By: Michael Fox

I had lunch today with a room full of truly extraordinary people – Finalists and Winners of Pride of Australia Queensland.

As Finalists in each category were called up on stage their story was read out. Stories about individuals like Darrin Hatchman – Heroism Medal, who as a paramedic with

Environment Finalists

Careflight Rescue Helicopter, spends his time being winched down over seas or onto dangerous cliff ledges. One time he was lowered through the jungle canopy to treat a woman with life-threating injuries at a hinterland waterfall. He then gathered a team to carry her 11km through the night to a point where she could be rescued.

I had the honour to meet and talk with a number of Finalists in different categories.

Environment Finalists – (l-r) Chloe, Gill, myself

My wife and I particularly related to Harry Graepel, a teacher from Cairns, who with his wife, organises shipments of school equipment to remote PNG islands. Mostly used books, desks and even the simple pencil eraser, this stuff we throw away half used is highly valued at the remote schools in poor communities where it dramatically improves their education chances. Reducing waste and creating educational opportunities – initiatives close to both our

Pride of Australia Medal 2012 – Finalist Environment Category


I also talked with Malwal Mywin, Fair Go Medal Winner, Janet Wright and Kelly McLaren, Winner and Finalist for the Outstanding Bravery Medal.

Meeting Gillian Brownhill, Environment Medal winner and environmental elder, and Chloe Tsangaris representing the future generation, was particularly special for me.

Gillian’s amazing compassion for both wildlife in her care and her late husband who died of motor neurone disease, is matched by her courage and clear focus on ensuring the future of Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. Eyes sparkling as she talks about late night feeds for orphaned wildlife, flashing with anger she talks about the horror of motor neurone disease which took her life partner or misting with sadness as she recounts the statistics of died or euthanased wildlife, Gill is a person who carries you with her story.

Chloe combines a passion for wildlife with the Facebook generation’s confidence and ability to tell their story. Speaking with a confidence and quality well beyond her nine years Chloe also shows the humility to ask advice when unsure, a powerful combination. I will be watching and cheering this young person on as she takes the world by storm.

I could have spent a week listening to the stories of the thirty-three Finalists in the room today, however what is really inspiring is to learn that there were 630 nominations for Pride of Australia in Queensland. When I read to stories of the Finalists and reflect that there are another 597 individuals nominated by people who have observed their selfless contribution, I am filled with hope for the future of our state and country.

Awards like Pride of Australia Medal provide high value for individuals and organisations involved in community service. I can certainly tell you that it is a good feeling being up on stage as leader of an extraordinary group of community volunteers and partner organisations. However the real power of these awards is the awareness and credibility that helps build community support and, importantly, helps when we are seeking grant funding for projects.

I thank News Corporation and the Award team for this opportunity to represent our community. I also acknowledge Susan Jones who first introduced me to Mt Gravatt Environment Group and the excellent BCC Habitat Brisbane program, and Edd Cross, cartoonist, who not only designed out Pollinator Link logo, but also, nominated me for the Pride of Australia Medal.

Congratulations to all Medal Winners, Finalists and nominees. I am proud to be part our our Queensland community.