Australia Day Ambassador Program

The Australia Day Ambassador Program aims to capture the true spirit of Australia Day by sending high achieving Queenslanders to communities across Queensland to come together and support the celebration of this important national day.

Australia Day Ambassadors include past recipients of the Australian of the Year Awards, athletes, medical professionals, business people, television personalities and community workers who provide inspiration and pride to Australia Day events.

Ambassadors generously volunteer their time and energy to contribute to celebrations. They participate in a diverse range of activities which have included providing a formal address to share their story, presenting Australia Day awards, judging baking competitions, and connecting with locals over a cup of tea.

Participation of an Australia Day Ambassador in community events is regularly cited as one of the highlights of community celebrations.

The 2020 Australia Day Ambassadors for Queensland were:

 

Mr Matthew Ames
Host council: Scenic Rim Regional Council

Matthew Ames was 39 years old when what started as a sore throat resulted in the loss of all four of his limbs. He had contracted a streptococcal infection resulting in toxic shock and was never expected to survive. Following a long rehabilitation process, Matthew has beaten the odds, spurred on by the fact that he is the father of four young children and husband of a dedicated wife determined to grow old with him. Matthew has a unique mix of professional and personal experience, including almost 20 years in the energy and resources industry, which has helped him find innovative ways to apply his knowledge following his illness.


Mr Robert (Bob) Atkinson AO APM

Host council: Western Downs Regional Council

Robert (Bob) Atkinson commenced working with the Queensland Police Service in 1968, serving as Commissioner of the Queensland Police Service for 12 years from 2000 until his retirement in October 2012. In a 44-year career with the Queensland Police Service, Bob served throughout Queensland from Goondiwindi to Cairns. He was a detective for approximately 20 years and acted as the police prosecutor in various Magistrates Courts during this period. Bob oversaw reforms after the Fitzgerald inquiry from 1990, as well as the Public Sector Management Commission Review and Report Recommendations of the Queensland Police Service in 1993. Bob was named a Queensland Great in 2019.


Dr Tim Baker

Host council: Etheridge Shire Council

Dr Tim Baker is a successful author, thought leader and international consultant. He has written eight books, including his latest, Bringing the Human Being Back to Work, through international publishing house and London-based Palgrave Macmillan. Tim is a specialist in organisational performance with a successful track record in transforming organisational capability through change programs and leadership capability development for 18 years.


Mr Stephen Baxter

Host council: Toowoomba Regional Council

Tech start-up investor Steve Baxter is a proud Queenslander, born in the remote town of Cloncurry and raised in Emerald in the state’s central highlands. Steve spent a year working with Google in California in 2008, leading a project to deliver high-speed telecommunications systems across North America. Since 2010 he has become an early stage investor in start-ups through his investment company, Transition Level Investments and has been a Shark on Channel 10’s Shark Tank Australia for the past four seasons. Steve was appointed Queensland’s Chief Entrepreneur in 2018, a one year volunteer role which gave him unique insight in to the Queensland business landscape.  


Miss Lisa Campbell

Host council: Western Downs Regional Council

Lisa Campbell started pole vaulting halfway through her university degree at the age of 21, and with a history of gymnastics and track and field she quickly grew to love the sport. Six years later, Lisa made her international debut at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Lisa has continued to progress in the sport and competed at her first World Cup in Ostrava finishing fifth later that year. In 2019, Lisa won her first Australian national title in the women’s pole vault and finished third at the Oceania Championships. While training full time to achieve her Olympic dream, Lisa also finished her degree and now works as an exercise physiologist working mainly in musculoskeletal rehab.

 

Mrs Justine Christerson

Host council: Paroo Shire Council

Justine Christerson moved with her family from Biloela to Brisbane in 2012, and started up her program assisting thousands of patients, carers and families who are required to travel to Brisbane to access health care services not available locally.  Justine spends her days providing a free service to so many, whether it be airport pick ups or drop offs, cooking and delivering home cooked meals, toiletries and advice on the health care system, patient travel subsidy scheme, accommodation options or just general information about getting around Brisbane.


