Gateway Care leader Debra Knight earns top honour at Australia Day Awards
  • Friday 25 January 2019
Debra Knight, Sunshine Coast Australia Day Awards

After more than ten years providing support to thousands of families through Gateway Care, Debra Knight has been named Sunshine Coast Citizen of the Year for her unwavering and selfless support for community members in need.

Since taking over the leadership position in 2009, Debra has grown the Gateway Care program to more than 4000 families on its database with at least  800 families being supported with low cost groceries each week.

Debra has established a group of volunteers who offer the same genuine care for others and make Gateway Care a safe-haven for individuals to come to share their story and receive comfort and encouragement.

Mayor Mark Jamieson said this year’s Sunshine Coast Australia Day Awards had again highlighted the outstanding work of a number of community-focussed Sunshine Coast citizens and organisations.

“Our nominees in the Australia Day Awards are a very special group of achievers and this is our chance to say thank you,” Mayor Jamieson said.

“Their stories and efforts are inspirational and highlight how fortunate we are to have so many everyday heroes walking amongst us.

“They fully deserve the public recognition for what they do to make our region a better place.

“They make a difference to so many lives.”

Deputy Mayor Cr Tim Dwyer, who presented the awards during the ceremony, said Debra was an inspiring and very worthy Citizen of the Year recipient.

“I would like to congratulate Debra and Gateway Care on the incredible work they have done for our community over many years,” Cr Dwyer said.

“I’m inspired by Debra’s passion and dedication for helping those in need and providing a place where people are supported and encouraged, make friendships and benefit from social inclusion.

“We are fortunate to have people like Debra, and our other Sunshine Coast Australia Day Award recipients, living and volunteering in our community.”

The 2019 Australia Day Award recipients were nominated by the community and selected by a panel of local leaders and experts, including the 2017 Sunshine Coast Australia Day Young Citizen of the Year, Jak Hardy and 2018 Senior Citizen of the Year Donald Moffatt.

2019 Sunshine Coast Australia Day Award winners

Debra Knight – Citizen of the Year Award, sponsored by 7 News – Sunshine Coast

After volunteering at Gateway Care, a food distribution centre for welfare recipients, Debra took over the lead position in 2009.

Debra has grown the charity program to now have more than 4000 families on their database and a minimum of 800 families being supported each week with low cost groceries.

Debra has established a core group of volunteers who offer the same genuine care for others. She has made Gateway Care a safe-haven for individuals to come to share their story, receive comfort and encouragement.

Now ten years later she has such a depth of experience and is still as passionate as ever to offer help to anyone in need.

Evie Marshall – Young Citizen of the Year Award, sponsored by USC

Evie successfully campaigned for Australians with Cystic Fibrosis to have affordable access to a life-extending medication. The government rejected it three times due to it costing $250,000 per patient per year, and after three years of campaigning, the medication was made available at a maximum cost of $39 per patient per month. Around 1300 CF sufferers (50 on the Sunshine Coast) will now live 20 years longer and have better quality lives as a result.

Evie did this while managing her own gruelling daily CF treatment regime and mental health. In addition to campaigning for the medication, she assisted raising more than $150,000 to provide support to Sunshine Coast CF families, improve cross infection practices at the CF centre where Sunshine Coast adults are treated and extends her support to other young people with CF to reduce social isolation.

David Woodrow – Senior Citizen of the Year Award, sponsored by Maroochy RSL

David has raised more than $300,000 for the emergency helicopter service, served in the SES for 30 years and been involved in the armed forces.

During the most active part of his community work, David spent about eight hours a week setting up the SES and being controller during the search for Daniel Morcombe.

David continues to play an active role in youth development and community support work, he is a distinguished Rotarian and Knight of the Sovereign Order of St John.

David has also been a supporter of the Buderim Anzac Day celebrations for over 20 years.

endED – Community Group or Organisation Award, sponsored by the Sunshine Coast Daily

Mark and Gayle Forbes founded endED three years ago and have devoted themselves fulltime on a voluntary basis to provide support nationwide to hundreds of sufferers and families who have been affected by eating disorders.

A key goal has been to establish a holistic residential ED facility on the Sunshine Coast, and after years of hard work, they have entered into a joint venture with The Butterfly Foundation. Construction is about to begin on endED Butterfly House in Mooloolah Valley, Australia’s first ED residential facility that will offer a safe haven for people suffering from an eating disorder to begin their journey to a recovered self.

Art on Cairncross – Creative Award, sponsored by TAFE Queensland

Tony and Jane from Art on Cairncross have owned commercial art galleries on the Coast for more than 23 years and have been involved with Caloundra Tourism, Visit Sunshine Coast and Hinterland Tourism agencies to promote the region’s visual arts sector.

They have put many ‘art gallery trails’ together since the 1990s to further visitations throughout the region’s art galleries. Their latest art gallery trail is of the ‘whole of region’ and includes up to date information on exhibitions and visual arts events.

Wildlife Volunteer Association (WILVOS) and Junior Eco-Leaders, Coolum and North Shore Coastal Care – Environment and Sustainability Award, sponsored by Living Smart Sunshine Coast (two winners in this category)


WILVOS volunteers aid the Sunshine Coast’s and surrounding areas’ native wildlife. They provide a 24-hour emergency hotline, plus training and support for their dedicated carers.

WILVOS volunteers provide rescue, rehabilitation and release services to injured, orphaned and distressed native animals and they receive thousands of calls and rescue requests each year. To date in 2018, WILVOS has received requests for assistance for almost 1400 animals.

Junior Eco-Leaders

Junior Eco-Leaders have demonstrated commitment to community environmental education and bush care since 2016. They lead younger children in environmental education through Eco-Discovery events that attract more than 100 participants annually.

They attend training sessions, help plan programs to inform younger children and assist them to discover marine life in rock pools, examine insects and identify native vegetation.

Junior Eco-Leaders have helped plant more than 2000 trees at the past two National Tree Day events and after learning about the impact of plastic, they have conducted beach clean-ups and rubbish research and become passionate about eliminating plastics from daily use.

Maroochy Athletics Club – Sport and Recreation Award, sponsored by Sunshine Coast Sports Federation

In 1995 the club developed a six race cross country series focusing on family fun and fitness. In 2018, the series spanned five venues and had 1438 runners and 150 volunteers. The club also co-ordinated the State Cross Country Championships with 500 competitors and 35 volunteers and the Australian Cross-Country Championships with 1100 competitors and 5000 national and international spectators.

There are three dedicated coaches; Ray Boyd, Denise Boyd and Peter Bock who between them have 70 athletes.


Image: L-R: Australia Day Ambassador Daphne Pirie AO MBE, Caroline Campbell Ch7, Citizen of the Year Debra Knight, Deputy Mayor Cr Tim Dwyer