Fraser Coast Abilities Awards

The Fraser Coast Ability Awards celebrate and recognise the achievements of people with a disability and the services sector who contribute to a more inclusive Fraser Coast.

The Awards Ceremony shines a spotlight on those in our community who are providing inspiration, demonstrating leadership, offering mentorship and achieving results in their chosen fields.

It is an event we can all be proud of. Congratulations to our 2019 award recipients.

2019 Award recipients

Sport and Recreation Award

Aidan Witt is a dedicated athlete who always puts 110% into everything he does. 

He has competed in state championships for both cross country and track and field events every year since 2014 - winning multiple individual and team medals for Wide Bay along the way. Aidan has also been a member of the Queensland team and attended national competitions for both cross country and athletics many times - always wearing the maroon uniform with pride. He won silver this year at the state cross country championships held in Toowoomba and will be heading to Wollongong for the nationals later this month.

Aidan was born with severe to profound hearing loss in both ears and received cochlear implants before he was three years old.

With the help of the Hear and Say Centre and auditory-verbal therapy, Aiden has learnt how to listen and speak.

When Aidan competes he has to remove his cochlears which leaves him unable to hear, a challenge he has overcome with a dedication to training. 

He has never let anything stop him from achieving his goals.

Aidan has always had a positive relationship with his peers, always displaying good sportsmanship and teamwork.  His coaches and managers always have high praise for Aidan's commitment to his sports. He is also using his talents, honed through hours of training, to help coach his younger sister with her running.

Aidan is a wonderful role model for multi-class athletes with his happy, friendly attitude and his pride in representing the region.

Employment Provider Award

Kmart Hervey Bay, led by manager Kym Wakefield, has come on board to provide individuals with a disability the opportunity to obtain paid work.

Kmart agreed to setting up an unpaid two-week trial period to give individuals an opportunity to thoroughly learn their role and have the best chance of getting paid work. Kmart placed each job seeker in positions according to their area of interest and skills to maximise their success. The management and staff gave all job seekers encouragement and positive feedback which helped boost their confidence. 

The Kmart Hervey Bay team is very motivated to make a difference and change an individual’s life and have offered long-term roles to two job seekers.

Team Kmart were very supportive throughout the whole hiring process, which was smooth and easy to understand for the job seeker. Kmart explained role descriptions, discussed current and future vacancies, organised a buddy system for job seekers and placed each job seeker in a role that best suited their skill set and that they enjoyed. 

Kmart also encouraged job seekers to engage in further training so they could undertake different roles within the store. The Kmart team supported the job seekers in every step of their work journey, both in-store and through online learning. 

The Kmart team was also impressed with job seekers’ work ethics, dress standards and motivation. They continue to hire job seekers with a disability to fill various roles. 

Such has been the success of hiring individuals with a disability that Kmart often approaches Mylestones Employment to fill vacancies that become available.

Team Kmart changed the lives of two job seekers who have excelled in their jobs, with a goal of long-term employment at Kmart because they feel valued and a part of a great team. The positive impact of the life changes of gaining and maintaining employment with such a large and long-standing organisation such as Kmart cannot be understated. Kmart staff and Mylestones Employment observed both job seekers showing improved confidence levels, communication skills and social interactions with customers. 

Kmart customers have also commented on the job seekers’ high level of customer service. 

Education Provider Award

Belinda Epperson has been working in the Fraser Coast Disability sector for many years as a Support Worker and Co-ordinator with various organisations. 

Currently, Belinda is a teacher in Disability at the TAFE in Hervey Bay delivering training across the wider region including Bundaberg and Gympie in Individual Support Cert III and First Aid.

Belinda has a positive personality with a 'can-do' attitude and goes to extremes to support students to achieve, and most importantly, have a full understanding of the ethos required to work in the Disability sector. 

She has great working relationships with local industry to make sure the training provided to students meets industry needs and current practices. Belinda is passionate about making a difference by making sure every student who walks out the door has the skills and knowledge to give the best possible support to individuals.

When completing the Certificate III in Individual Support, each student must find and complete 120 hours of support in various support settings. Belinda’s relationships are key to her creating these workplaces that are supportive, flexible and ultimately educational for each student. Working with industry to achieve this is essential to a positive learning outcome for every support worker.  Students leave with the confidence, skills and knowledge to give great support.

Belinda believes in the industry and wants to stay current and abreast of current changes. For this reason, she has returned to the industry and completed over 120h hour of volunteering work herself.

Belinda continues to provide the best teaching experience with current guest speakers, industry consultation and the most up to date legislation and practices. 

Family Values Award

Carolyn Mudge has dedicated her life meeting the needs of people with disability. 

As Mum to Billy, who has autism and an intellectual disability, she advocates to ensure he has every opportunity to be recognised as an individual. 

Carolyn became a teacher aide six years ago at the Maryborough Special School and has used her experience and knowledge to support students and parents in the school covering issues such as parenting, NDIS and general social support. 

