Mel wins Queensland Australian of the Year Local Hero

Published 8:47am 16 November 2022

Mel wins Queensland Australian of the Year Local Hero
Words by Kylie Knight

Warner’s Melissa Redsell has won the Queensland Australian of the Year award in the Community Hero Category and will now represent the state at the national awards, in Canberra, in the lead-up to Australia Day.

The winners of the 2023 Queensland Australian of the Year Awards were announced during a ceremony at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre last night. The national winners will be announced on January 25.

Melissa is the founder of A Brave Life, a charity which provides practical and emotional support to vulnerable young mothers. It is based at Murrumba Downs.

Her work is the continuation of her own journey - overcoming obstacles, breaking down prejudice and defying low expectations after learning she was pregnant in Year 12.

Melissa says she was shocked when her name was called out as the Local Hero category winner and it took a couple of seconds for her realise she had won.

“Winning this award … I work in a field with so much stigma and judgement so for me, this award is a way to break that stigma and judgement down,” she says.

“It will really give a voice to those who aren’t heard in the community. If they are seen, they are judged … we still have a long way to go in terms of judgement of vulnerable teenage mothers.”

Mel wins Queensland Australian of the Year Local Hero
A young Melissa Redsell with her daughter Breeanna.

Tale of courage, determination

Looking back at the frightened teenager she was when she learned she was pregnant at the age of 16, Melissa says she never imagined how things would turn out.

“I was even saying to my husband on the way home I don’t think I could have made up this journey, even if I imagined it,” she says.

“I look back to where I’ve come from … I was the Townsville girl, I was the least likely to succeed in my grade because I was pregnant.

“I really was living a brave life.”

She says her work can be heart-breaking at times and there have been times when she wanted to give up and quit.

“Winning something that recognises all the hard work … it’s not just for me, it’s for everyone I’m fighting for,” Melissa says.

Her husband and a founding member of her board were at the awards ceremony.

Her daughter Breanna, who is also central to A Brave Life’s success, could not be there but will be by her mother’s side in Canberra on January 25.

“Breanna is so excited. She was just so over the moon,” Melissa says.

Melissa says taking A Brave Life to the national stage will raise awareness of the need to support vulnerable young women in the community and hopefully generate support for the work her team does.

“The more we can get the word out that there are young women who need support, the better,” she says.

She congratulated the other nominees and recipients for the work they do in the community and thanked the Australia Day Award judges and sponsors.

The 2023 Queensland recipients are:

Queensland Australian of the Year – William Barton

Queensland Senior Australian of the Year – Claude Lyle Harvey OAM (Gold Coast)

Queensland Young Australian of the Year – Talei Elu (Seisia)

Queensland Local Hero – Melissa Redsell (Warner)

The other Queensland Local Hero nominees were:

Brett and Belinda Beasley - Founders, Jack Beasley Foundation (Parkwood)

Peter Davis - Founder, Blood Bikes Australia (Springfield Lakes)

Michael Sanford - Mental health advocate and founder, Bunyarra Wellbeing Co. (Maidenwell).

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