Alumni News Articles

Queensland Australian of the Year award recipients announced

28 November 2008


Bronwyn Sheehan, Jean Illingworth, Jonty Bush, Cyril Golding

7:30PM BRISBANE: A literacy advocate, a revolutionary school principal, a courageous anti-violence campaigner and philanthropic businessman have tonight been named as the Queensland recipients in the Australian of the Year Awards 2009.

Premier of Queensland, The Honourable Anna Bligh MP, presented the recipients with their awards in a ceremony this evening and congratulated all finalists on having earned such a prestigious honour from their fellow Queenslanders.

The QLD award recipients are:

The QLD Australian of the Year 2009 is literacy advocate Bronwyn Sheehan.
When Bronwyn Sheehan realised that foster children were not being given the same opportunities in life as other children she decided to do something about it. Statistics show that only eight per cent of foster children achieve average literacy levels by age seven and 75 per cent do not finish school.  Bronwyn developed a simple idea that has had huge benefits. Launched as the Pyjama Foundation in 2004, the organisation focuses on building literacy skills. Volunteers spend an hour a week simply reading with a foster child. They visit the child in their home and follow the child if they move house. They read with them, play games and act as the child's own angel. The organisation's motto, 'every child needs an angel' underlines Bronwyn's basic tenet that children's lives can be improved by helping them to read. The one-on-one focus also makes the child feel special, developing their confidence and self-belief, and providing them with a positive role model. Bronwyn has inspired more than 500 volunteers to give their time every week to a foster child and her program is backed by literacy experts such as author Mem Fox. Bronwyn is making a real difference in the lives of our most vulnerable children.

The QLD Senior Australian of the Year 2009 is revolutionary school principal Jean Illingworth.
Jean Illingworth has been instrumental in transforming a once dysfunctional Indigenous school into a much admired model of success. Djarragun is an independent college located south of Cairns catering for disadvantaged students with traditionally low rates of participation in school. Prior to her arrival as principal of the school, class attendance was low, and violence and drugs were rife. Through tough love she has transformed the school into a safe place for both boarders and day students with high retention rates. Jean partly attributes this to the school's extensive vocational education program which covers areas like engineering, construction, music and business. She has also deliberately employed a multicultural group of staff from across the world to break down the barriers that often exist between Indigenous and non Indigenous people. Jean wants to continue making improvements in these children's lives, and her most ambitious plan is to build a primary boarding school nearby for 50 Indigenous students who have been judged to be at risk of harm if left in their communities. The Commonwealth government has committed $2 million dollars so far for the building of infrastructure. Indigenous leader Noel Pearson has described Jean as a 'true social entrepreneur.'

The QLD Young Australian of the Year 2009 is victim's support worker Jonty Bush.
In her short life Jonty Bush has experienced more tragedy than most of us ever will. When she was 21 her beloved younger sister was murdered, and then just five months later her father was killed as the result of an unprovoked attack. It is a tribute to her strength and courage that she not only managed to keep going but that she began to help others deal with their grief by becoming a volunteer with the Queensland Homicide Victim's Support Group. The compassion and understanding Jonty showed others brought her recognition among members of the police force and the legal fraternity, and at just 27 she was appointed CEO of the organisation. She has since led the push for a review of the laws surrounding murder and manslaughter, and as a result the Queensland Law Reform Commission is now undertaking such a review. She also developed the One Punch Can Kill campaign, which has been adopted by the Queensland Government in an attempt to prevent further tragedies. In all that she does Jonty shows others how to cope with their day-to-day lives after a tragedy, and helps them build a future for themselves despite their loss.

The QLD Local Hero of the Year 2009 is philanthropic businessman Cyril Golding.
When Gladstone's Cyril Golding started his business as a sole operator in 1942 he had no idea that it would become a mining and construction company employing 1000 people and running one of the largest privately owned earthmoving fleets in the Southern Hemisphere. Under Cyril's leadership Golding Contractors has played a prominent role in shaping the economic development and prosperity of Queensland, undertaking many major civil infrastructure projects and mining developments. Furthermore, Cyril's voluntary contribution to community life has been so significant that he is often referred to as Mr Gladstone. He has supported the Red Cross emergency accommodation facilities, the Gladstone Regional Art Gallery and Museum, and the Central Queensland University Library, which carries his name. He has also contributed financially to a wide range of charitable causes. Cyril was born with a hole in his heart and predicted to live only seven days. He survived a further two similar predictions during his life, and has recently retired as the company's managing director at the age of 87. He is greatly admired and held with tremendous affection by all those who know him.

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