Redland City's Betty Taylor has devoted much of her life to giving a voice to those affected by domestic violence.
Over almost 30 years, she has shown unwavering advocacy and a willingness to fight to prevent family violence by helping to inform government response, showing support for survivors and working for change.
Now she is among a cast of exceptional Queenslanders nominated for the 2021 Queensland Australian of the Year Awards, in the category of Senior Australian.
Her fellow nominees include a rural woman fighting for men's mental health, a nurse, a community fundraiser, two brothers helping endangered orangutans, a doctor and lawyer fighting to help people with disabilities, an advocate for people of the Torres Strait and a mother educating young people on road safety after her son's devastating accident.
They are among 18 people in the running to be named the state's Local Hero, Young Australian, Senior Australian or Australian of the Year.
One of the four nominees for the Australian of the Year category is Dr Rolf Gomes, a cardiologist and the founder of Heart of Australia.
Rolf's desire to bring medical help directly to remote and rural patients in need has resulted in a fleet of state of the art mobile clinics that have helped more than 10,000 QLD bush communities.
His initiative has saved the lives of some 400 rural Australians by diagnosing previously undetected, critical cardiac conditions.
Brothers Daniel and William Clarke are nominated in the category of 2021 QLD Young Australian of the Year for their work in an area far from their Redland City home.
The brothers have raised almost a million dollars since 2008 to help save the critically endangered orangutan populations in Borneo and Sumatra.
Their work, which has included speaking to more than 60,000 Australian students about the plight of the orangutans, has drawn some high profile attention; from the likes of former US President Barack Obama and Dame Dr Jane Goodall.
Among the nominees in the category for QLD Local Hero is Natasha Johnston, the founder and director of Drought Angels.
Natasha's work began with delivering food to struggling farmers in 2014, and blossomed into a movement that has offered lifesaving support and assistance throughout the worst of the drought years and beyond.
Drought Angels delivers more than practical and financial help, and has been there as a quiet listening ear for country people who are sometimes reluctant to reach out.
Queensland nominees share a passion for helping others- National Australia Day Council CEO Karlie Brand
The Queensland nominees are among 128 people being recognised across all states and territories as part of the program, which began in 1960.
The Queensland award recipients will be announced in a ceremony at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre on the evening of Tuesday 10 November 2020. The ceremony will also be livestreamed via Facebook @AustralianoftheYear.
The Queensland award recipients will then join the other state and territory recipients as national finalists for the national awards announcement on 25 January 2021.
National Australia Day Council CEO Karlie Brand said the Queensland nominees were an extraordinary group of people all focused on helping others.
"The Queensland nominees share a passion for helping others - they are all dedicated to making a difference in the world and their efforts are truly inspiring," said Ms Brand.
The 2021 Queensland award nominees are:
Ronnie Benbow - Founder, CEO and Director of The Carers Foundation (Brisbane)
Dr Rolf Gomes - Founder of Heart of Australia outback health service (Brisbane)
Melissa McGuinness - Founder of YOU CHOOSE Youth Road Safety (Gold Coast)
Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM - Advocate for doctors with disabilities (Gold Coast)
Carmel Crouch - Disabilities advocate and founder of STEPS (Sunshine Coast)
Aunty McRose Elu - Advocate for Torres Strait communities and climate change (Brisbane)
Jeanette Johnstone - Creator of Teacher In A Box (Brisbane)
Betty Taylor - Domestic violence prevention campaigner (Redland City)
Daniel and William Clarke - Conservationists for the endangered orangutan (Redland City)
Annabel McKay - Nurse and educator (Brisbane)
Dr Alexander Tedman - Pioneer of telehealth dermatology service (Sunshine Coast)
D'Arcy Witherspoon - Founder of Down to Earth (Ipswich)
Leanne and Stuart Brosnan - Community and conservation champions (Bundaberg)
Natasha Johnston - Founder and Director of Drought Angels (Chinchilla)
Angela Mansey - Community advocate (Sunshine Coast)
Mary O'Brien - Mental health advocate (Darling Downs)
The following biographies and photographs of the 2021 Australian of the Year nominees from Queensland have been supplied by the organisers of the annual awards, the National Australia Day Council.
Ronnie Benbow (aged 61): Founder, CEO and Director of The Carers Foundation
Ronnie Benbow is the founder and CEO of the only charity in Australia that provides free wellness programs to carers.
