Two Gold Coasters nominated for Qld Australian of the Year Awards

A couple of Gold Coasters have been nominated for the 2021 Queensland Australian of the Year Awards.

18 people are in the running to be named the state’s Local Hero, Young Australian, Senior Australian or Australian of the Year.

Two Gold Coasters made the list for Australian of the Year; Doctor Dinesh Palipana and Melissa McGuinness.


Dr Palipana is a senior resident doctor at Gold Coast University Hospital, and a qualified lawyer.

Dinesh has worked with the Australian Medical Association to create first-of-kind national policies for inclusivity in medical education and employment.

He’s also contributed significantly to scientific advances in treating spinal cord injury and restoring function to people with paralysis.

His national and global impact has been recognised with numerous awards, including Junior Doctor of the Year and the Order of Australia.

Melissa McGuinness is the founder of an organisation that changes driving behaviours and prevents youth road trauma.

After her son died in a road crash that also killed four other young adults, Melissa decided to use her tragic experience to facilitate a genuine social movement.

Since 2017, she has engaged with over 50,000 young Australians, presenting YOU CHOOSE Youth Road Safety programs in schools across the country.

National Australia Day Council CEO Karlie Brand said the Queensland nominees were an extraordinary group of people all focused on helping others.

“The Queensland nominees share a passion for helping others – they are all dedicated to making a difference in the world and their efforts are truly inspiring,” said Ms Brand.

The nominees are among 128 people being recognised across all states and territories as part of the program, which began in 1960.

The Queensland award recipients will be announced in a ceremony at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre on the evening of Tuesday 10 November 2020.

The recipients will then join the other state and territory recipients as national finalists for the national awards announcement on 25 January 2021.

The full list of nominees for the 2021 Queensland award nominees is listed below.

2021 QLD Australian of the Year

Ronnie Benbow – Founder, CEO and Director of The Carers Foundation (Brisbane)

Dr Rolf Gomes – Founder of Heart of Australia outback health service (Brisbane)

Melissa McGuinness – Founder of YOU CHOOSE Youth Road Safety (Gold Coast)

Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM – Advocate for doctors with disabilities (Gold Coast)

2021 QLD Senior Australian of the Year

Carmel Crouch – Disabilities advocate and founder of STEPS (Sunshine Coast)

Aunty McRose Elu – Advocate for Torres Strait communities and climate change (Brisbane)

Jeanette Johnstone – Creator of Teacher In A Box (Brisbane)

Betty Taylor – Domestic violence prevention campaigner (Redland City)

2021 QLD Young Australian of the Year

Daniel and William Clarke – Conservationists for the endangered orangutan (Redland City)

Annabel McKay – Nurse and educator (Brisbane)

Dr Alexander Tedman – Pioneer of telehealth dermatology service (Sunshine Coast)

D’Arcy Witherspoon – Founder of Down to Earth (Ipswich)

2021 QLD Local Hero

Leanne and Stuart Brosnan – Community and conservation champions (Bundaberg)

Natasha Johnston – Founder and Director of Drought Angels (Chinchilla)

Angela Mansey – Community advocate (Sunshine Coast)

Mary O’Brien – Mental health advocate (Darling Downs)