Gold Coast Australian of the Year Awards

Australian of the Year Awards City of Gold Coast wishes to recognise those people that are changing lives and our community for the better.

Those whose challenges and triumphs are manifested in their life achievements.

Those who go above and beyond with their career achievements.

Or those who are simply champions in one way or another and have an impact on those around them.

2024 Nominations are closed

Thank you to everyone that submitted a nomination.

We had an overwhelming response for all categories and nominations were of a very high standard.

Finalists for each category will be advised directly by 31 May 2024. An awards ceremony for these finalists will be held on 25 June 2024 where the winners will be announced.

Nominate now for 2025

Nominations are now open for 2025.

Nominate now

Before completing your submission, please read the awards criteria and tips below to ensure the nomination is eligible and all relevant information is supplied.


Gold Coast Australian of the Year

Honouring the achievements and contributions of eminent Gold Coasters who are role models for us all, contribute to making the Gold Coast great, and are positive ambassadors for the region.

Gold Coast Senior Australian of the Year

Celebrating those Australians aged 65 and over who continue to achieve, inspire or make a difference within the wider community.

Gold Coast Young Australian of the Year

Recognising inspirational 16 to 30-year-olds who have accomplished great things in a particular field of endeavour.

Gold Coast Local Hero

Acknowledging people who make a difference and challenge us to think about our contribution to creating a better local community.

Eligibility criteria

  • Nominees must be Australian citizens.
  • Nominees must be residents (past or current) of the Gold Coast.
  • Awards will not be granted posthumously.
  • Self-nominations will not be accepted.
  • Nominees must be at least 16 years of age on 26 January of the following year (to align with the National Australia Day Council’s Australian of the Year Awards).
  • Sitting local, state and federal politicians and current vice-regal officers are not eligible.
  • Retired politicians and vice-regal officers will only be considered for work undertaken in addition to their official duties.
  • Unsuccessful nominees may be re-nominated in subsequent years.
  • A person cannot be an award recipient in more than one category in the same year however can be considered for recognition in a separate category in the following years (eg. Gold Coast Young Australian of the Year one year and then Gold Coast Australian of the Year the next).
  • Groups of people will not normally be eligible though in exceptional cases the expert selection panel reserves the right to consider such nominations.
  • The number of nominations received per nominee bears no weight in their selection.

Selection criteria

  • Significant contribution to the Gold Coast and its community (the Local Hero award acknowledges a significant contribution at a local community level).
  • An inspirational role model for fellow Gold Coasters.
  • Demonstrated excellence in their field.

Consideration is also given to the following in assessing nominations against the above criteria:

  • Personal, academic and professional achievements.
  • Contribution in the relevant field (how the nominee has 'put back' into their field to benefit others).
  • Demonstrated leadership, innovation and creativity.
  • Personal interests and community involvement.
  • Contribution to development of the city’s community and/or economy.
  • Degree of difficulty of the achievement and sacrifices made.
  • Country of residence.
  • Previous awards and recognition.
  • Voluntary work beyond paid employment.
  • Nature and length of activity or service.
  • Achievements as an individual or as part of a group or organisation.

In ensuring that the Gold Coast Australian of the Year Awards recipients are representative of our diverse population consideration may also be given to:

  • age
  • ethnicity
  • field of endeavour
  • gender.

Category eligibility

  • All nominees will be considered for the Gold Coast Australian of the Year Award.
  • Nominees aged 16 to 30 years will also be considered for the Gold Coast Young Australian of the Year Award.
  • Nominees aged 65 years and over will also be considered for the Gold Coast Senior Australian of the Year Award.
  • All nominees will be considered for the Gold Coast Local Hero Award.
  • Ages are as at 26 January of the following year (to align with the National Australia Day Council’s Australian of the Year Awards).

