A FOUNDER of Port Douglas Carnivale and passionate advocate for the region’s nature-based tourism industry is Douglas Shire’s Citizen of the Year.

Radio personality and entertainment champion, Michael Gabour, who has dedicated more than 30 years to developing and growing the local music industry, received special recognition today at the 2020 Australia Day Awards in Port Douglas.

Mayor Julia Leu commended Mr Gabour for his contributions to the Douglas Shire community.

“Michael has dedicated so much of his time to creating environments that nurture and support local musicians and entertainers,” she said.

“He spent 15 years as the ‘Voice of the Douglas Shire’ on Port FM, bringing local issues to the forefront and providing charities and environmental organisations with a platform to connect with the community.

“Michael passionately advocated for de-amalgamation, founding the group ‘Friends of the Douglas Shire’, which successfully led the charge to reclaim the Shire in 2013.

“His commitment to improving the Shire and fostering a positive community makes him a local legend in the eyes of many.”

Following the 1989 pilot strikes, Michael supported the establishment of the Douglas Shire Tourism Association and was instrumental in the community-led campaign to garner support for tourism. He continued to provide guidance as a committee member until 2006.

Recognised as one of the founders of the Port Douglas Carnivale, Gabour is credited with creating the iconic street parade showcasing hundreds of community groups and associations since its inception.

Community Positions

Present – Douglas Shire Sustainability Group
Past – Paws & Claws Homeless Animal Society
Past – Friends of the Douglas Shire (FODS)
Past – Douglas Shire Tourism Association

Seven other award winners were recognised at today’s ceremony. They are listed as follows:

Young Citizen of the Year
Unity Beitzel

Unity is an accomplished artist, successfully exhibiting her works in the Ergon Energy exhibition at the Tanks Art Centre in Cairns, where she was awarded the Peninsular Arts Educators Association Award.

She has been a member of her school’s concert and jazz bands and performed with school instrumental groups at various community performance throughout the shire – playing the euphonium.

Unity excels at sports, competing in the Australian Athletics Championships in Perth in 2019.

“Excelling academically, musically and on the sporting field takes incredible commitment,” Mayor Leu said.

“The Douglas Shire community is fortunate to have a young person like Unity representing the region.”

Volunteer of the Year
Stephen Hull

Steve is a volunteer, local business person and family man who donates countless hours and energy to developing junior basketball players in the Douglas Shire.

He was instrumental in re-invigorating Port Douglas Basketball Club Inc, following 15 years of inactivity, and successfully lobbied for an indoor basketball stadium for Port Douglas.

Steve led fundraising efforts for equipment and infrastructure while encouraging local businesses to sponsor the teams.

“Steve has an unwavering level of commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of young people in our community,” Mayor Leu said.

“He spends countless hours of his own time coaching junior players, refereeing games and providing leadership and guidance within the club as a committee member.”

Award accepted on Stephen’s behalf by friend & fellow Committee Member, Michael Whalen

Arts & Cultural Award
Jill Chism

Jill is committed to developing the local arts in the Douglas Shire.

Last year, she played a pivotal role in launching the inaugural Call of the Running Tide event – a 10-day environmental art festival in Port Douglas.

As curator, Jill was able to nurture local talent and attract established environmental artists to participate in the inaugural event.

She has raised the bar for exhibitions in the Douglas Shire by producing a highly relevant, professional and well-attended event with over 4,000 people interacting with the exhibition.

“Jill has worked tirelessly to support local artists, creating an exceptional event and grown the profile of the local arts in the Douglas Shire,” Mayor Leu said.

Environmental Achievement Award
Karen Renouf-Thomas

Karen Renouf-Thomas is responsible for bringing the environmental and humanitarian project, Envision Hands, to Far North Queensland as FNQ Rotary Lids4Kids.

Envision Hands collects and recycles plastic bottle lids and turns them into prosthetic limbs for people in disadvantaged countries.

Until July 2019, Rockhampton was the northernmost of only three Queensland collection points but with support from Mossman Rotary, Karen organised collection points in Douglas, as well as held working bees for washing and sorting lids before organising storage and transport for the lids.

“Karen is true eco warrior having rescued tens of thousands of bottle lids from ending up in landfill or our oceans,” she said.

“To divert the bottle lids to such a worthwhile cause is highly commendable and we’re grateful to Karen for bringing this initiative to the Shire.”

Senior Sports Award
Brad Cooper

The Port Douglas AFL Football Club Senior Coach, Brad Cooper, led the Crocs to their fourth consecutive premiership in 2019.

Brad’s professionalism is the envy of any football club in Australia and his ability to recruit community-minded people is second to none.

Not only is Brad an unbelievable coach, but his ability to source employment opportunities for players and sponsorship is proof of his dedication to the club and community.

He brings out the best in young, local players with a high number of local juniors travelling up the ranks to play senior football.

“The professionalism Brad displays while representing his sport and the Douglas Shire at a local level has earned him a great deal of respect in the community,” Mayor Leu said.

“He is a natural leader, generous with his time and known for bringing out the best in young, local players.”

Award accepted on Brad’s behalf by Port Douglas Croc’s President, Barry Lea & Brad’s son, Oscar Cooper

Junior Sports Award
Gwyneth Dowell

Gwyneth is the current Queensland State Champion in Judo for both the under 52kg Cadet Women and Open Weight Cadet Women, winning every regional competition that she has attended in 2019

She is the current Gold Medal Winner of the Queensland School’s competition with judoka from all states, New Zealand, Nauru and New Caledonia attending.

Gwyneth was invited to attend as an u57kg player at the Oceania Judo Championships in Perth (84 countries attended, as it is one of the last Olympic selection events prior to Tokyo, 2020).

She has just been selected as a member of the high performance team for Judo Queensland for 2019-2020, gaining automatic selection into the Australian National Championships next year.

“Gwyneth represents her sport with the highest level of commitment and integrity, displaying an incredible level of dedication towards her competitions,” Mayor Leu said.

Civic Recognition Award
Caitlin O’Neil-Nulty

Caitlin is an ambassador for the Great Barrier Reef Legacy where she participates in events, educates and spreads awareness about important issues.

As part of Tangaroa Blue Foundation’s Clean Reef Project, Caitlin organised a beach clean-up at Cooya Beach with 12 people attending and 8 large bags of rubbish removed from the beach.

In 2019, she instigated the removal of single use plastic straws from Mossman State High School.

Caitlin organised and participated in two successful climate action rallies in the Douglas Shire to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change on our environment and society.

“Caitlin’s passion for inspiring young people to protect the environment and our World Heritage Areas has made her a leader among peers,” Mayor Leu said.

“She treasures what makes the Shire so special and is a true asset to the community.”

Happy Australia Day to all