Through The Carers Foundation, Ronnie has created a safe healing space for carers to learn practical wellbeing strategies, establish peer support networks and enjoy a much-needed break from the mental, physical and emotional stress of their caring duties. The Carers Foundation has provided lifesaving wellness programs, including counselling and stress-management workshops, to more than 1,000 carers - many still in their teens. Ronnie is committed to raising awareness of the importance of carers in Australia and overseas. She established the WHO CARES? campaign to provide a voice for this often-overlooked sector. At the same time, she works to attract funds through donations, grants, government contributions and corporate partnerships. Ronnie's service to the community was recognised in 2020 when she was awarded the Femeconomy Queensland Voices Award in conjunction with the Queensland Government Office for Women, was shortlisted for the Telstra Business Women's Awards and named by Y Magazine as one of the Top 10 Women To Watch.
Dr Rolf Gomes (aged 47): Founder of Heart of Australia outback health service
Dr Rolf Gomes is a cardiologist and the founder of Heart of Australia, which brings specialist services to rural communities on three custom-designed clinics-on-wheels. After six years of planning and construction, Rolf designed and launched the first purpose-built, self-sufficient mobile medical clinic in 2014. Wheelchair accessible and fully-airconditioned, it provided several private clinic rooms, a testing room and a reception area for patients. In 2018, Rolf expanded Heart of Australia to a fleet of state-of-the-art mobile medical clinics, offering a wide variety of specialist services to outback and rural QLD communities. Two additional mobile clinics are currently under construction.
As a result of his dedication and hard work, Heart of Australia has welcomed more than 10,000 GP-referred patients on its 8,000km monthly visits, and is now proudly servicing 22 bush communities throughout southwest and central Queensland. It has saved the lives of over 400 rural Australians by diagnosing previously undetected, critical cardiac conditions.
Melissa McGuinness (aged 50): Founder of YOU CHOOSE Youth Road Safety
Melissa McGuinness is the founder of an organisation that changes driving behaviours and prevents youth road trauma. After her son died in a road crash that also killed four other young adults, Melissa decided to use her tragic experience to facilitate a genuine social movement. Since 2017, she has engaged with over 50,000 young Australians, presenting YOU CHOOSE Youth Road Safety programs in schools across the country. Her aim is to empower youth to take accountability for themselves and their peers through concepts of love, family and choice.
Melissa's program is championed by schools, parents, students, police and community engagement officers, as well as organisations such as the Australian Road Safety Foundation and Youth Leadership Academy Australia.
By challenging Australia's misguided paradigms about 'luck' and lethal driving outcomes, Melissa's long-term vision is to uplift current and future generations of young drivers as leaders to protect their families and their communities from the preventable misery of youth road trauma.
Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM (aged 36): Advocate for doctors with disabilities
Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM is a senior resident doctor at Gold Coast University Hospital. Despite facing numerous barriers, he became the first quadriplegic medical graduate and medical intern in Queensland. He was recently admitted as a lawyer. As co-founder of Doctors With Disabilities Australia, Dinesh has worked with the Australian Medical Association to create first-of-kind national policies for inclusivity in medical education and employment.
Dinesh is a doctor for the Gold Coast Titans physical disability rugby league team. He is also a member of
multiple committees for disability advocacy and has spoken in world-renowned forums such as TEDx. Through COVID-19, he advocated for equitable treatment for people with disabilities, including as a witness to the Disability Royal Commission. Dinesh has also contributed significantly to scientific advances in treating spinal cord injury and restoring function to people with paralysis. His national and global impact has been recognised with numerous awards, including Junior Doctor of the Year and the Order of Australia.
Carmel Crouch (aged 75) Disabilities advocate and founder of STEPS
Carmel Crouch has dedicated her life to providing opportunities for people with a disability to achieve self-actualisation and independence. After adopting a son with disabilities, Carmel spearheaded the development of supported training to help people with a disability transition into the mainstream workforce. She founded STEPS, which delivers a range of programs and services focused on employment, mental health, peer support and home and community care. STEPS has grown to 26 locations across Australia. Carmel is passionate about promoting equality for all individuals and has developed programs to provide Indigenous Australians, Torres Strait Islanders and refugees with training and employment opportunities. She recently launched STEPS Pathways College to help young people with a disability learn practical independent living skills. The first of its kind in Australia, the college has since added an online program and a day program to the curriculum. Over her 32 years of service, Carmel has received many honours including an Australia Day Ambassadorship in 2019.
