Legendary locals recognised at 2020 Australia Day Awards

Sunday, 26 January 2020

A devoted coast guard, a surf life saving wunderkind and a charitable sports club were just some of the local citizens and organisations to be recognised in the 2020 Australia Day Awards held during the Borough of Queenscliffe’s annual community celebrations.

Queenscliffe Mayor Cr Ross Ebbels, who presented the recipients with their certificates at the Queenscliff Town Hall on Sunday afternoon, said the winners were a credit to the Borough.

“These recipients were all nominated by members of the community whom they have clearly had an impact on,” Cr Ebbels said. “The selfless nature of our residents was reflected through the high quality of nominations and it was particularly humbling to crown our award winners on Sunday.”

Gary Tomlins, winner of the region’s top gong for Citizen of the Year, was recognised for his 43 years of continuous service to the local maritime community. Tomlins is on-call for marine rescue tasks 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is estimated to have assisted more than 1,000 vessels in difficulty over his four-decade career.

Other award winners included: Jessica Robinson (Young Citizen of the Year); Queenscliff Football Netball Club’s ‘Sons of the Sea’ calendar (Community Organisation of the Year); SacredEdge Festival (Community Event of the Year); and Queenscliff Music Festival’s waste strategy (Community Environment Project of the Year).


Citizen of the Year: Gary Tomlins

Gary Tomlins has served the community continuously for 43 years. He first joined the Coast Guard in Geelong in 1976 then transferred to the Queenscliff Flotilla in 1983 where has served the boating community of the Bellarine to this day. Gary is ‘on call’ for marine rescue tasks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He participates in the staffing of the Queenscliff Coast Guard HQ at weekends and on public holidays.

Each year the Queenscliff Flotilla of Coast Guard undertake approximately 60 marine rescues. It is estimated that Gary either participates in or leads more than 50% of these incidents. Consequently, over the period of his service at Queenscliff, it is conservatively estimated that he has assisted more than 1000 vessels in difficulty. In addition, he frequently gives presentations on boating safety to local clubs and community organisations.

A significant example of Gary’s contribution is that on approximately 10 occasions while celebrating Christmas Day with his family, he has been on duty at the Queenscliff Coast Guard HQ when boat operators have ended up in trouble and Gary has responded. To support him, his family have chosen to celebrate with an ad-hoc Christmas lunch at the Coast Guard HQ. This willingness to give up a very special family day in order to protect members of the boating community demonstrates his exceptional commitment and dedication.

Young Citizen of the Year: Jessica Robinson

Jess Robinson has been heavily involved with the Point Lonsdale Surf Lifesaving Club since she was a young nipper and competitor. Jess’s enthusiasm towards surf lifesaving and her commitment to keep beach goers safe is unmatched, always happy to help and educate those on the beach.

Jess is currently the Junior Club Captain and takes her responsibilities very seriously. She understands that as much as lifesaving is about technical proficiency and ability, it is also about engaging with other club members and the broader community. Over the past 12 months, Jess has achieved a litany of awards, most notably the 2019 Westpac Youth Lifesaver of the Year Award in Victoria.

Jess was the best Open Female Club Competitor, the winner of the Bernie Cook Handicap Surf Race and completed 58 hours of patrol. The impact and benefit that Jess has had on the surf club and members, Point Lonsdale and Queenscliff community and everyday beach goers has been profound, and she has achieved all this by the age of 18 years.

Community Organisation of the Year: Queenscliff Football Netball Club – ‘Sons of the Sea’ calendar

Queenscliff footballers bared all for charity following the sudden passing of a teammate in 2018. This cheeky initiative from the Coutas aims to highlight awareness of mental health and all proceeds raised from sales of the 2020 calendar goes to charitable organisations Beyond Blue & Read the Play as a tribute to their mate.

Earlier in 2019, Queenscliff had already raised more than $12,000 for youth mental health to honour former teammate Lucas Niven. The calendar has been a rebounding way to raise money for mental health awareness and the playing group responded enthusiastically to the call-out to bare all for the worthy cause.

These caring young sportsmen turned this tragedy into ‘what could we do’ to help the family of the young lad whilst working through their own sadness. Some of the most recognisable locations around Queenscliff have been used including the pier and the Queenscliff Brewhouse, along with various workplaces around the area featuring the teammates in ‘tradie’ pose.

Community Event of the Year: SacredEdge Festival

Presented by Queenscliff Uniting Church, the sixth SacredEdge Festival was held during May over three days with the theme of ‘Open Doors to Diversity’. This annual event provides an opportunity to nurture connections with people from diverse backgrounds by hosting an array of musicians, poets, storytellers and artists from Indigenous, refugee and LGBTIQ communities, together with carers for the earth and ocean and those who seek to nurture mental health.

These are voices from the edge, where people are vulnerable and not normally heard – in 2019, the festival hosted 45 such voices. Said one attendee: “We always come away changed and enlightened and in awe of how you assemble such a remarkable array of wisdom… Without exception the presenter spoke with enormous integrity, insight and courage and we are indebted to them”.

Community Environment Project of the Year: Queenscliff Music Festival waste strategy

Queenscliff Music Festival, formed in 1997, is a not-for-profit community organisation dedicated to adding value to the cultural development of the community. It is an event that has risen to national prominence, carrying the Australian Tourism title of “Most Significant Festival and Event”.

In recent years, QMF undertook an extensive review of its waste practises and have fundamentally changed their way of handling waste. This has enabled QMF to provide real leadership within the community and to the broader events industry, both nationally and internationally, around waste minimisation implementation. These events include the Falls Festival in Lorne, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California and Glastonbury Festival in Somerset, England.

In 2019, QMF diverted a massive 95% of waste generated at the event from landfill. Just 178kg of waste – the equivalent of 6½ 240 litre wheelie bins – was collected at the festival and sent to landfill, becoming the first festival of its size to go fully reusable. Vendors served on reusable crockery, cups and cutlery, resulting in a 58% reduction in the amount of organic waste generated. Many of the materials collected will be repurposed into furniture and building materials used at the 2020 festival.