South Burnett 2020 citizens of the year. Photo/Contributed
South Burnett 2020 citizens of the year. Photo/Contributed

Meet your 2021 South Burnett citizens of the year

The 2021 South Burnett Australia Day Awards ceremony was held in Wondai yesterday, with numerous community members recognised for their outstanding contribution to the South Burnett community.

Kingaroy’s Katheryn Stevens was awarded citizen of the year for her dedication to BaconFest and her tireless work in the community.

Mrs Stevens said to win the award among so many incredible nominees was humbling.

“It was pretty humbling, there were nine other nominees all equally as worthy,” she said.

“It was a little bit unexpected to be announced as the recipient. Obviously BaconFest is something I am really proud of so to be acknowledged for all that hard work and effort to get it off the ground and the other little things I do in the community was a real honour.

“So many people in the South Burnett work incredibly hard for this community and spend 1000s of hours volunteering, so just sitting in that ceremony yesterday and listening to the 70+ nominees and their stories makes me incredibly proud to be part of such a vibrant and giving community.”

BaconFest celebrates the story of the South Burnett and has grown into one of the year’s biggest events, drawing tourists from all over Queensland and pumping vital funds into the local economy.

What started off as just an idea, has become a passion project according to Mrs Stevens who said the event brings in a lot of tourists and helps local businesses.

Miss Maizie May, Barbie Banks, Baconman, Mya Dia Monte and Bettie Butcher at the Miss BaconFest pageant.
Miss Maizie May, Barbie Banks, Baconman, Mya Dia Monte and Bettie Butcher at the Miss BaconFest pageant.

“When I was on maternity leave with my eldest, I came up with an idea to create an event that spreads some positivity around town, becomes an excuse for people to visit the South Burnett and tells its story in the broader Australian media,” Mrs Stevens sad.

“Another aim was to inject some economic benefit into the community and I know a number of local businesses have benefited from it. When we held it in 2018 and 2019 we also generated some money for drought affected farmers.

“It’s a real privilege to have an idea like that and be surrounded by a community who also thinks it’s a good idea and works incredibly hard to make it happen. Not often you have an idea come to life like that.”

Mrs Stevens relocated from Brisbane to the South Burnett with her husband ten years ago after a career in journalism and public relations.

She balances working remotely for a public relations company in Brisbane, helping with the marketing and PR at St John’s in Kingaroy two days a week, studying to become a primary school teacher, raising her two kids Annabelle and William and running BaconFest.

Mrs Stevens said the longer she stays in the South Burnett the harder it becomes to leave.

“I think the South Burnett is a beautiful spot and a really easy place to live, right from the moment we moved here the friendly nature of the people was a huge draw card for us,” she said.

“When we first moved here one of the local servos was giving away free zucchinis to anyone who bought petrol because a local farmer had grown to many, which we thought was so lovely.

“Our region has so much potential to continue to grow, we are only two hours from Brisbane and the coast, we are pretty fortunate in where we live.”

Olivia Eriksen was awarded junior citizen of the year for her tremendous achievements throughout year 12 as school captain at Kingaroy State High School.

Not only did Olivia balance a tough year of school, she also played AFL for the South Burnett Saints and organised a fundraiser for the Cancer Council.

Olivia said it was an honour to receive junior citizen of the year.

“I am honoured to be awarded Junior Citizen of the Year. All the other nominees were exceptional candidates and all worthy of the award as well but to be named and come out on top would have to be one of the best achievements I have received,” Olivia said.

“I’d like to also congratulate the other nominees for all the categories, it was so nice to hear all the wonderful positive things people in the south Burnett are doing to make this place a great place to live.”

Olivia was the 2020 school captain at Kingaroy State High School, leading her fellow students through what will go down as one of the most challenging years for year 12 students in history.

Kingaroy State High School's 2020 student leaders: Toby Schmidt (vice captain), Olivia Eriksen (school captain), Ashley Roediger (principal), Lachlan Hansen (school captain), and Asha Cooper (vice captain).
Kingaroy State High School's 2020 student leaders: Toby Schmidt (vice captain), Olivia Eriksen (school captain), Ashley Roediger (principal), Lachlan Hansen (school captain), and Asha Cooper (vice captain).

Olivia said although it was tough she did her job to the best of her abilities.

“COVID-19 was definitely one of the toughest years I have encountered. I think what made it quite hard for me was being in Year 12 and having the added pressure of having external exams to sit and so much content to learn and revise, especially when we were learning from home for those few weeks,” she said.

“COVID was tough on my role as School Captain as I wasn’t able to do the many things or take as many opportunities as the previous school captains have. But in saying that, I was still able to do my job to the best of my ability and I am grateful to still have been a role model to the students.

“The one piece of advice I stuck to during the year was that in tough times, you have to turn the negatives into positives, which I believe I did and this helped me to overcome the many challenges COVID-19 brought.”

Olivia was also instrumental in raising thousands of dollars for the Cancer Council through a #rockthechop event.

“Since around July 2020, Chelsea Whye and myself decided that in our senior year we wanted to do something that means a lot to both of us,” she said.

“We decided to organise our #ROCKTHECHOP event where individuals can choose to either donate money or their hair to Cancer Council. The donated hair had to be a minimum of 20cm and was sent off to be made into wigs for those who are suffering hair loss from cancer treatments.

“Our school fundraising page had a goal to raise $2000 and in the end we ended up fundraising over $4000.”

Olivia also had an impressive season for the South Burnett Saints.
Olivia also had an impressive season for the South Burnett Saints.

The #rockthechop event took place on November 18 in 2020 where students were invited to watch the event, with a gold coin donation for entry.

Olivia was offered a position at university to study biomedical science, however has opted to take a gap year, work hard and save money before diving back into study in Brisbane next year.

See below for the full list of award recipients.

Citizen of the Year Award: Kathryn Stevens

Junior Citizen Award: Olivia Eriksen

Community Organisation of the Year Award: South Burnett Speedway Club

Junior Cultural Award: Amber Fitz-Herbert.

Cultural Award: Olivia Everitt

Volunteer Of The Year Award: Carl Braithwaite

Junior Sportsperson of the Year: Pharrell Chapman

Senior Sportsperson of the Year: Graham Hourn

Sportsperson - Coach, Official or Administrator: Cole Cooper

Local Achiever Awardees:

Proston/Hivesville: Kathy Julian.

Murgon: Andrew & Felicity Dascombe

Wondai/Tingoora: Fred Law

Wooroolin/Memerambi: Ros Heit

Kingaroy: Eleanor Druce

Kumbia: Josie McConville

Nanango: Peter Jurd

Maidenwell/Bunya Mountains: John Learmont

Blackbutt/Benarkin: David Eaton

Lifetime Achievement Awardee:

Marie Shaw (Kingaroy)

Marilyn Stephens (Kingaroy)

Dr Joe Gangemi (Murgon)

Dr John Robinson (Nanango)

Dr Fred Morgan (Nanango)