Mrs Carmel Crouch

Host council: North Burnett Shire Council

Carmel Crouch is a distinguished businesswoman and community leader known for her work in building capacity and empowering individuals and communities towards independence.

A long-time advocate for people with a disability, Carmel has worked for more than 30 years developing programs and services that provide people with a disability with equal opportunities for employment, housing, happiness, health and wellbeing. Advocating strongly for the disability sector with federal and state government, Carmel has played an important role in improving the rights of Australians with a disability.

 

Distinguished Professor James Dale AO

Host council: Goondiwindi Regional Council

Distinguished Professor James Dale leads a major banana biotechnology research program at Queensland University of Technology to enhance bananas through genetic modification and more recently gene editing. Three projects are through initial field trial selection. The most advanced project, the “Golden Banana” project, is to alleviate vitamin A deficiency in Uganda and surrounding countries by developing cooking bananas with high levels of pro-vitamin A. These “golden bananas” are entering regulatory field trials this year in Uganda with a planned release date of 2021. James was the 2019 Queensland Senior Australian of the Year.

 

Emeritus Professor Ken Donald AO

Host council: South Burnett Regional Council

Emeritus Professor Ken Donald has had a long career in medicine and medical education. As an academic he has published extensively in peer reviewed journals and text books. He has held numerous senior positions including Head of the School of Medicine at The University of Queensland, Director of Pathology Royal Brisbane Hospital, Deputy Director-General of Queensland Health, General Manager John Hunter Hospital, and Director of Medical Services Royal Darwin Hospital. Ken’s loyalty and commitment to the health of Queenslanders is unrivalled. He was honoured as a Queensland Great in 2012 and awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia for contributions to medicine, education and veterans’ health.

 

Mr Tim Fairfax AC

Host council: Balonne Shire Council

Tim Fairfax is a company director, pastoralist and philanthropist.  Throughout his life Tim has served in a variety of roles with a wide range of organisations and is presently Chairman of the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, Director and past Chairman of the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, President of the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation, Deputy Chairman of the National Gallery of Australia and member of the National Portrait Gallery Foundation.  Tim is currently Chancellor at Queensland University of Technology, a position he has held since 2012. He is also a Director of Australian Philanthropic Services and the RNA Foundation, and an advocate for philanthropy and a major supporter of the visual arts. In 2016 he became Queensland Senior Australian of the Year and in 2014 was made a Companion of the Order of Australia for his eminent services to business and the community.

 

Mrs Vanessa Fowler

Host council: Carpentaria Shire Council

Vanessa Fowler’s life changed on 20 April 2012, when her sister, Allison Baden-Clay was reported missing.  After a major police investigation Allison’s body was found and her husband charged with her murder.  Allison’s story was a high-profile one, so Vanessa thought the family needed to use that publicity to help others and established the Allison Baden-Clay Foundation. A school teacher, and 2019 Ipswich Citizen of the Year, Vanessa is on a journey to educate and raise awareness of domestic and family violence. In conjunction with Griffith University, she has launched a national training workshop program called Allison’s Gift which educates people on recognising the signs of domestic and family violence and how to be an effective bystander.

 

Miss Georgia Godwin

Host council: Toowoomba Regional Council

Georgia Godwin is a 21-year-old elite Australian gymnast. She has been doing gymnastics since she was three years old, starting on the Gold Coast at a local PCYC. Georgia was the Junior Australian National Champion in 2011 and 2012, the Senior Australian National Champion in 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019 and member of the 2015 and 2017 Australian Worlds Team. Georgia’s greatest accomplishment has been representing Australia at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. She placed third with the Australian team, second individually and third on the uneven bars.

