Awards shine a light on deserving citizens

Nominations are now open for the 2020 Cairns Regional Council’s Australia Day Awards and a former recipient is urging people to put forward deserving citizens.

The 2010 Young Citizen of the Year, Tahlia O’Brien (nee Burchill), believes receiving the award has played an important part in her life.

“This award, like many others, cemented my vision for leadership and paved the path to where I am now,” she said.

“I do believe that this recognition is one important part of my journey.”

Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said there were many deserving people in the community, who like Ms O’Brien, deserved recognition.

“There is no greater honour than to be recognised by your own community, and there is no greater way to say ‘thank you’ than by nominating someone for an Australia Day Award,” Cr Manning said.

“It’s important that we, as a community, make the effort to celebrate the individuals who inspire us, who help to build up our community, and who make us a stronger and more vibrant city.

“If you know someone who deserves their moment in the spotlight, we encourage you to take the time to nominate them, so we can recognise their achievements together.”

Indigenous mentor and acclaimed performing and visual artist, Ms O’Brien was just 12 when she was inspired by the work of Bangarra, Australia’s indigenous theatre production company and after graduating from high school in 2009, started a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Dance) at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane.

A member of Queensland Cheer Elite, she was part of the 2011 team named Grand Champions at the Australian All-Star Cheerleading Federation Grand Final.

In 2013, she began touring nationally as a performer and mentor with Indigenous Hip Hop Projects, and she also featured as choreographer on National Indigenous Television’s Move It Mob Style in 2013 and 2014.

She has now turned her attention to Indigenous language revival and was the inaugural Kuku Yalanji language teacher at Mossman State School.

Ms O’Brien is currently at the Department of Education Regional office, part of the Indigenous Community, Engagement and Cultural Capacity team, where she been writing curriculum and developing resources for Indigenous languages.

“When I look back at that day (when I received my award), I remember a village of support around me – people who believed in me,” Ms O’Brien said.

“I remember thinking about what it meant to be even named a citizen of this country, let alone Young Citizen of the Year – something my ancestors and elders were not able to be recognised for prior to 1960.

“I am inspired by the people who have gone before me and now I want to do the same for others.”

Nominations are now open in seven categories:

  • Citizen of the Year
  • Young Citizen of the Year
  • Volunteer of the Year (open age)
  • Sportsperson of the Year
  • Junior Sportsperson of the Year (under 21)
  • Cultural Award
  • Junior Cultural Award (under 21)

Nominations can be completed online or downloaded and printed via Cairns Regional Council’s website ( Paper copies are available from Council’s customer service centres and Cairns Libraries branches.

Nominators are asked to fill in all relevant sections, provide contactable referees, and include as much information as possible to allow judges to assess the nomination.

Nominations close Friday December 6.

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