Aunty McRose Elu (aged 75) Advocate for Torres Strait communities and climate change
Torres Strait Island Elder McRose Elu is a tireless advocate for her community. She has an unwavering vision to bring about change to better the lives of children and families. McRose is committed to reconciliation and sharing the traditional practices of her people at local, state and federal levels. She was instrumental in negotiations to legally recognise the traditional customary adoption practices of Torres Strait Islander families, which led to the introduction of a landmark Bill to the Queensland Parliament. Since 1980, McRose has been drawing global attention to the impact of climate change on the Torres Strait, including speaking at the UN and to business and political leaders. As a member of the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARCC), she advocates for renewable energy and sustainable methods of production. McRose also provides essential translation for Torres Strait Islander communities to help them access services and lobbies for funding to support community capacity building.
Jeanette Johnstone (aged 67) Creator of Teacher In A Box
Jeanette Johnstone has made a significant impact in the provision of educational resources through her innovative technology project, Teacher In a Box. The project repurposes donated technology to bring online education to the offline world. It does this by transforming a single laptop into a server that enables up to 100 devices to connect to enormous databases of information. These include academic resources for all ages and levels of schooling, and community development materials on topics such as agriculture, environment, medicine and water management. The program has been implemented in more than 100 sites around the world, including schools, orphanages and universities, enhancing the lives of many in disadvantaged and remote communities. It also reduces e-waste by giving laptops a second life. Jeanette also organises fundraising events for community welfare groups. She takes a personal role in supporting individuals and single parents experiencing hard times, particularly those living with disability.
Betty Taylor (aged 71) Domestic violence prevention campaigner
Betty Taylor has worked to prevent family violence for almost 30 years. Betty was the founding manager of the Gold Coast Domestic Violence Prevention Centre. Through this work Betty was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2002.
Betty drove the establishment of the Domestic Violence Death Review Board. She chaired the Ministerial Domestic and Family Violence Council for two terms and established Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month. She has contributed to developing domestic violence responses, supporting survivors and raising public awareness - with initiatives such as the Candle Lighting Vigil and annual Red Rose Rallies. In 2016, Betty became CEO of The Red Rose Foundation, where she has played a critical role in bringing non-lethal domestic violence strangulation onto the public agenda. In 2020, Betty was recognised for her service to the community with the Queensland Greats Award.
Brothers Daniel and William Clarke are passionate conservationists for the critically endangered orangutan populations in Borneo and Sumatra. Since 2008, they have highlighted the species' plight and raised more than $900,000 to help protect the animals. The funds have supported orangutan care centres by building new holding enclosures and enabling investment in veterinary equipment. The brothers have also sponsored more than 50,000 hectares of orangutan habitat and adopted more than 100 animals. Daniel and William's literary work on orangutan conservation has been incorporated into the NSW Department of Education Curriculum. To date, the brothers have spoken in at least 80 schools to more than 60,000 students Australia-wide, inspiring other young people to make a positive difference in the world. Daniel and William are regularly invited to speak at events to address industry leaders and politicians on sustainability and the environment. Their conservation efforts have been recognised by former US President Barack Obama and Dame Dr Jane Goodall.
Annabel McKay (aged 29): Nurse and educator
Annabel McKay is a nurse who is recognised for delivering an outstanding level of compassion and care. She divides her time between caring for vulnerable cancer patients and educating aspiring practitioners at the University of Southern Queensland. The youngest full-time academic in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Annabel has already made remarkable achievements in nursing education, despite a daily struggle with profound deafness. She was recently selected by the Head of School to supervise a dozen students undertaking their professional placement in Vietnam. Annabel also takes annual leave from her role to volunteer in Cambodia, where she educates and upskills local staff. Her approach creates an environment that promotes positive nursing outcomes and patient change.
Nominated by her colleagues and patients for her unwavering dedication to the healthcare community, Annabel has received the Pride of Australia Medal for Care and Compassion, Australian Nurse of the Year, and the Professor Catherine Turner Medal for Excellence in Nursing.
Dr Alexander Tedman (aged 29): Pioneer of telehealth dermatology services
Dr Alexander Tedman has revolutionised access to public dermatology services in Queensland. Driven by a belief
in equality for those in regional communities, Alexander is dedicated to increasing access to medical care for
those restricted by geography. Alexander pioneered the development of novel teledermatology services at the Sunshine Coast University and Queensland Children's hospitals that enable patients to access specialist advice and treatment via their GP or local hospital more efficiently and without exorbitant travel requirements. In its first year, the Sunshine Coast service saw more than 300 patients, driving a 50 per cent reduction in non-urgent local waitlists. Alexander has also led the way in educating the medical community about the possible uses of telehealth. He has presented his findings at conferences in Australia and overseas, including at the World Congress of Paediatric Dermatology.