 

Ms Olivia Hargroder

Host council: Somerset Regional Council

Told she would never speak, Olivia Hargroder uses the gift she was to be denied, advocating for change and equality. Olivia is the driving force behind the campaign Change The Box, a movement to have athletes with Down Syndrome included in the Paralympics. Olivia was a Queensland finalist for the 2018 Young Australian of the Year and is currently Moreton Bay’s Young Citizen of the Year and studying at Australia’s prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Arts Young Actors Studio. She has taken her message across Australia, through the UK to Scotland and addressed the United Nations in New York. Tireless in her efforts, she genuinely has a message she wants the world to hear and the world has listened.  

 

Ms Mona Hecke

Host council: McKinlay Shire Council

Mona Hecke, founder of Aussie Health Girl, is passionate about educating, inspiring and motivating everyone to live a healthier life. Mona’s 20-year career in the public spotlight spans many sectors including as a health and wellbeing keynote speaker, political candidate, public relations and marketing executive, community representative, author, business owner, naturopath and preventative health educator. She is the current President for the Gold Coast Active and Healthy Alliance, a volunteer body delivering the country’s most comprehensive wellbeing program to the community.

 

Mr Jeffrey Horn

Host council: Lockyer Valley Regional Council

Jeff Horn is a former WBO World Welterweight boxing champion, who defeated 11 times World Champion Manny Pacquiao at Suncorp Stadium in front of more than 51,000 spectators on 2 July 2017 in the biggest fight in Australian boxing history. On 13 December 2017, Jeff successfully defended his world title against the WBO #10 Gary Corcoran and also defeated Anthony Mundine in just 96 seconds at Suncorp Stadium on 30 November 2018. Jeff has won numerous awards, including the Don Award, Queensland Sports Star of the Year Award, and the GQ Sportsman of the Year Award. Jeff was also a quarter finalist at the 2012 London Olympics, which was the best performance by an Australian Olympic boxer for 20 years.

 

Ms Gail Ker OAM DUniv

Host council: Cook Shire Council

Over the past 20 years, Gail Ker has achieved vast industry experience and arguably unrivalled expertise in the Australian multicultural, humanitarian and community sectors which has seen her change countless lives for the better. A nationally lauded and award-winning visionary, Gail is the CEO of Access Community Services Ltd where she tirelessly leads in creating social, cultural and economic experiences and opportunities that transform the lives of individuals and communities. Informed and working at the cutting edge of policy and sector engagement, Gail’s knowledge is actively sought by politicians, industry leaders and research bodies alike, both nationally and internationally.

 

Ms Kate Knapp

Host council: Longreach Regional Council

The wonderfully whimsical Australian illustrator, Kate Knapp, lives and works in her adored home town of Brisbane, tirelessly building her two brands: Twigseeds and Ruby Red Shoes. As a young artist, she hand painted greeting cards to sell at local markets. She held her first exhibition at the Noosa Regional Gallery, leading her to establish her own small gallery, first in Windsor then in Paddington. In the mid 90s, Kate realised her passion was to use her art to create everyday products accessible to everyone. This led her to create Twigseeds. Twigseeds is known for its curious characters, the cards, stationery and books they inhabit, and the unique perspective they share. Later, Ruby Red Shoes wandered on to Kate’s page and Kate was instantly taken with her and her world. Kate published her first Ruby Red Shoes book in 2012. Six more Ruby titles have followed since, with another currently in painting.

 

Mr Jay Larkins

Host council: Barcaldine Regional Council

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 a disability, giving them an opportunity to engage in team sport and exercise. As Director, Jay oversees a team of assistant coaches, managers, volunteers and regular physiotherapists and occupational therapists, who are all committed to helping the young athletes be the best they can. Jay’s ‘never say never’ attitude has been inspirational to many participants in the program, with four athletes representing Australia, and others working towards selection for the Australian Paralympic football team. 

