A NORTH Queensland farmer has been recognised for her decades long contribution to regional communities after being nominated for the 2019 Queensland Senior Australian of the Year.
Sandra Richards was bestowed the honour for her tireless commitment volunteering with community groups in Richmond and Townsville.
Mrs Richards said she was surprised and honoured to learn of her nomination.
“It was a total and utter surprise,” Mrs Richards said.
“At my my age I prefer to be under the radar and I didn't even know what to think about it all. I feel very honoured.”
Mrs Richards ran a cattle property in Richmond while raising five children.
She was heavily involved in the community, helping to run a mini-school in the shearing quarters as many out west did.
She acted as Chairperson of the United Graziers Association in Richmond, founded the Matilda Merino Association and helped to set up a thrift shop for the Red Cross.
Mrs Richards cooked for the Richmond pony club which her children were involved in and was Girl Guides and Brownies’ District Commissioner when her daughters were involved with the groups.
In 2000, Mrs Richards moved to Townsville where she established an African Mahogany plantation of 10,000 trees.
Last year, she helped found the Mahogany Processors Co-Op.
Mrs Richards continues to be a champion for her community and as President of the Townsville Inner Wheel, fundraisers for the cord blood research project, a nation-wide initiative.
She also makes pillows for heart patients at the Townsville Hospital, a venture that is dear to her hear.
Mrs Richards has undergone five major surgeries, survived breast cancer, a major quad bike accident and a life-threatening heart and lung condition, which inspired her to help out heart patients at Townsville Hospital.
“I am a heart and lung patient and had a nine hour operation in Sydney. After I came back to Townsville where they also perform open heart surgery, I realised no body does the pillows in Townsville so I started making them.”
Mrs Richards, as one of four Senior finalists, will attend a gala function in Brisbane on Friday night, where the Queensland winners will be announced.
The state finalists will then go to the national Australian of the Year awards, which will be announced in Canberra on January 25.
Other nominees in her category include: Lillian Burke - Community elder and volunteer (Gympie), Professor James Dale AO – Scientist (Moggill), and Professor John Grant-Thomson AM RFD - Medical engineer and inventor (New Farm).
A Townsville doctor was named as a finalist in the Queensland Australia of the Year section.
Dr Harry Stalewski, is hailed as the founding father of paediatric surgery in North Queensland, after he moved to Australia in 1987 and became solely responsible for all paediatric surgery north of Brisbane. This meant being on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – for 25 years. He has saved countless lives, and supported thousands of families through some of their toughest times.
Other nominees include: Lorraine Hatton - veteran and community leader (Paradise Point), Jon Rouse - Detective Inspector and children’s champion (Ashgrove), and Tony Sharp - Social entrepreneur (Bethania).
The Queensland Young Australian of the Year finalists are Angel Dixon - Model and activist (Gold Coast), Kristen Larsen - Activist and volunteer (Upper Kedron), Chaz Prezident – Entrepreneur (Bundall), and Mikhara Ramsing - Social enterprise CEO, youth suicide activist (Anstead).
In the local hero section Joan Beacroft - Social justice advocate (Bloomfield), Elijah Buol – Advocate (Regents Park), Elisabeth Ewen - Swimming coach volunteer (Stafford Heights) and Barbara Kienast – Volunteer (Samford) have all been named finalists.