Selection process

  1. Once the nomination period closes, submissions are checked to ensure:
  • the nominee meets the relevant eligibility and selection criteria
  • all details have been completed/supplied.
  1. Clarifications, requests for additional information and referee consultation take place.
  2. An expert selection panel determine categories and finalists.
  3. Council of the City of Gold Coast will then determine the award recipient in each category.

State/National nomination

The award recipient within each of the four categories will be nominated by the City for the National Australia Day Council’s “Australian of the Year Awards”.

Should an award recipient be a current member of the National Australia Day Council Board, state-based Australia Day Board, or be otherwise ineligible, the nomination will cascade to the next highest placed nomination.


Being nominated for an award is a great honour. It could make all the difference to someone just knowing that their work is being recognised!

Therefore, it is important to make your nomination stand out. That does not mean it has to be perfectly written or have a long list of referees – the best nomination is one that tells a story.

What information to include

  • WHO is being nominated? Share their unique story.
  • WHAT are their achievements? What makes them stand out and inspire others?
  • WHEN did the nominee demonstrate their achievements?
  • WHERE did the nominee carry out their skills and talents?
  • HOW has the nominee made a difference to those around them?
  • WHY do you feel passionately about nominating this person?

Supporting documents

We want to know who they are, why others would admire them or be inspired by their achievements, the impact they have made on others and why they deserve this recognition.

Where possible, include any relevant attachments or links to support your nomination, e.g. news articles, photographs, other awards, or recognition.

Review your nomination

  • Ensure you have addressed the selection criteria and eligibility sections in your nomination.
  • Review your nomination and remember quality over quantity.
  • Include referees, this will strengthen the nomination.

Remember who we are looking for

People who:

  • make a significant contribution to the community
  • have accomplished great things in a particular field of endeavour
  • are role models for all Gold Coasters
  • are positive ambassadors for the Gold Coast
  • continue to achieve, inspire or make a difference to others
  • are making a difference and challenge us to think about our own contribution to creating a better community.

Include referees

Make sure you fill in the referee field.

These are people that support your nomination, are aware of the nominee’s achievements and are able to provide any additional information if required.

Please ensure that you advise the referee that you have provided their details as part of your nomination.

Contact us

For more information or help with your nomination please phone 07 5581 7539.

Previous winners

Gold Coast Australian of the Year

Awardee Achievements
2023 – Marco Renai As founder and CEO of The Men of Business Academy, Marco Renai is the driving force behind building an alternate school that focuses on empowering young men with the skills, knowledge and confidence to be happy, healthy and successful in life. Over the past 10 years Marco has changed the lives of countless young men. He works tirelessly with the business & wider community to provide mentorship and work opportunities and he has been solely responsible for raising the funds to bring his vision to fruition.
2022 – Dr Hal Rice Instrumental in establishing our city as an internationally recognised innovative centre for stroke diagnosis, treatment and research. Also responsible for founding Qscan Radiology Clinics, and is recognised for his continued efforts to bring international medical conferences to the Gold Coast which generate millions of dollars in revenue for the city.

Gold Coast Citizen of the Year

Note: The Gold Coast Citizen of the Year award became known as Gold Coast Australian of the Year award in 2022.

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 Senior Australian of the Year

Awardee Achievements
2023 – Robyn and Lindsay Burch As the co-founders of Havafeed, Lindsay and Robyn Burch have been serving up meals – and hope – to the city’s most disadvantaged for the past 30 years. It is estimated that they have helped over 500,000 lives and raised almost $2 million since opening their doors. They continue to provide over 300 meals a week to those in need.
2022 – Claude ‘The Mower Man’ Harvey A real-life superhero for Australian kids who has spent his retirement trekking nationwide with his trusty mower ‘Moyra’ to spread awareness of child safety. To date he has personally raised over $1.3 million for Bravehearts (Australia’s leading child protection advocate).