 

Mr John Lazarou

Host council: Sunshine Coast Council

John Lazarou is an Australian businessman and one of the co-founders of The Coffee Club. In 1989, John bought into The Coffee Club, which is now one of Australia’s largest franchise operations with more than 400 Coffee Club stores throughout Australia and across nine countries. John is also well known for his charity work. He supports and sponsors a wide range of charities and initiatives such as The Coffee Club Telethon Ball, which raises $12 million every year for the Children’s Hospital Foundation. He also supports the Special Children’s Christmas Parties and Young Achiever Entrepreneur Awards. He is an Ambassador for The Olivia Newton John Cancer and Wellness Centre, has a strong public relations background and is an honorary member of the Brisbane Greeters.

 

Professor Peter Leggat AM ADC

Host council: Charters Towers Regional Council

Professor Peter Leggat is Co-Director of the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Vector-Borne and Neglected Tropical Diseases at James Cook University in Townsville.  His passion for more than 30 years has been combating some of the world’s most lethal and disabling tropical diseases. His other passion is for St John Ambulance Australia, where he has given several decades of volunteer community service, including assisting with major disaster events.

 

Associate Professor Richard Lewandowski

Host council: Central Highlands Regional Council

Associate Professor Richard Lewandowski graduated from the University of Queensland in 1981 and became a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS) in 1990. He has a Fellowship Diploma in Craniomaxillofacial Surgery from the Eastern Virginian Graduate School of Medicine, Norfolk Virginia, United States of America. Richard is the Founder and Chairman of Operation Smile Australia and a visiting plastic surgeon at the Mater Children's, Greenslopes and St Andrew’s hospitals. Richard is an Associate Professor at the University of Queensland and Chair of the RACS Queensland. Previously, he has been the President of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Society of Queensland, Chairman of the Queensland State Committee of the RACS and President of the Australasian Society of Craniomaxillofacial Surgeons.


Mr Alistair McCooke
Host council: Longreach Regional Council

Over the past 35 years, Alistair McCooke has been rescuing people and saving lives in his capacity as both a surf life saver and a senior crew member of the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service. Originally, Alistair was a volunteer surf life saver of the Ocean Grove Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) Victoria. Alistair’s professional occupation as a mobile intensive care ambulance paramedic helped drive his passion for saving lives. Throughout the early 1990s, Alistair served in Saudi Arabia establishing an emergency response service program for Saudi national army nurses to become army medics. He was subsequently an active member of the United Nations’ humanitarian mine clearing project in Iraq. In 2004, Alistair was awarded both the Victorian and Surf Life Saving Australian of the Year from a field of 33,000 active surf life savers.

 

Dr Robert McGregor

Host council: Western Downs Regional Council

A medical practitioner specialising in child health, Dr Robert (Bob) McGregor has made an outstanding contribution to Queensland’s community.  Bob has devoted more than 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 also 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.

 

Mrs Annabel McKay
Host council: Western Downs Regional Council

Recipient of the Pride of Australia Medal for Care and Compassion, Australian Nurse of the Year and the Professor Catherine Turner Medal for Excellence in Nursing, Annabel McKay is an inspirational nurse and educator for the University of Southern Queensland. Born at 26 weeks gestation, Annabel suffers from a profound, bilateral, sensory neural hearing loss, however, she has not been defined by this disability, and her determination to assist those in need despite her impairment truly attests to the strong, independent young Australian she is. Described as humble, beautiful and inspirational, this decorated nurse and clinical academic hopes her achievements will inspire others to be the best version of themselves.


Mr Ross McKinnon AM

Host council: Longreach Regional Council

Ross McKinnon is the retired curator-in-charge of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mt Coot-tha. Internationally regarded as one of the world’s leading sub-tropical botanic gardens, it features significant plant collections including the world’s largest representative collection of Australian native rainforest plants. In June 2014, Ross was awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International in appreciation of tangible and significant assistance given for the pursuit of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world.


