.

In February, he was invited to join the 15 to 18 years Cowboys Training Academy. As part of this academy, he attended training sessions at Cowboys HQ at 1300Smiles stadium once a month.

This recipient also flourished in the school-based rugby league system. In May, he represented North Queensland when he competed as part of the Northern Regions Under 15 Years Rugby League team. Following a strong performance at this carnival, he was named as part of the Queensland Under 15 Years School Boys Rugby League team.

The recipient rounded out the year when his local team, the Burdekin Rooster’s Under 15 Years, defeated the Centrals Black to take out the 2018 Townsville Premiership.

He has had a fantastic year of football at both a regional and state level, and for this the 2019 Junior Sports Person of the Year Achievement Award is presented to Luke Jack.

The second recipient of the 2019 Junior Sports Person of the Year Achievement Award is a determined and passionate sportsperson who has excelled in a wide range of sports, and who has represented not only his school, but also the North Queensland region and Queensland in 2018.

Firstly, his track and field accomplishments. After performing strongly locally, this young man was selected to represent the Northern Region in Shotput and Discus at the Queensland Schools Track and Field State Championships. He had a successful meet, recording a personal best throw in the Under 14 Years Shotput and subsequently placing third in the state.

He was selected on the back of this performance to compete in the Under 16 years Shotput division at the Australian All Schools Athletics Championships. Not only was he competing against the best shotput athletes in Australia for his age group, he was also competing against young men an age group older than him. Despite this, he managed to place 14th in Australia and fifth out of the Under 14 Years boys.

As impressive as his track and field accomplishments were, he achieved even greater heights in his primary sport- Rugby League.

In 2018, he was selected as part of the Townsville Stingers under 14 years representative rugby league team. This team competed at the North Queensland Championships in June – a competition they emerged from undefeated. He was later also selected in the North Queensland Marlins representative team to compete in the Queensland Rugby League State Championships.

After a dominant season, he was one of only 28 boys from across Queensland and New Zealand invited to attend two Brisbane Broncos Development Camps. In addition to this, he was invited to join the Cowboys Development Camp in December, as well as attend the Cowboy’s Training Academy alongside Luke Jack. This academy is typically for boys aged between 15 and 18 years, however an exception was made for this young man – making him the youngest boy to ever be invited.

Not only is this young man an accomplished sportsperson, he was a Commonwealth Games baton bearer; he is a a volunteer life saver; the captain of his local rugby league team; and a volunteer referee at Burdekin Basketball.

The 2019 Junior Sports Person of the Year Achievement Award is presented to Hayden Lammon.  

Sportsperson with a Disability Award

Nominees – Brent Dingle, Andrea McDonnell

Winner – Andrea McDonnell


The 2019 Sportsperson with a Disability Award is presented to someone who reached junior national level as a teenager, before later storming the world stage as an adult and securing a Commonwealth Games bronze medal in the process.

The road to that Bronze Medal included countless hours of training and many years of competition. In 2013, this person was selected to represent Australia in the Oceania Regional Para Table Tennis Championships in Canberra, where she and her teammate placed third in the class 9 to 11 team event.

A few years later she travelled to Rio to compete in the 2016 Summer Paralympic Games team event, where she reached the bronze medal match with her partner Melissa Tapper, placing fourth overall.

In 2018, she went one step further at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast when she competed against England’s Felicity Pickard in the Table Tennis singles bronze medal match. She won resoundingly, beating Pickard in straight games.

She now continues to train in Townsville on a regular basis in preparation for selection in the Tokyo 2020 Games team.

This person is not only an outstanding athlete, she is also a mother and full-time employee. She has proven that it is possible to perform competitively in one’s chosen sport, whilst also balancing parenthood and a full-time successful career.

The 2019 Sportsperson with a Disability Award is presented to Andrea McDonnell.  

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