Gold Coast Young Australian of the Year

Awardee Achievements
2023 – Emma McKeon At age 29, with 11 Olympic medals and 20 Commonwealth Games medals to her name, Emma is not only the greatest swimmer of all time, but the most decorated Australian Olympian. Emma is also a seven-time world record holder. She is one of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen and attributes the Gold Coast’s great facilities to the success that she has achieved. As well as achieving those milestone records and maintaining her training schedule, she has completed a bachelor’s degree in public health and health promotion from Griffith University.
2022 – Bryce U’Ren Recognising his dedication, passion and commitment to ensuring all Australian children diagnosed with cancer receive a Super Max the Turtle night light. An inspirational example of a young Gold Coast boy who is spreading love, hope, happiness and comfort to those in need.

Gold Coast Young Citizen of the Year

Note: The Gold Coast Young Citizen of the Year award became known as Gold Coast Young Australian of the Year award in 2022.

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.

Gold Coast Local Hero

Awardee Achievements
2023 – Ross Lee As founder and president of My Community Legal, Ross and his team of 90 volunteers have provided free legal advice to over 10,000 vulnerable Gold Coasters since 2004. The countless hours, dedication, generosity and thoughtfulness he has for clients ensures they can all lead better lives as a result of his collaboration with members, volunteers and partners.
2022 – Carly Fradgley Recognising the tireless contribution as Founder of ‘Baby Give Back’ who provide safe and essential items to families in crisis. Now employing 16 staff and over 300 volunteers operating from two locations, the organisation has assisted in excess of 14,000 vulnerable children since 2014.

Selection panel

Marion Charlton, Gold Coast Airport

Marion Charlton

Marion has an impressive track record in business and aviation domestically and abroad. Since joining Queensland Airports Limited, she has held a variety of senior roles including her current position of Chief Operating Officer at Gold Coast Airport, where she manages the day-to-day operations of QAL group airports and is overseeing the transformational Gold Coast Airport terminal expansion. She worked at Atlanta and Sydney airports during the 1996 and 2000 Olympics and was in Glasgow during the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Marion has strong ties to the community and is a past Trustee with the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital Foundation, Chairperson of Placemakers* Gold Coast board (hosts of Bleach*Festival) and sits on the board of Bond University.

Belinda Dawes, Gold Coast Bulletin

Belinda Dawes

Belinda Dawes is the General Manager of the Gold Coast Bulletin.

Belinda is an experienced media professional who has worked across Print, TV, Radio and Digital for 20 years. She has a proven record of leading large commercial teams to success in Sydney and the Gold Coast for both Newscorp Australia and Southern Cross Austereo.

Belinda holds a Bachelor of Technology Management in Biotechnology and has completed an Executive Ready Certificate with Women and Leadership Australia.

She is an active board member for the Gold Coast Community Fund, Gold Coast Business Excellence Awards and Gold Coast Eisteddfod


Naomichi Hirano, Queensland Police Cross Cultural Unit

Naomichi Hirano

Since moving to Australia over 30 years ago, Nao has been actively involved in the multicultural community on the Gold Coast.

Previously the Multicultural Community Development Officer with Multicultural Communities Council Gold Coast, for the past 10 years he has been the Multicultural Community Support Officer at Queensland Police Gold Coast. The purpose of this role is to establish and maintain a positive rapport between culturally specific communities and the Queensland Police Service.

In 2019, Nao was instrumental in starting the 'Coffee with a Cop' program which allows the multicultural community members to get together with police and other government agencies to provide general crime prevention and personal safety advice and direction regarding tenancy disputes, bond issues, working conditions, workplace harassment and immigration issues which are then referred to the relevant counterparts for solutions.

Paul Donovan, QLD Airports Limited

Paul Donovan

Paul Donovan is the General Manager Business Relationships of QLD Airports Limited. 

Paul is an experienced professional and business leader and is the Chairman of Events Management QLD and previous Chairman of Destination Gold Coast. A skilled leader and communicator, with many years’ experience in developing stakeholder relationships and strategic plans.