Mr Alastair McLeod

Host council: Torres Shire Council

Look past the Irish accent and you’ll discover Alastair McLeod is one proud Australian. The much-loved chef and TV personality’s experience in the kitchen is extensive; he’s worked at Michelin listed restaurants across the world. After his classical training in Europe, Alastair decided to follow in the steps of his forefathers and chose Queensland as his home. His Australian tenures have included roles as executive chef at Brisbane stalwarts Baguette and Brett’s Wharf Restaurant. He then established Tank Restaurant and Bar in Brisbane’s CBD, which was named in Australia’s hot 50 restaurants two years running. Alastair has started his own business Al’FreshCo that provides small and large scale catering to private and corporate clients.


Mr William (Bill) Nancarrow

Host council: North Burnett Regional Council

Bill Nancarrow became involved in powerlifting training in 2000 after a motorbike accident in Townsville. In 2002, he met the team at Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association in Brisbane and forged a great relationship with the team, attending several state and national competitions over the next few years, building on his strength and forming close friendships. In 2005, Bill had further surgery on his right leg as his hip had deteriorated to the extent that he was unable to walk on it. After some setbacks in 2006, Bill was offered an assistant coaching role at Sporting Wheelies, and the rest is history. Bill has held many assistant coach, coach and team manager positions over his coaching career with some highlights including the Beijing Paralympics and the recent Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.


Miss Lakeisha Patterson OAM

Host council: Cairns Regional Council

Lakeisha Patterson, otherwise known as Lucky, has become Queensland’s very own golden girl. Lakeisha started swimming at the age of five as a form of hydrotherapy to help ease her muscle stiffness from Cerebral Palsy left Hemiplegia. After falling in love with the water and discovering para-swimming, she started competing nationally at 13. Lakeisha has since gone on to compete at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio and the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, taking away gold medals at both events. When she isn’t swimming, Lakeisha studies at university and volunteers at the children's hospital, helps within the community and speaks at numerous schools and events.


Mr Taj Pabari

Host council: Barcaldine Regional Council

Taj Pabari is 19 years old, yet his passion for young people, business and entrepreneurship has led him to a level of influence well beyond his years. Taj established Fiftysix Creations, Australasia's largest youth entrepreneurship provider at the age of 14. As of 1 January 2019, Fiftysix Creations had educated 50,075 Australian students.  Fiftysix Creations run workshops for schools teaching young people from five to eighteen, about the world of business, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. Accolades collected by Taj and Fiftysix Creations include being named the 2017 Young Australian of the Year for Queensland, the Australian Young Innovator of the Year and winner of Westpac's Top 20 Businesses of Tomorrow.


Dr Allan Paull

Host council: Flinders Shire Council

Dr Allan Paull gained his PhD in applied mathematics at The University of Queensland (UQ) and subsequently obtained a Master of Engineering Science within the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UQ.  He has worked for 30 years in hypersonics, primarily in the field of supersonic combustion and flight testing. He has been employed at NASA Langley Research Center (USA), German Aerospace Center (Goettingen, Germany) and General Applied Science Laboratory (New York, USA) and UQ where he held the position of an Australian Research Council (ARC) Professor and was an ARC Professorial Research Fellow.  Allan is currently employed at the Department of Defence Science and Technology and is an Adjunct Professor to UQ. He developed theoretical approaches for the operations of scramjets as well as for wind tunnels and has led the HyShot, HyCAUSE and HIFiRE hypersonic flight programs.  In total, Allan has been the lead for 14 flight tests.


Professor Kay Saunders AM

Host council: Sunshine Coast Council

Trained in anthropology, Professor Kay Saunders was professor of history and Senator of the University of Queensland from 2002–6 and CEO of The Brisbane Institute, 2006–9. She also worked at Bond University from 2012–14. Kay is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, the Royal Society for Arts, the Royal Historical Society (London) and the Royal Anthropological Institute. In 2001, she received the Medal of the National Museum of Australia and in 2006 was the recipient of the John Kerr Medal from the Royal Historical Society of Queensland and is a recipient of the Federation Medal. 


