City of Gold Coast Awards program

Every year, City of Gold Coast recognises community members and groups who have made an outstanding contribution to the Gold Coast for exceptional achievement, by presenting the City of Gold Coast Awards.

Below is a list of our winners from previous years within their respective categories.

Gold Coast Citizen of the Year

Year Awardee Achievements
2021 Warren Young Warren Young was employed by City of Gold Coast as a professional lifeguard in 1973 and was stationed at Burleigh Heads. In 1975, he was promoted to Chief Lifeguard, a position he held until retiring in February 2021. Now one of the City's longest serving employees, Warren was responsible for facilitating beach safety, managing a budget of $9.5 million, employing 39 permanent staff and 140 seasonal staff – the largest professional lifeguard service in Australia. He is one of the City's greatest advocates and his skill and ability in his job was recognised internationally. The Gold Coast Professional Lifeguards are considered the best in the world and this is in no small part due to its prestigious leader.
2020 Professor Mark von Itzstein AO FAA FAHMS FRACI Professor von Itzstein has international standing in glycoscience, medicinal chemistry and drug discovery, particularly in the area of anti-infective drug discovery. His research program focuses on the discovery of novel anti-microbial (anti-bacterial, parasitic, viral) drugs, including anti-influenza drugs, anti-parainfluenza and anti-cancer drugs primarily based on carbohydrate-related pathways.
2019 Paul Donovan Paul Donovan has played a unique role in helping to make the Gold Coast a global tourism destination. As chair of Destination Gold Coast for more than a decade, and until recently a director of Tourism and Events Queensland, he has guided the city's image and reputation in its most successful era of visitor growth.
2018 Karen Phillips Karen boasts an expansive career in media as a qualified journalist, and is an avid supporter of women's cancer charities and other causes, having assisted in raising more than $2 million for a range of not-for-profit organisations.
2017 Vice Chancellor Professor Ian O'Connor Professor O'Connor has been instrumental in the outstanding achievements of Griffith University as well as volunteering his time in leadership and advisory roles to a wide array of organisations.
2016 Gary Baildon Gary held the office of Mayor for three terms; he has also held senior roles in many government and community organisations. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2010.

Gold Coast Young Citizen of the Year

Year Awardee Achievements
2021 Elijah Palmer Elijah is an amazing young man who attends Mudgeeraba State Special School. Elijah has continued to train throughout COVID-19 lockdown. Despite having had several hospital admissions and some medical procedures, he has still smashed records in the sport of wheelchair racing. Elijah won all 5 races at the Queensland Schools Championships with 6 personal bests.
2020 Amelia Anderson Amelia is a year 11 student at Lutheran Ormeau Rivers District School (LORDS). Amelia has been a surf lifesaver at Southport Surf Life Saving Club for the past three years, as well as volunteering her time for the past five years at the Gold Coast Inclusive Sports Program and volunteering for Rosie's – Friends on the Street.
2019 Kaitlin Barwick Kaitlin Barwick at just 16 is already proving herself as an inspiring leader through the introduction of new voluntary community initiatives, fundraising and personal academic and sporting achievements. Kaitlin is currently completing her Gold 'Duke of Edinburgh' Award within the PCYC.
2018 Madison Birtchnell Madison is just 17 and for the past 10 years has single-handedly organised empowering community events, generated funding, arranged sponsorship and guest speakers, created cultural and social change locally, raised awareness and broken down barriers surrounding important social issues.
2017 Kane Elgey As a player of the Gold Coast Titans' squad, Kane is a most available and cooperative player for community visits, sponsor liaison and media requirements. He is also ambassador for the Tugun Seahawks where he began his career.
2016 Tanya Diessel Tanya works as a community lawyer, providing free legal advice and assistance to the Gold Coast community, including the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people.

Sports Achievement Award

Year Awardee Achievements
2021 Renee Cohen Renee Cohen is an inspiring woman who plays a significant professional and personal role on the Gold Coast. Professionally, she is General Manager, Community and Game Development for the Gold Coast Titans. Through that role she is an innovator and leader across professional sport. Personally, Renee has a passion for inclusion of people with disabilities and furthering the rights of indigenous people. Every year since 2014, Renee works on an initiative where children with Down syndrome run onto the pitch with the players at the beginning of a Titans' home game. The NRL platform is used to leverage awareness of Down syndrome and create positive images of our children having the time of their lives.
2020 Richard Peters Richard Peters joined the Hinterland Field Archers club only five years ago and has excelled at the sport of archery. In this time he has achieved the following:
- Queensland State Champion (2016, 2017, 2018)
- he won the Pan Pacific Masters Games in the traditional division in 2015 and bare bow division in 2016
- he became the Australian National Champion and Shooter of the year in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
2019 Jarred Gillett In 2018 Jarred became the most successful referee in the Australian A-League history, taking charge of the 2018 Hyundai A-League Grand Final and taking out the Hyundai A-League referee of the year for a record fifth time.
2018 Sally Pearson Sally is one of the fastest 100 metre hurdlers in history and a GC2018 Ambassador. Sally has placed the Gold Coast on the world's stage and is an incredible motivator and ambassador for the Gold Coast and youth in particular.
2017 Donald Robertson Donald Robertson has been swimming since 1930 and at the age of 91 was the second oldest person to compete at the 2016 Pan Pacific Masters Games, where he came away with two gold and four silver medals.
2016 Luke Douglas As a Gold Coast Titans player, Luke is tireless in his efforts to help others when off the field, such as his involvement with Down Syndrome Association QLD, Ambassador for Parkwood Sharks, volunteer with the Titans Junior Development training sessions, and coach of a Burleigh Bears Under 13s team.

