Sheamus O’Connor – Water Warrior

By: Michael Fox

Congratulations to Sheamus O’Connor who received the Water Warrior Award (Secondary) at Friday’s Healthy Waterways Awards.

Presented by Target Australia the award is open to to individual secondary school students who are undertaking activities that improve the health of our waterways and make a positive difference in our local communities.

Sheamus is a passionate advocate for environmental sustainability, improving bushland and waterways in his local area.  Sheamus became a volunteer and member at the Mt Gravatt Environment Group and Bulimba Creek Catchment in 2010, assisting with the bushcare group every Wednesday after school, and on weekend working bees along side other local residents and the Rotary group.

 In 2011, on National Tree Day, he was responsible for organising 20 students, teachers and family members to rehabilitate the entry of the Mt Gravatt Summit track, in conjunction with the bushcare group. The area was quickly transformed from a weed infested eyesore into the makings of wildlife habitat. In 2012, he continued working in the area, training international and local students from Griffith University, and  again organised a group of students to plant in the area for National Tree Day. Sheamus represented the bushcare group at the 2012 Lord Mayor’s Diamond Jubilee Walk tree planting in Victoria Park.

Sheamus has participated in Clean Up Australia Day for several years, assisting with the Scouts who come along.  He is very mindful that litter on the mountain makes its way into the creeks and degrades habitat for wildlife and explains this to the younger children.

During 2011 and 2012, Sheamus has been a regular attendee at the monthly  Open Days at the Bulimba Creek Catchment Sustainability Centre. He has the role of introducing or thanking the guest presenters, taking new people on a tour of the centre and has given a presentation himself about looking after chickens.  He is very knowledgeable about native plants and assists others to make selections for their yards. Sheamus has also assisted the catchment group at an information stall for Green Heart Fair.  He talked to many people about bushcare, looking after waterways, and plants to encourage native species in the home garden.

In 2012, Sheamus was invited to be part of Council’s school holiday program, giving a presentation about chickens at the Holland Park library.  The children were fascinated with his chickens and the information given about their habits and needs.

His concern for the environment has extended to his own home, where the O’Connor family now uses many sustainable living practices.He has constructed fruit and vegetable gardens, a compost bin, worm farm and chicken coop, recycling as much waste as possible into the garden. The native gardens provide habitat for the endangered Richmond Birdwing Butterfly as well as the usual animals found in urban backyards.  He even persuaded his parent’s to install solar panels.

Sheamus’s efforts have been recognised by the Lord Mayor’s Young Citizen of the Year in 2012 and Quest Newspaper’s Young Star Community Award in 2012.  In 2011 he had the opportunity of meeting the Premier, and he took the opportunity to explain his outlook on the environment and the importance of people acting now to protect natural areas for the future.

Sheamus is a passionate advocate for environmental sustainability and has just begun an Environmental Course at Griffith University.  He is not only an articulate spokesperson for future generations, he is recognised for his personal contribution to the restoration of Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve.

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.

By: Michael Fox

Wishart Ward habitat groups with Cr Krista Adams and Ian Walker MP

Yesterday I attended the launch of an amazing book which captures the history of  habitat groups within the eastern creek catchments of Brisbane. The true genus of this book is that it is a compilation of stories written by group members and illustrated by photos submitted by each group. Each story paints a personal picture of a habitat community with group activities, community events and flora and fauna as seen through the eyes of individuals who truly care about that patch of urban bushland.

Congratulations to the BCC Habitat Brisbane team members who bought this alive and thanks to the BCC Councilors who had the vision to provide the financial support.

Bushcare groups represented

The launch was hosted by Bulimba Creek Catchment Coordinating Committee (B4C) at the Sustainability Centre and Native Plant Nursery.

Reading the stories and understanding the scope of the Habitat Brisbane programme, this is only the Eastern Catchments, fills me with pride in our Brisbane community and hope for the future.

Copies of this high quality small volume photo book can be ordered by emailing B4C. Cost is $120.

Three Mt Gravatt Environment Group Bushcare sites are represented:

Gertrude Petty Place Bushcare

Rover Street Bushcare

Fox Gully Bushcare

By: Michael Fox

I been selected as one of three Queensland finalists for the Pride of Australia Medal – Environment category. My nomination was made by one of our extraordinary team of volunteers so I feel doubly honoured to be representing Mt Gravatt Environment Group.

It was inspiring to read about all the finalists the various categories in today’s Sunday Mail.

Pride of Australia Medal – Environment – Sunday Mail 19 Aug 12

By Michael Fox

Our community can be proud of the young people on the front page of the Southern Star this week, and, the article suggests, we can have hope for some amazing futures to be created by them.

Mt Gravatt Environment Group and our sponsor, Bulimba Creek Catchment Coordinating Committee(B4C), are particularly proud of YoungStar Community winner, Sheamus O’Connor.

More than 100 years before Sheamus was born, in July 1893, Queensland Premier Thomas McIlwraith “… in recognition of the resolve of the settlers, divided off 132 acres of the land [timber reserve], including Mt Gravatt Mountain, from the railway timber reserve.” Mt Gravatt Then & Now Mt Gravatt Historical Society.

The vision of community members over 100 years ago means that today our community has Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve, a unique habitat with Echidnas, Koalas and forty-five butterfly species only ten minutes from the Brisbane CBD.

In another 100 years our Mt Gravatt community will reflect on the vision and commitment of young people like Sheamus who can see the value in being actively involved in restoration and protection of this unique habitat.