Mr Christopher Scott OAM

Host council: Toowoomba Regional Council

Chris Scott is a Paralympic cyclist who competes in the 1km time trial, the 3000m individual pursuit and team sprint on the track, and the road race and individual road time trial. His sporting career highlights to date have been at the 1996 Atlanta and the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games where he won a gold medal for the mixed bicycle time trial division. Chris also broke the world record in the final of the 3000m pursuit at the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games. Announcing that he would retire after the Beijing Paralympics, Chris said farewell to the Paralympics in style, winning gold in the 3000m pursuit, silver in the individual road time trial and bronze in the 1000m time trial. Finishing his Paralympic career with a total of six gold, three silver and three bronze medals. Chris was inducted into the Queensland Sports Hall of Fame in 2015 and became the first athlete with a disability to be inducted into the Cycling Australia Hall of Fame in 2016.


Mr Scott Stidston OAM

Host council: Isaac Regional Council

Scott Stidston has never allowed the motorcycle injury that left him a person with quadriplegia to limit his contribution to the community and campaigning for those with a disability. Scott has been a stalwart of Spinal Life Australia for many years, determined to improve the quality of life of people with a disability by speaking of the benefits of inclusive communities in the North Queensland region. A tireless advocate, he has told his story to thousands of school children, sharing simple but effective injury prevention messages to help them stay safe. His advocacy has increased spinal injury awareness and seen significant improvements in infrastructure and services including the installation of upper torso restraints on all Virgin Australia domestic flights.


Emeritus Professor Roland (Roly) Sussex OAM

Host council: Winton Shire Council

 Emeritus Professor Roland (Roly) Sussex is a specialist in language, communication and culture, and health communication. His current research is focused on language, culture and society, technology and, more recently, pain and health. Roly has been writing a weekly column on language for The Courier-Mail since 2006His talkback radio program, A Word in Your Ear has been broadcast every week on ABC Radio Queensland since 1997, and for the last 16 years to South Australia.


Miss Chern'ee Sutton

Host council: Burdekin Shire Council

Chern’ee Sutton is a proud Kalkadoon woman and artist from Mount Isa who is passionate about her culture and history and wants to share that with the rest of the world through her art. Her unique style combines two worlds of traditional Aboriginal heritage with a modern contemporary twist and has caught the eyes of collectors around the world, including British royalty. Chern’ee created the Aboriginal markings and story for Borobi, the 2018 Commonwealth Games mascot and was artist in residence at the athletes village during the Games, creating a 10 metre art piece with the athletes and dignitaries such as His Royal Highness Prince Charles of Wales. Chern’ee’s paintings have been commissioned by the Queensland Government, the National Rugby League, Tennis Australia, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Commonwealth Games and the Australian Defence Force, to name a few.


Ms Nerelie Teese

Host council: Western Downs Regional Council

The daughter and granddaughter of dairy farmers, Nerelie Teese grew up in Victoria before her family moved to South-East Queensland. An award-winning bush poet, Nerelie has performed across Australia as well as in Canada and America. She was a travelling performer on The Ghan and appeared on TV’s Great Australian Doorstep.


Uncle Barry Watson

Host council: Barcaldine Regional Council

Uncle Barry Watson is a descendant of the Wergaia people of Western Victoria and has lived in Logan City since 1979.  He is the Elder in Residence with Communities for Children working in the early childhood field for many years.  He has developed many early childhood resources and produced several children’s books.  Uncle Barry provides cultural awareness training to his fellow staff members, funded community partners and other workers across government and non-government organisations.


Mrs Jennifer Woodward

Host council: Whitsunday Regional Council

Jenny Woodward is well known to audiences across Queensland as the ABC TV News weather reporter and presenter. In her long career, Jenny has worked as a writer, editor, producer and presenter, but has now become synonymous with weather reporting across the state. In addition to her nightly weather report, Jenny has done current affairs stories for Stateline and 7.30 Queensland and has regular spots on ABC Radio. Jenny has been with the ABC for more than 30 years. It’s believed she is Australia’s longest serving weather presenter—a title she plans to defend for some time yet.