Community heroes honored at the Ipswich Australia Day Awards 2023

Citizen of the Year Donna Cavanagh with Teresa Harding, Mayor of Ipswich. PHOTO: Included

Six inspirational recipients have been announced as winners of the 2023 Ipswich Australia Day Awards, with Eastern Heights resident Donna Cavanagh being named Ipswich Citizen of the Year 2023.

Ms Cavanagh and other finalists and winners were honored at the Ipswich Australia Day Awards 2023 on January 19.

The Mayor of Ipswich, Teresa Harding, congratulated all the finalists and winners, noting the myriad ways they each contributed to the Ipswich community.

“Our winners, from Donna to Rita, Noah, Robin, Mat and the Marburg and District Residents Association all have a remarkable track record of community service within and outside of Ipswich,” Mayor Harding said.

“Donna and Rita are a great example for all of us. Noah inspires the next generation and Robin and Mat show us the power of art and sport to transform hundreds of lives.

“These awards allow us to pause and recognize outstanding contributions and achievements by Ipswich residents and celebrate our welcoming community.

“On behalf of the city, I would like to congratulate them on their remarkable contributions and wonderful achievements.”

The 2023 Ipswich Australia Day Awards saw 29 nominations across the six categories.

Finalists and winners in each category were selected by a panel of five judges.

Community, Culture, Arts and Sports Committee Chairman Andrew Fechner said the awards also recognized the wonderful contributions of the other finalists and nominees.

“All of our nominees demonstrated a great level of engagement, contribution and achievement in the community, and it was incredibly difficult to choose just one,” said Cr Fechner.

“So congratulations to all of the 2023 nominees because they are brilliant examples of how caring, supportive and inspiring our city is.”

The winners of this year’s Ipswich Australia Day Awards are:

Citizen of the Year: Donna Cavanagh

Donna has been an active volunteer in Ipswich, working with the community and the less fortunate through a variety of programs. She makes Ipswich a safer and better place to live through her involvement with Hannah’s House, Ipswich Foodbarn, Down to Earth, Women’s Crisis Support Services and Goodna Street Life, as well as cooking at Browns Park, social checks and court aid. She organizes Crossroads in the Park, which offers free hot meals, free new clothes, haircuts, and other services every third month. She also founded the Australia Day Flag Planting in Ipswich and helps with local events and programs. In addition, Donna is a guest speaker on local radio every Monday, where she speaks about mental health issues, and she also writes for a local newspaper every week.

Senior of the Year: Rita Langer

Rita Langer is a very popular Ipswich resident and friend of many, known for her dedication to volunteering throughout the community. Ms. Langer has been a volunteer at Blair State School, which has its own chair called The Legend’s Chair, for more than 50 years. She has also volunteered with Norths since the club was founded in 1972. She is currently vice president of the women’s committee, volunteers in the canteen at every junior and senior football home game, preparing food for individual portions to be sold in the canteen and presents annual trophies at the Harry Langer Memorial Trophy games. Most importantly, she takes on an unofficial “grandmother” role at the club, providing a friendly face that kids see as a constant.

Young Citizen of the Year: Noah Springall

Noah always puts everyone before himself and has helped many different charity events over the years. Last year he raised money for the RSPCA Cupcake Day bake sale and the 100km Dog Walk in July Challenge. During the February floods, he helped get food and water for the elderly. He has also completed a Noah’s Mater charity event, organized a trip to Stanthorpe with a truckload of equipment to help those affected by the bushfires and has run other charity events over the years to help those in need. Every year he does something new and always puts others before himself.

Culture Award: Robin “Tallman” Wakkajinda

Robin “Tallman” Wakkajinda is the principal artist at the Living Breathing Gallery on Bell Street. This project was recognized in the prestigious Place Leaders Asia Pacific Awards 2022 in the Small Scale Project category under $200,000. Tallman paints Indigenous artworks on street furniture on Bell Street and collaborates with other artists on other street art. He also works with users of Bell Street to encourage ownership of the art projects and promote pride of place. This allows the space to better fulfill its function as a transport hub, helping people to feel safer in a beautiful, well-kept environment which in turn encourages pedestrian activity, which is good for Ipswich’s economy and public welfare. Tallman encourages everyone to get involved and help paint. He chats to everyone who goes by and listens to people talk about their life and activities in the city. He encourages people to come back and see the progress of the artwork and bring their children to make handprints and other designs. Tallman’s cultural awareness and communication skills allow him to push boundaries. He’s very respected by the diverse range of people that we have in the Bell St community.

Sport and Recreation Award: Mat Britton

Mat Britton, a resident of Springfield Lakes, founded a charity called Trial to Triumph (TTT) in 2004 to raise awareness and funds for research into mesothelioma and other dust diseases. Its main fundraising event is a 250km ultramarathon over two and a half days. Other fundraising events include Gold Days, Quiz Nights, Bubbles and Brush, Laps for Lungs and a Virtual Marathon. The TTT is also known as “Tony’s Journey” because it was founded in memory of Mat’s father, Tony Britton, who died of mesothelioma on March 23, 2014. Since his father’s death, the charity has raised more than $366,000. Funds have been donated to the Lung Foundation Australia and Heart of Australia. Mat is also involved with the Springfield Runners group, helping to start and grow it to its current 3000+ member count.

Community group of the year award: Marburg and district residents’ association

The Marburg and District Residents’ Association (MDRA) plays a central role in the community. The community center is a hub for activities ranging from tai chi, pilates, and yoga classes to fortnightly meetings of the Marburg arts group. The MDRA has also successfully hosted the award-winning Black Snake Creek Festival since 2006; The theme for 2022 was rain or shine and set the tone with a huge display of brightly and colorfully painted umbrellas. The MDRA also raises funds for numerous groups, organizes a Biggest Morning Tea for the Cancer Council and market days and quiz evenings for the Marburg Police, the State Fire Brigade, the Fire Department and the SES. The MDRA is also helping residents access reading materials with a street library to be installed on its premises in 2022. Finally, the MDRA organizes the annual Marburg ANZAC Day and Memorial Day, as well as awarding prizes and scholarships for academic and athletic achievement.