Carolyn is Chairperson of the Maryborough Special School Parents and Citizens Association. In 2018 at the annual Parents and Citizens Conference in Brisbane she was guest speaker, chosen because of her outstanding school and community involvement. 

She fundraises to support students as well as other worthy causes such as drought and flood relief and creates opportunities for parents to connect with the school through community events.

Carolyn gave up her holiday earlier this year to supervise the installation of an All Ability Swing and sunshade that she achieved through fundraising and grant applications.

As a teacher aide, Carolyn improves the quality of life of students she works with on a daily basis.

She has an intrinsic ability to recognise the needs of non-verbal students, treating them as individuals, and finding the balance between respectful interaction, high expectations and age-appropriate fun. 

Her efforts contribute to the students’ wellbeing and self-esteem, demonstrated through their happiness and enjoyment in her company and the close relationships she has with them.

Carolyn developed these skills through her experiences bringing up her son, Billy. She is constantly identifying his needs through observing his behaviours and responding to them, self-reflecting and retrying if she misses the mark. 

She communicates with teachers and carers to ensure that they too understand how Billy and all students in their care interact and communicate. 

She has ensured that he continues lifelong learning through a comprehensive NDIS plan which provides ongoing speech, occupational therapy and the opportunity for Billy to regularly participate in a variety of engaging activities.

Carolyn believes this is vital in raising a non-verbal child, and has transferred these skills for use with similar students in classrooms.

Her experience as the mother of a son with autism offers insight that other employees cannot replicate enabling Carolyn to bring a school and family approach to teaching.

Carolyn’s tireless contribution to Billy, Maryborough Special School and the wider community make her an outstanding recipient of Family Values Award.

Community Champion Award

Sharon Kampman has been involved in the Hervey Bay Special School P&C Committee for four years. 

In that time Sharon has moved her way up the command chain. She started as fundraising co-ordinator, became vice president and is now the current president. 

Sharon goes beyond her duties as president and is always thinking outside the box, especially when it comes to showcasing the school. She has a great passion for the school, is a wonderful advocate and is easy to approach for advice. Sharon combines her role as the mother of an autistic son with the demands of keeping the P&C operating.

Sharon's contribution to improve the school community includes fundraising for a barbecue, craft activities, movie nights, free pizza, barbecue lunches for students and staff. Her fundraising efforts include organizing the Christmas raffles and fundraising wristbands. Along the way she raised $45,000 for a new school bus and provided the funding for an outdoor education area for seniors, education equipment, laptops and air conditioners for every classroom and for a therapy dog to attend the school once a month. 

The school has benefited greatly from her leadership and fundraising efforts.

Community Organisation Award

The Hervey Bay Disability Assistance Treasure Trove Op Shop on Elizabeth Street in Urangan is an institution in the Bay.

The business has a long and proud history in Hervey Bay and a loyal clientele.

Through the hard work and dedication of volunteers, the not-for-profit organisation has provided $1,000 a month to Hervey Bay Special School for the past two years.

The money contributes to projects for the school including concerts, special events, repairs to school equipment and the pizza and sausage sizzle treat days.

The funds have also contributed to the provision of trampolines, music instruments, pod book communication devices, senior camps and book week activities.

The donation has enabled the school to make a positive impact on its students and the wider community.

Community Spirit Award 

Patricia Milliner has gone from shy homebody to confident volunteer.

With help she has engaged with the community and started volunteering at Comfort Kitchen at the Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre and is now helping others. At the Comfort Kitchen, Patricia helps organise care packages, serves meals and provides table service, talks and socializes with patrons and helps with the cleaning up. 

Patricia decided that she enjoys volunteering and has spread her wings; she is now also volunteering at an Op shop in Torquay. 

This is a huge step for Patricia and she has learned many new skills.

Patricia welcomes everyone that comes to Comfort Kitchen with a supportive smiling face; and everyone enjoys her company each week.  She always finds time to be helpful and engage with new participants to Comfort Kitchen. 

Patricia has integrated well with all the other volunteers at Comfort Kitchen and they value her contribution to the team.

Young Community Spirit Award

Jeremiah Hay has completed his Certificate II in Hospitality within 10 months of starting the course.

With the assistance of a support worker, Jeremiah has overcome many barriers such as being unable to read and write independently.

Along the way he learnt to use an iPad to assist with converting text to speech so he could read his textbooks. 

To answer questions, Jeremiah would search through the workbook looking for keywords to match to the question and find the answers.

Jeremiah started working at the Point Vernon Café, which then moved to the Sporties Club at the beginning of 2019. 

At the same time, Jeremiah also started work experience in the kitchen at Eat @ Dan & Steph's restaurant. He is highly regarded by the staff at Dan & Stephs and Dan participated in a cook-off with Jeremiah at school.

Jeremiah, a keen cross country runner, competed in the Bay Break half marathon for the first time this year completing the course in two hours and 9 minutes. At the Little Athletics State Trials he came first in the 100m; second in the 400m; second in the 800m and third in the 1500m.
Jeremiah contributes to the community at Little Athletics assisting the younger children in their warm-up exercises and encouraging them to do their best and have fun. 