Paul was awarded the Gold Coast Citizen of the Year 2019 and is a Queen’s Birthday Honours Award (AM) recipient 2022. He has been a patron of the Titans NRL club since 2017 and is dedicated to gaining sponsorship and financial  support for many local community charities including the annual CEO Sleepout.


Clark Kirby, Village Road Show Theme Parks

Clark Kirby

Clark Kirby is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Village Roadshow Group. Clark was previously CEO of Village Roadshow Theme Parks and Village Roadshow Studios before his appointment to Group CEO in January 2020, expanding his portfolio to include the Village Cinema circuit and Roadshow Film and Television Distribution and Production. Prior to joining Village Roadshow, Clark worked for UBS Investment Bank in the Technology and Media M&A team in Melbourne, Sydney, and New York.

Clark completed a Master of Applied Finance and Investment at Macquarie University in 2005 and holds a Bachelor of Information Technology from Bond University.

He is the Vice Chairman of the peak Tourism Body of the Gold Coast, Destination Gold Coast as well as a founding Board member of Major Events Gold Coast. Other Board positions include the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and the My Room Children's Cancer Charity.

Marco Renai, Men in Business Academy

Marco Renai

Marco Renai CEO and Director of Men in Business Academy, founded Men of Business in 2011 after volunteering his time to support youth at risk. After realising there was no specific male focussed programs for young men who struggled to engage in life and their education, and after his own troubled experiences at school, Marco piloted the first Men of Business program. This pilot program has now grown into two academies with 35 staff and 180 students.

Winner of both the 2023 Gold Coast Australian of the Year, and 2023 QLD Australian of the Year, Marco went on to become a finalist in this year’s National Australian of the Year.

Tamara Morris, Tamara Morris Media & Communication

Tamara Morris

Tamara has more than 25 years working in the Public Relations (PR) industry with an outstanding professional track record delivering major corporate and sporting events in Queensland.

She managed sponsorship and PR for the Gold Coast's iconic Gold Coast Marathon and Pan Pacific Masters Games before moving into a long-term role as Manager Communication and Media for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Currently Principal of Tamara Morris Media & Communication, she enjoys working with a mix of corporate and sporting clients with recent achievements including media management for the 2032 Olympics host city announcement in Brisbane.

Tamara has been Deputy Chair of the Gold Coast Eisteddfod for more than 15 years and has recently been appointed Chair of the Gold Coast Sporting Hall of Fame.

Marcus Ward, Griffith University

Marcus Ward

Marcus is an accomplished advancement leader and philanthropy expert with international experience at leading organisations. Currently Vice President for Advancement at Griffith University, Marcus previously held the position of Chief Philanthropy Officer at Monash University. There he oversaw their first ever comprehensive fundraising campaign 'Change it. For good', raising over $700M from a community of 43,000 donors.

Prior to moving to Australia in 2013, Marcus was Head of Major Gifts at Queen's University Belfast, where he worked on two comprehensive fundraising campaigns which redefined the importance of philanthropy in Northern Ireland.

Marcus also led the Corporate and Trust Fundraising Team at The Prince's Trust in London, the Prince of Wales's main charity, securing its largest ever philanthropic relationship with the English Premier League, still in place over 20 years later.

Shane Jurgens, Southern Cross Austereo

Shane Jurgens

Shane Jurgens is the General Manager of Southern Cross Austereo Gold Coast market.

Shane is a seasoned professional in the media industry, known for his leadership skills and unwavering commitment to driving performance. As the General Manager of the Gold Coast market, he has established himself as a driving force behind the region’s media landscape.

With a career spanning just shy of two decades in the media industry, Shane has consistently demonstrated an innate ability to push boundaries, innovate and deliver desired results. His leadership style is marked by a strong emphasis on strategic vision, team collaboration and unwavering dedication to excellence.


*In 2022, we updated our awards to enable greater recognition for these inspirational community role models. The Gold Coast Citizen of the Year awards are now known as the Gold Coast Australian of the Year awards.