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A FORMER local high school principal who volunteers to care for palliative care patients and provide support for people diagnosed with cancer is Douglas Shire’s Citizen of the Year.

Former Mossman State High School Principal, Deborah Kachel, has contributed more than 50 years’ service to various charities such as the Leukaemia Foundation, Pink in the Tropics breast cancer support group, and Friends of Mossman Hospital Foundation.

As the first local female deacon, she travels weekly between Cairns and Mossman hospitals to support vulnerable patients.

Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr said in addition to her prolific volunteering efforts, Deborah is a wonderful mother, wife, and friend to many in Douglas Shire.

“Deborah epitomises what volunteering for your local community is about,” he said.

“Her dedication and unwavering support for people who are often battling through the most challenging periods of their lives is truly inspiring.

“I would like to congratulate Deborah and thank her for tireless efforts for our community.”

Deborah was one of eight award recipients at the 2022 Australia Day Awards, which was broadcast via Council’s website and Facebook page earlier today.

Ms Kachel said she was humbled to receive the award and thanked everyone who helped her over the years.

“Without the community, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do as individuals and groups,” she said.

“This really isn’t about me; it is about all the groups of people I have worked with over the years.

“You don’t do things on your own, you always work with others and those teams of people have been absolutely amazing.

“My parents set a wonderful example for me. I was very blessed to have a family that were very supportive of everything we attempted to do and encouraged us to give back to the community.”

You can watch her full speech at the Australia Day Awards 2022 presentation at Council’s website and YouTube channel.

Mayor Kerr said all award recipients had gone above and beyond for the local community.

“Whether they are representing Douglas on the sporting stage, enriching our region through art, or preserving our environment and culture, every award winner has demonstrated a real passion for Douglas Shire,” he said.

“I would like to congratulate everyone who was nominated for an award which in itself is a fantastic achievement.”

A full list of award winners is below:

Volunteer of the Year Award  – Stephen Oldham

Local funeral director Stephen Oldham is well-known for his compassion and understanding. He is always assisting someone who needs a helping hand. He also co-ordinates a group of volunteers to sew items. In the past 12 months, his volunteers have completed projects such as face masks, scrubs for Mossman Hospital staff and fidget blankets for dementia patients.

Arts & Culture Award – Alteouise DeVaughn

Since arriving in the Douglas Shire over 10 years ago, Alteouise has volunteered many hours teaching people of all ages how to sing in a choir, read music and sing individually. Her expertise, energy and talent has been generously shared with several community groups.

As Musical Director for the Clink Theatre, Alteouise has motivated, instructed and coached many local performers to achieve an outstanding level of performance. Alteouise also volunteers for OzCare, providing senior citizens with music therapy and entertainment.  

The Mossman Seniors Glee Club also owes it creation and continuing community performances to this extraordinary and generous leader.

Environmental Achievement Award – Lynette Johnson

Aunty Lyn Johnson is a proud Yalanji woman and current Chairperson of Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation. Aunty Lyn is a strong advocate for the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Bama and she works tirelessly in her community to ensure that their Bubu (lands) are protected and cared for by the traditional owners. Aunty Lyn’s connection to country and cultural knowledge is shared by her to teach the younger generations and non-Indigenous Australians the importance of protecting the future of the pristine Daintree Rainforest.

More importantly, the historic handover of 160,000 hectares of land was returned to the Eastern Kuku-Yalanji people and this was advocated with many meetings held by Aunty Lyn and traditional owners of each community.

Junior Sports Award – Tyson Crees

Tyson is a talented sportsperson, excelling in many sports including Basketball, AFL and Athletics. He was the Age Champion in Athletics, breaking several long-standing school records, going on to represent the school at TCN. Unfortunately, the Peninsula Athletics were cancelled due to COVID-19. Tyson also represented the school in the Senior AFL Schools cup competition before being selected in the TCN 13-15 years AFL team.

Senior Sports Award – Danny Buzza

Danny Buzza is a former Australian boxing champion. He continues to give back to the community and the sport that has given him so much. Over the many years, Danny has been coaching children and adults and every age between, from humble beginnings in his shed, to his Boxing gym in Cooya Beach.

To Danny, boxing is more than a sport. He believes in the positive flow-on influence on the community. Boxing teaches young kids to be respectful and disciplined, it’s fantastic for their physical and mental health and is great for their self-esteem, skills that they can use in every aspect of their lives.

He recently put on a boxing tournament in the shire to share his love for the sport as well to give his boxers the chance to showcase their skill in front of family, friends, co-workers, and their community.

Young Citizen of the Year – Ellie Zillfleisch

Ellie was the 2021 School Captain at Mossman State High School. During this time, she co-chaired whole school assemblies for the year and was a MC at the school’s awards presentation. Ellie has been a member of Mossman High’s Concert and Jazz Bands since 2016. She has helped promote instrumental music at the local primary schools through the annual concert band tour, Mossman Show, Remembrance and ANZAC Day.

She completed her bronze and silver levels in the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award and is currently completing her gold level.

Ellie was awarded the Caltex Best Allrounder, ADF Long Tan Leadership Award, Music Award, School Service Award, Academic Excellence, Distinction Award and four subject awards at our 2021 Presentation of Awards. She actively participates in all sporting carnivals.

Ellie is heavily involved in STEM and is passionate about encouraging young females from rural areas to pursue careers in these fields.

Civic Recognition Award – Bev Gwynne

Bev has been a founding member and worked to establish many district sporting organisations in the Douglas Shire during the past 50 years. She been instrumental in our local soccer, squash, tennis and gymnastics clubs. Her passion for community sport and her hard work and determination has ensured these clubs are still alive and thriving to this day.

After many years working hard to ensure her children and grandchildren had sporting opportunities in the shire, Bev has now turned her attention to sport and recreation for seniors, establishing two senior fitness programs at the Mossman Gymnastics Club. Bev has also been involved with other organisations such as the Mossman branch of the Cancer Council, Early Childhood Community Network, Douglas United Football Club and the Mossman Boat & Fishing Club.

Bev is a primary school teacher at Port Douglas State School, gaining her education degree after many years working in early childhood.

Re-watch the full award presentation below!


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