A man on a mission to abolish food insecurity, a woman bringing dignity to disadvantaged and vulnerable people and a champion of community spirit are among those honoured at this year’s Moreton Bay Region Australia Day awards.
The awards acknowledge extraordinary contribution to community in two categories – Citizen of the Year, awarded to a resident of the region, and the Spirit Award, which is open to those who live within or outside the region and those who are not Australian Citizens.
Citizen of the Year: Nick Steiner
“It’s about people working with people for people.”
So says the 2023 Moreton Bay Region Citizen of the year and Mini Farm Project founder Nick Steiner.
Nick’s vision is to address food insecurity with a network of charity farms growing food to give to local charities to create urgently needed meals.
It all began with his first farm in his backyard and has since grown to his first “dream farm” – Millen Farm at Samford, followed by a second, the Urban Farm and Food Forest Project at Loganlea State High School.
In October Nick announced his third farm, which will be built on a one-acre site at Wamuran donated by Mandy and Adrian Schultz at Luvaberry.
Nick says that with the majority of charities needing to buy food to feed people in need, Mini Farms donate most of their crops so vulnerable people in the community can enjoy a healthy meal, using fresh, nutrient-rich produce.
The Mini Farm Project supports organisations such as Meals on Wheels, OzHarvest and community shelters, saving the charities money that would otherwise be spent on buying food so they can spend it on delivering other vital services.
Rotary Club of Caboolture Community Services Director Riana Botha, who nominated Nick for the award, says Nick’s innovative dedication to help build a better community through collaboration is astounding.
“His ambition does not stop here, but rather takes you to a world of inclusion with students, Universities, care workers, and any organisation interested to invest in the community,” she says.
Community Spirit Award: Kevin Couch
Kevin Couch’s twice-daily strolls around his Albany Creek neighbourhood during COVID-19 lockdowns sparked a series of morning teas and a festive barbecue in December, creating a unique sense of community in the suburb.
The 89-year-old is very social and enjoys a chat with everyone he meets on his walks, which gave him the idea of hosting regular morning teas on public holidays in local parks around the neighbourhood.
To let people know about the events, he drops invitations into more than 150 local letterboxes – a recent morning tea attracted more than 100 neighbours.
Alyssa Kerr, who nominated her grandfather for the award, says Kevin spends days setting up the morning tea area, with signs to encourage people to come and to make the space welcoming.
“At the events he takes the time to make introductions and connect the people that he meets on his walks with others with similar interests,” Alyssa says.
“Kevin has shown tremendous community pride in recent years… (he) is all about bringing the community together for a good time, a social time, and to meet new people.”
Community Spirit Award: Laurence Christie
Laurence Christie wears many hats in the Mango Hill community and was a strong advocate for fellow residents in during last year’s February and March floods.
Laurence, who was nominated in 2019 and 2020 for an Australia Day Award for Volunteer of the Year, also advocates on behalf of residents to all levels of government to improve the area to benefit the large number of young families moving to the Moreton Bay Region.
During the 2022 flood, Laurence was constantly on the phone to Council reporting updates and ensuring his community had a voice.
He helped his divisional councillor, Deputy Mayor Jodie Shipway, co-ordinate a visit from Mayor Peter Flannery, organised clean up days to get the community back on its feet in record time, and also arranged for the local Lions Club and shopping centre to donate food and vouchers to help families in need.
“Laurence leads the charge in advocating for improvements and initiatives in and around his local area and has been an integral part of the community,” Cr Jodie Shipway says.
Community Spirit Award: Michelle Gilchrist
Breakfast Club Redcliffe manager and chairperson Michelle Gilchrist brings dignity to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in the Moreton Bay.
She started as a volunteer eight years ago, stepping into the leadership roles about four years ago, co-ordinating all aspects of the Breakfast Club’s operation.
A regular day might see her cooking and managing kitchen teams, ordering, running fundraisers, facilitating community engagement activities, recruiting and rostering volunteers, working with other not-for-profit organisations and government services to benefit guests or applying for grants.
Breakfast Club Redcliffe support worker and volunteer Helen Bambling described Michelle as always having a phone in her hand juggling the steady stream of messages and calls from community members seeking or offering help.
“While managing the hectic day-to-day operations of the organisation, Michelle remains a constant pillar of friendship and support for those who need it most,” Helen says.
“The Breakfast Club community, both guests and volunteers, are incredibly grateful for the enormous amount work…as the Breakfast Club nears its 20th birthday, it feels fitting to honour the woman who makes it all happen.”
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