In 2019, Alexander was the youngest finalist in the Queensland Health Excellence Awards and won the Sunshine Coast Service's exceptional peoples award for bright ideas and research.
D'Arcy Witherspoon (aged 21) Founder of Down to Earth
D'Arcy Witherspoon is the founder of a non-profit organisation that provides healthy hot meals and clothing to vulnerable members of the community. He regularly drives his van to Brisbane parklands to cook hot food for homeless locals. He also dedicates time to having one-on-one conversations with people who are sleeping rough or struggling with financial hardship. By providing emotional support without judgment, he fosters a sense of belonging and helps alleviate stress and loneliness. D'Arcy works for OzHarvest on his days off and uses collected produce in his cooking, which saves food from going to landfill. His latest initiative is to collect donated cans and bottles, which he then delivers to marginalised community members so they can take them to be recycled and earn money. He also recycles cans and bottles in exchange for vouchers that can be used to buy groceries.
Leanne and Stuart Brosnan (aged 54 and 53): Community and conservation champions
Leanne and Stuart Brosnan are dedicated to improving the lives of regional drought-affected communities and protecting their wildlife. Leanne is a director of The Wombat Foundation, the only organisation dedicated to the conservation of the northern hairy nosed wombat. She has worked to build community awareness of the wombat's plight and has also built important relationships with landowners to help ensure the survival of this critically endangered species. Leanne has also helped coordinate projects aimed at invigorating the local economy. This has included organising silo art murals and a giant hairy nosed wombat sculpture to boost tourism. She and Stuart, along with a group of their friends, purchased their local hotel to reinvigorate it and save the last remaining business for their tiny community. Despite Stuart's paralysis, the couple have worked on many projects in support of people with disabilities. Stuart is CFO of Bundaberg's Community Lifestyle Support, which employs 270 local people.
As community mentors, the couple support people with disability to live their lives with joy and purpose and empower others to launch their own community projects.
Natasha Johnston (aged 47): Founder and Director of Drought Angels
Natasha Johnston is the founder and director of Drought Angels, a service that delivers care packages and financial assistance to thousands of drought-stricken farming families across Queensland and New South Wales. Natasha and her friend Nicki Blackwell were inspired to help after hearing stories of farmers struggling to put food on the table. After loading a ute with supplies to take to one family in 2014, they soon started responding to calls for assistance from other families in urgent need. Drought Angels is a unique service that provides a listening ear in addition to financial assistance and food hampers. This personalised support is a lifeline for farmers who often don't reach out for help. Natasha's work plays a vital role in reducing rates of depression and suicide, as well as helping to keep farmers on their land. Thanks to her hard work and dedication, Natasha frequently receives heartfelt responses of gratitude.
Angela Mansey (aged 37): Community advocate
Angela Mansey is a businesswoman who uses her platform to reach out to those in the community who need help. She assists youth with job placement and mentorship, creating an environment that encourages young people to come in for help with their resumes. Angela regularly hosts large fundraising events, raising thousands of dollars and donating much needed toys and equipment for numerous charities, local hospitals, foster families and community causes. She is also part of the Alliance for Suicide Prevention, advocating for mental health awareness and support.
Angela is founder and director of Driven by KM, a charity that supports the families of terminally ill children on the Sunshine Coast. She uses her business to cover the costs so that 100 per cent of donations support families with children in hospital, helping them cover medical expenses and bills. Angela has received many awards at the local and national level for her business achievements and contribution to the community.
Mary O'Brien (aged 50): Mental health advocate
Mary O'Brien works to highlight mental health issues in men living in rural and remote areas of Australia. She has developed the 'Are you bogged, mate?' initiative specifically for men who work in the rural sector, with the aim of reducing suicide rates among this group. Mary has tailored her approach specifically to the mental health needs of men who grapple with isolation, the stress of running a farm and the emotional toll of dealing with drought, bushfires, failed crops and lack of water. Mary's initiative helps men to recognise that support is available, encourages them to reach out, and promotes conversations around mental health, which may not otherwise be openly acknowledged or discussed. The positive feedback from workshops demonstrates the significant impact that Mary is having on men in rural and outback Australia. Her work has also been recognised with the Queensland 2020 Men's Health Award and a national Women Working In Men's Health Award.
For more information on the Australian of the Year Awards, visit australianoftheyear.org.au
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.