His nickname is Task Master and he puts each child through a series of exercises to ensure they have warmed up properly. 

The younger children look up to Jeremiah for guidance.

Working at Dan & Steph's has been a great opportunity for Jeremiah. He would like to become a chef when he finishes school later this year and he is well on his way to doing that thanks to the encouragement and experience from Dan and Steph. 

Jeremiah encourages younger children to give things a go. 

At his School sports carnival, he runs beside the younger students, sometimes holding their hand to encourage them to do their best and to have fun. 

Jeremiah does not let his own disability stop him and likes to show others that you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it. 

Co-recipient of the Ted Weber Individual Achievement Award

Jessica Stevens has been honing her singing skills for the past five years performing at events in Maryborough and Hervey Bay.

As part of her weekly lessons, Jessica has worked as a member of the Maryborough Special School’s choir group ‘Voices’ and also been a valued member of the Hip Hop group ‘Inclusivity’. 

She is a member of a team of performing arts students from the school who perform at community events, showcasing their talents and giving back to those who support students with disabilities.;

The Maryborough Special School's performing arts group has been well received and is regularly invited to perform at special events, community events and awards ceremonies.

Jessica has sung at the Chelsea and Fairhaven retirement centres, Disability Action Week events, the school's annual art show, the Fraser Coast Abilities Awards, Autism Day, Craftfest, and in the ANZAC Day Stage Production at the Brolga Theatre.

This year Jessica entered the Maryborough Eisteddfod in an open category accompanied by an autistic student from another school.

Jessica also assists with her class during school and volunteers at Meals on Wheels, the animal shelter and at the TESS farm.

She has shown great determination to overcome an intellectual disability and learning difficulties and has used her voice to improve her speech, improve her self-image and self-esteem. 

Her beautiful singing voice has had a positive effect on the Fraser Coast community by increasing awareness and appreciation of the talents of everyone and promoting inclusion. 

Jessica proves that practice makes perfect and personal achievements can be celebrated.

Co-recipient of the Ted Weber Individual Achievement Award

The future of the Fraser Coast is good hands with youngsters such as Rhys Graves coming through the ranks.

Rhys is an up and coming sportsman and hard-working and respected team member at Coles in Station Square Maryborough. 

He is well known in rugby league and BMX circles. Last year he took fourth place in the Central Queensland BMX Championships and last weekend was in Gladstone for another tilt at the titles. 

When not on the BMX track Rhys plays First Grade and Reserve Grade for Wallaroos and has set his sights, with his teammates, on winning the premiership this year.

Rhys moved to Maryborough from Toowoomba when he was 15. It wasn't an easy transition moving into an unfamiliar town. But he has never allowed his barriers to get in his way and with his positive, cheerful outlook it took him little time to make friends and be embraced by the community.

In February, aided by his job development officer from Mylestones Employment, Rhys gained employment with Coles Services in Maryborough. It was evident from his first day at work that he has made an impression on the Maryborough community.  It seemed that every second person in the shopping centre greeted Rhys with good wishes about finding a job or to talk about his performance on the paddock in the footy game the previous weekend.

The pride he has from gaining employment has boosted his self-confidence and built his determination to excel at all he does. Rhys feels part of a larger team and his Coles team members are incredibly fond of him; especially his can-do attitude and supportive personality.

He is a fine example of what is good in our community and what an individual can overcome.

2019 Award Categories

Community Spirit Award

Awarded to a person who has a disability and has made a significant contribution to their community (25 years and over).

Young Community Spirit Award Awarded to a person who has a disability and has made a significant contribution to their community (25 years and below).
Individual Achievement Award

Awarded to a person who has a disability and has overcome adversity to achieve personal goals (no age limit).

Sport and Recreation Award Awarded to a person who has a disability and has displayed commitment in sporting and recreational activities.
Community Champion Award Awarded to a person who has made a significant contribution to improving the lives of people with a disability.

Educational Provider Award

Awarded to a person or service that has made a significant contribution in providing inclusive educational support to meet the educational needs of people with a disability.

Community Organisation Award Awarded to a group or organisation that provides support and advocacy for people with a disability.
Employment Award Awarded to a business or organisation that has made a significant contribution to the community by providing inclusive access to employment opportunities.

​Family Values Award

Awarded to a family or family member who has gone above and beyond for the community in terms of leadership, support, empowerment and education in the disability sector.

Eligibility criteria

The following is a list of guidelines nominees must meet to be eligible for an award:

  • The nominee’s achievements must be consistent with the selection criteria outlined below;
  • The nominee’s achievements must uphold the dignity of people with a disability;
  • The nominee must have shown ongoing dedication to a specific task or project; and
  • The individual, group and agency achievements must have taken place within the Fraser Coast
  • Region’s Local Government Area. 

For further information please contact Council's Community Partnership Officer on 1300 79 49 29 or email