Cultural Achievement Award

Year Awardee Achievements
2021 Ken Dinh Ken is one of the former Mayor's Student Ambassadors for the Gold Coast. He now works at the Gold Coast Student Hub. Ken plays a role with the Bleach* Festival, engaging with attendees of multicultural origins. He also plays a supporting role in reaching out to international students during the global pandemic, volunteering to help Study Gold Coast to pack and deliver student support packs in the city.
2020 Aarti Bajaj Aarti Bajaj is the artistic director of Gold Coast based production company, Wild Dreamer Productions. A medical sonographer by trade, Aarti is a wife, mother and triathlete and is the director of Navrasa Dance School in Southport (Aarti holds a degree in Indian contemporary and classical dance).
2019 Mark Duckworth Mark Duckworth has been Festival Director of Blues on Broadbeach and Groundwater Country Music Festival for the past four years. During this time, Mark has led these festivals to more than double attendance; subsequently driving big dollars.
2018 Lisa Sorbie Martin Lisa has lived on the Gold Coast for 35 years and has developed her skills as a painter, textile artist and fashion designer. Lisa's work has been presented both nationally and internationally.
2017 Bianca Cook Bianca Cook is a proud, indigenous Australian who serves as senior practitioner for indigenous programs. Bianca is also actively involved in youth cultural programs that encourage healthy lifestyle choices, pride in culture and a deep sense of community belonging.
2016 Polly Snowden Polly was the Gold Coast Music Awards 2015 Music Champion of the Year award winner, and has delivered a number of successful music programs on the Coast.

Environmental Achievement Award

Year Awardee Achievements
2021 Friends of the Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens The 'Friends' were instrumental in the establishment of the Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens in Benowa. This led to City of Gold Coast commissioning a site selection process and later a Botanic Garden Master Plan. Community support followed and the first planting day was held 2003. Since this time the gardens have now become a thriving community hub and an area dedicated to plant conservation, research, and environmental education thanks to the efforts of the Friends. The Friends play an active and important role in both the gardens and promoting and conserving our local environment.
2020 Saraya Robinson Saraya Robinson is the environmental face of City of Gold Coast, responsible for The Naturally GC and the Beaches to Bushland programs which engage over 14,000 individuals across the city, with more than 900 individual activities helping to connect to, conserve and explore our natural environment.
2019 Karen Scott Karen has been active member of Wildcare for 18 years and has been the president for the past nine years. Karen's dedication and commitment to our wildlife is inspirational and her life is devoted to the care, rescue, rehabilitation and ultimately return, of our wildlife to the wild.
2018 Dr Michael Pyne Michael heads up the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital. When Michael joined in 2000 the hospital was treating 2500 injured and sick native animals annually, the hospital now treats more than 10,000 of our sick and injured wildlife annually.
2017 Patrick Brabant Patrick has shown a keen interest in the environment from an early age. He won the Griffith University Science Award for his project on palm oil, has been on the Queensland Youth and Environment Council, is a member of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.
2016 Wal and Heather Mayr Wal and Heather have spent 25 years restoring their property which adjoins the Springbrook National Park and Austinville Conservation Area, and in 2008 entered in to a Nature Refuge with the State to protect these assets.

Community Service Award

Year Awardee Achievements
2021 Melanie Annand For the past 9 years, Melanie has been the Secretary of the North Gold Coast RSL Sub-Branch which has grown its membership significantly over this period. She dedicates considerable hours every week to provide administrative and life support to the veterans in the Northern Gold Coast community. Melanie is a role model to many. Her efforts have encouraged her family (partner and 3 school-aged children) to become heavily involved in the veteran community activities.
2020 Judy Hendrikx Judy has been involved in supporting many community groups across the region, including the St John's Ambulance, and six years ago was instrumental in the establishment of an Over 50's coffee and chat group at the Ormeau Centre. The Ormeau Over 50's meet each Tuesday and after a start with about 10 women, the group has now grown to about 50 people including men and women who gather for companionship on a weekly basis and who enjoy and celebrate special occasions.
2019 The Blenders Founded in 1988, The Blenders have been an icon of the Gold Coast for 30 years. Originally formed as a four-man singing group, the now 70-strong men's choir with three associated choirs, adds up to approximately 150 permanent singing members. The Blenders mentor young leaders, provide inter-generational outreach, establish choruses and bring cheer and celebration to the community.
2018 Trevor Hendy Trevor is a former Australian professional surf lifesaver, having won six Australian Open Ironman titles and the Uncle Toby's Super Series four times. He is now a motivational speaker and life coach.
2017 Deborah Hazlewood Deborah is a member of the North Burleigh Surf Lifesaving Club and coordinates the Seahorse Nippers Program which is a program for children with special needs, the first of its kind to be conducted on the Gold Coast.
2016 Animal Welfare League Since its inception in 1959, the AWLQ has grown to become one of the most effective and respected animal welfare charities in all of Australia.

Further information

For any enquiries regarding the City of Gold Coast Awards program, please contact the City Events team on 07 5581 5286.