Outstanding Western Downs citizens honoured in Australia Day Awards

Published on 26 January 2024

Citizen of the Year Helen Devlin.jpg

Decades of dedicated service towards the improvement of her community has earned Wandoan's Helen Devlin the Western Downs Citizen of the Year Award for 2024.

The recognition comes 44 years after Mrs Devlin left Brisbane for a life on the land with her grazier husband, Pat. She has embraced the Wandoan community with an unwavering enthusiasm ever since.

Western Downs Mayor Paul McVeigh, speaking at his final Australia Day event as Mayor, said Mrs Devlin was a deserving recipient of the region’s most prestigious award.

"Mrs Devlin has been an energetic presence in many organisations and projects throughout the years and is well known for her community involvement, in fact she has taught most of the town to Frosby flop high jump,” Cr McVeigh said.

"These awards recognise those in our community who go the extra mile to give back in their chosen field or, in the case of Helen Devlin, in her many chosen fields.

"We say it is the people of the Western Downs who make it and really our volunteers earn a special place in that statement because they achieve so much for the good of everyone."

Among the many roles she has filled, Mrs Devlin has coached the Wandoan Gymnastics Club for 25 years and has long been a volunteer coach at Wandoan State School.

She was involved with the Wandoan Show for decades, including time as the poultry steward and is currently president of the Wandoan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and secretary of the Wandoan Housing Association, a not-for-profit organisation that runs Juandah Gardens, offering accommodation to pensioners.

Most recently, she was instrumental in bringing a streetscape project to fruition in the town, as well as a night skies photography workshop that drew participants from across the land, and the town's most recent Christmas Carnival.

Mrs Devlin was thrilled to receive the honour but quick to point out that Wandoan owes a lot of its present resources to the large number of volunteers who have worked for the town over many decades.

"I feel we need to continue to volunteer to maintain the resources in the town," she said.

"A lot of our clubs and organisations have been in existence for a long time but are struggling as we don’t have enough volunteers to support all the not-for profits.

"I would love to see more businesses come to town bringing families to support the school.

"There are a lot of reasons to live in the regions, we just have to make more people aware of our lifestyle."

Young Citizen of the Year - Mitchell Sternes

Dalby medical student Mitchell Sternes has been named Western Downs’ Young Citizen of the Year for 2024.

Mayor McVeigh said Mitchell had achieved numerous sporting, cultural and academic accolades throughout his school years but also managed to find time to devote to others in the community.

"Mitchell is a true all-rounder and a brilliant example of what our Western Downs young people can achieve and contribute if they put their mind and energy into it," Cr McVeigh said.

"He has a brilliant track record in the classroom, in his musical pursuits and in the sporting arena but he is also a person who encourages those around him to strive for their best.

"Mitchell leads by example.

"What a great role model."

Mitchell was school captain in 2023 and he has competed in many regional and state sporting sporting events. He plays trumpet and piano and is a member of the school's instrumental program and sings in school ensembles and performs with Westen Downs Winds.

Mitchell was described as a 'Pillar of Strength' for other participants on the school team during the 96km Kokoda Challenge.

He has volunteered as a lifeguard at Dalby Dolphins Swimming Club events and played music for residents of Tarcoola at Tara when his grandfather was a resident there.

Mitchell said he felt "honoured and grateful" to receive the award and said being involved in diverse areas through his school years had helped him decide on his chosen career path.

He will be embarking on a USQ/UQ Degree in Medicine this March in Toowoomba but hopes to still find time to pursue his swimming and maybe even qualify for the Olympics in the future.

"I think there's a lot on offer for young people in the Western Downs and a lot of people willing to help out if you do get involved."

For more information contact Council on 1300 268 624 (COUNCIL) or visit www.wdrc.qld.gov.au


— Ends —