Meet the community champions changing our city for the better

Six inspirational recipients have been announced as winners in the 2023 Ipswich Australia Day Awards with Eastern Heights resident Donna Cavanagh named the 2023 Ipswich Citizen of the Year.

Ipswich Mayor Teresa Harding congratulated all the finalists and winners, noting the countless ways they had each contributed to the Ipswich community.

“Our winners, from Donna to Rita, Noah, Robin, Mat and the Marburg and District Residents Association, all have a remarkable record of community service, within and beyond Ipswich,” Mayor Harding said.

“Donna and Rita set such a great example for us all. Noah inspires the next generation, and Robin and Mat show us the power of arts and sports to change hundreds of lives.

“These awards allow us to pause and recognise outstanding contributions and achievements of Ipswich residents and celebrate our welcoming community.

“On behalf of the city, I want to congratulate them on their remarkable contributions and wonderful achievements.”

There were 29 nominations across the six categories in the 2023 Ipswich Australia Day Awards.

Finalists and winners in each category were selected by a five-person judging panel.

Community, Culture, Arts and Sport Committee chairperson Councillor Andrew Fechner said the awards also acknowledged the wonderful contributions from the other finalists and nominees.

“All our nominees showed a great level of community involvement, contributions and accomplishments, and it was incredibly difficult to choose just one,” Cr Fechner said.

“So a sincere congratulations to all the 2023 nominees because they are brilliant examples of how caring, supportive and inspirational our city is.”

The winners of this year’s Ipswich Australia Day Awards are:

Citizen of the Year: Donna Cavanagh 

Ms Cavanagh has been an active volunteer around Ipswich, working with the community and those less fortunate through a variety of programs. She is making Ipswich a safer and a better place to live through her involvement with Hannah’s House, Ipswich Foodbarn, Down to Earth, Women’s Crisis Support Services and Goodna Street Life, as well as cook ups in Browns Park and welfare checks and court support work. Ms Cavanagh organises Crossroads in the Park, which provides free hot meals, free new clothing, haircuts and other services every third month. She also founded the Australia Day Flag Planting in Ipswich, and assists with local events and programs. Additionally, Ms Cavanagh is a guest speaker on local radio every Monday, discussing mental health issues and also writes for a local paper every week.

Senior Citizen of the Year: Rita Langer

Mrs Langer is a much-loved resident of Ipswich and a friend to many, well known for her dedication to volunteering throughout the community.  Mrs Langer has volunteered for more than 50 years at Blair State School, which has a dedicated chair called “The Legend’s Chair”. She has also volunteered and been involved with Norths since the club was formed in 1972. She is currently vice-president of the Ladies Committee, is a canteen volunteer every home game for juniors and seniors football, does food prep for individual portions that are sold through the canteen and presents annual trophies at the Harry Langer Memorial Trophy games. 

Young Citizen of the Year: Noah Springall

Noah is always putting others before himself, helping many different charity events over the years. In 2022, he raised money for the RSPCA Cupcake Day bake sale and the 100km Dog Walk in July Challenge. During the floods in February 2022, he helped get food and water for the elderly. He has also completed a Noah’s Mater Charity event, organised a trip to Stanthorpe with a truckload of gear to help people affected by bushfires, and other charity events over the years to help those in need.

Cultural Award: Robin ‘Tallman’ Wakkajinda

Robin ‘Tallman’ Wakkajinda is the principal artist of the Living Breathing Gallery in Bell Street. This project won a commendation in the Small Scale Project under $200,000 category at the prestigious Place Leaders Asia Pacific Awards 2022. Tallman paints indigenous artwork on street furniture in Bell St, collaborating with other artists on other artworks in the street. He also engages with Bell street users to foster ownership of the art projects and encourage a pride of place. This enables the space to better fulfill its function of a transport hub by helping people feel safer in a beautiful, cared-for environment, in turn encouraging pedestrian activity which is good for Ipswich’s economy and community well-being. Tallman’s cultural awareness and communication skills enable him to cross boundaries. He is highly respected by the diverse range of people in the Bell St community.

Sport and Recreation Award: Mat Britton

Springfield Lakes resident Mat Britton started a charity called Trial to Triumph (TTT) in 2004 to raise awareness and funds for research about mesothelioma and other dust diseases. Its main fundraising event is a 250km ultramarathon over two and a half days. Other fundraising events include gold days, trivia nights, Bubbles and Brush, Laps for Lungs and a Virtual Marathon. The TTT is also known as “Tony’s Journey” as it was created in memory of Ms Britton’s father Tony, who died from mesothelioma on 23 March, 2014. Since his father’s passing, the charity has raised more than $366,000. Funds have been donated to the Lung Foundation Australia and Heart of Australia. 

Community Group of the Year Award: Marburg and District Residents Association

The Marburg and District Residents Association (MDRA) plays a pivotal role in the local community. Its community centre is a hub for activities ranging from tai chi, pilates and yoga classes, to fortnightly meetings of the Marburg Art Group. The MDRA has also successfully run the award-winning Black Snake Creek Festival since 2006; the theme in 2022 was Rain or Shine, setting the tone with a huge display of cheerful and colourful painted umbrellas. The MDRA also fundraises for numerous groups, hosting a Biggest Morning Tea for the Cancer Council and market days and trivia nights for the Marburg police, rural fire brigade, fire brigade and SES.

Also read:

>>> New clinic in growing suburb a boost for Ipswich families

>>> Funds flow for community groups


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