Gold Coasters recognised in 2020 Australia Day honours list

They don’t call entertainer Carol “Carlotta” Spencer the Queen of the Cross for nothing. She lived and breathed it for decades, but is now happy to call the Gold Coast home.

She’s received many accolades in her career of more than 50 years, but her Australia Day honour has come as a surprise, and one she’s not entirely comfortable with.

Carlotta has been been appointed a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia for her significant service to the performing arts and to the LGBTQI community.


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“I’m very honoured darling, but I think this year all the awards should go to the firefighters,” she said.

“I’m not an awards-type person but I’m very honoured, especially for being in the business for 54 years. And still doing it!”

Carlotta began her career in the 1960’s as one of the original members of the internationally renowned “Les Girls” in Sydney’s Kings Cross, later becoming the show’s star and compere.

“I’m proud of the fact that I’ve got a following from mums and dads who have followed me for years and proud of the fact I’ve put some fun in their lives, because everything is so serious today.”

“I’m politically incorrect, I hate this political correctness because we are losing our ockerism. We can’t laugh at ourselves anymore because someone gets offended which is a shame.”

“I say to people at the beginning of my show – ‘if you’re politically correct you better leave now because you won’t enjoy yourself!”

She says she’s humbled to be honoured for her work in the LGBTIQ community and hopes it will inspire others.

“I just think – look at my life, I’ve done something with my life and you can do something with your life as well. I hope they think ‘If she can do it then why can’t I?”

Image: Facebook

For Senior Gold Coast paramedic Cary Strong, July 11, 2019 will be a day forever etched in his memory.

It was the day the Earle Haven Nursing Home at Nerang shut down suddenly, leaving more than 70 frail and elderly residents in limbo.

The Queensland Ambulance Service veteran was one of the first on the scene after staff called Triple-Zero.

He remembers the “chaotic” scenes of distressed, confused and inconsolable elderly residents, most of whom were suffering dementia.

Officer Strong was told by the centre’s owner that paramedics could leave. But he had no intention of doing that.

He swung into action, coordinating and supervising the mass evacuation of residents to other nursing homes and hospitals across the Gold Coast.

After helping to save lives for 33 years, the popular paramedic has today been honoured with an Ambulance Service Medal as part of the Australia Day 2020 Honours List.

“I am extremely humbled, especially considering there are many paramedics throughout Queensland who do exceptional work and tasks each day,’’ Officer Strong said.

“At the same time, I am also honoured my peers believe what I have contributed to the QAS is worthy of recognition.”

Gold Coast Senior Operations Supervisor Cary Strong. Image: Supplied

“I’ve been lucky enough to have lived on the Gold Coast all my life.”

When John Witheriff was born, there was about 980-odd people living in his home suburb of Broadbeach.

Needless to say the suburb has grown a bit since then, but so has his passion for the Gold Coast.

The prominent lawyer and businessman has today been appointed a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia for his significant service to business and to the community of the Gold Coast.

“It’s come as a bit of a surprise but it feels good,” he said.

“I guess the thing that resonates with me is that I’ve been lucky enough to have lived on the Gold Coast all my life.

“I’ve seen the city grow from such a small place, and to see it grow into the city it is today, and I’ve been able to participate with teams of people in making a contribution to the development and growth.

“So it’s just been such a privilege and it’s been an honour for me to work with great people to achieve a small contribution to the city’s growth.”

Among his many significant roles that have helped shape the Gold Coast, Mr Witheriff is Chairman of GoldlinQ, was the founding chairman of the Gold Coast Suns and was a director of the Commonwealth Games Authority.

Mr Witheriff says the city is forever evolving and we need to make sure our infrastructure keeps pace and we keep developing things for people to see and do on the Gold Coast.

GoldlinQ Chairman John Witheriff. Image: Supplied

Among the other Gold Coasters honoured this year is businesswoman Trina Hockley AM for significant service to the community and to business.

Among her many hats, Ms Hockley is the owner of the L & M Gold Star/L & M Group of Companies, Chair of Arcadia College, Ohana for Youth and a director of TAFE Queensland.

Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia CEO Grant Hunt (AM) has been honoured for his significant service to the tourism and hospitality sectors.

Mr Hunt has lived on the Gold Coast since 1988 when he worked on the development of Christopher Skase’s Mirage Resorts which kick started his career in the industry.

He’s also served on the board of Tourism Australia and has served as Director of the Australian Tourism Export Council and Chairman of Tourism Northern Territory Advisory Board.

Former Southport Lions Club President Bill Goodrem (AM) has been honoured for service to the community of Southport as well as Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

Peter Boyes has been awarded Medal (OAM) in the Order of Australia in the General Division for his services to the Queensland Community.

Mr Boyes has previously served as President and Chairman of the Queensland Justices Association and is a current Director of the Southport RSL Sub-Branch.

Gold Coast University Hospital Deputy Director of Trauma Services Dr Don Campbell (OAM) has been honoured for his service to trauma medicine.

Dr Campbell has been instrumental in the GCUH being recognised as one of the best trauma hospitals in the country.

Gold Coast Eisteddfod General Manager Judith Ferber (OAM) has been honoured for her service to the performing arts

She’s been involved in the event since it began as part of Tropicarnival back in 1982 and has helped grow the festival into one of the biggest of its kind in the world.

Senior Gold Coast Police officers Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler and Superintendent Craig Hanlon have been honoured with Australian Police Medals.

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