Goodness of community celebrated in Australia Day awards

In his career spanning almost 40 years, the most important thing that Jeff Stewart-Harris has learnt is that community and people are the key to success.

The CEO of Isaac Regional Council has been awarded a Public Service Medal (PSM) for his work in local and state government, spanning 38 years.

Mr Stewart-Harris took up Council’s top job in April 2021 and has worked in various public service roles and taken part in major projects that helped shape numerous Queensland communities.

Mayor Anne Baker welcomed the Governor General’s recognition of Mr Stewart-Harris (Image supplied by Isaac Regional Council)

“To receive recognition of my life’s work by the Governor General through this award is an incredible honour,” he said in a statement.

“I am proud to have placed the future wellbeing, economic opportunity and regional prosperity of community at the centre of my decision making.

“The most important thing I have learnt in my career is that community and people are the key to success. Having a sense of community unites us and with the right people around, you can accomplish anything.”

Many of this year’s awards recognise work done in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was also a high percentage of women (47 per cent) recognised in the General Division of the Order of Australia and service to local communities (45 per cent).

Governor-General David Hurley said it has been a challenging couple of years and the recipients of these awards are a reminder “of the richness of spirit, selflessness and good in our community”.

“The fact that the list includes the highest ever percentage of women is very encouraging and I look forward to this positive trend continuing,” he said in a statement.  

“We will continue to increase awareness and encourage nominations for people from parts of our community that have been historically underrepresented.”

The list of this year’s recipients also includes 58 Australians recognised for their contribution to Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They will be included in an ongoing and permanent COVID-19 Honour roll.

Other Australians to be honoured with a PSM for outstanding contribution to public service last year include:

Michelle Baxter – Chief Executive Officer of Safe Work Australia, Ms Baxter has made a sustained contribution to Australian workplace health and safety through her leadership of Safe Work Australia, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her contribution was essential to the government’s efforts to promote the COVID-safe workplace message through the Australian community. She led a coordinated national effort to rapidly develop comprehensive work health and safety guidance materials for employers, small businesses and workers, which ensured that there was a common policy framework and communication platform.

Caragh Cassoni – During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms Cassoni played a crucial role protecting older Australians, particularly in relation to the Department of Health’s response to the pandemic outbreaks in residential aged care. She ensured that regular and consistent communication was provided in regards to designing and coordinating the huge range of measures to both prepare the sector and directly respond to outbreaks as required.

Paul Creech – In his role as General Manager of Health Programmes Division at Services Australia, Mr Creech played a central role in Services Australia’s health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He led the implementation of over 700 new Medicare items and thousands of amendments to support the community through the pandemic, which enabled patients to speak to their doctors via telephone and videoconference.

Kylie Crane – Ms Crane played an instrumental role in the government’s support to early childhood education and care services during the COVID-19 pandemic. She guided the implementation of the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package that supported frontline health and other essential service workers and kept child care services open during the pandemic.

Andrew Snashall – Director or Military Redress and Review at the Department of Defence, Mr Snashall helped improve the military justice processes for Australian Defence Force Members during a challenging transition program within the Office of the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force.

Julie Steel – In her role as Executive Director of the Supreme, District and Land Courts Service in Queensland, Ms Steel has brought about innovative changes to the court system, helping courts to manage their workloads efficiently and improving accessibility to the public. Her changes have also enabled the higher courts to advance into the digital age.

Other notable public sector awards

Dr Alan Finkel – The former chief scientist was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for eminent service to science, to national energy innovation and research infrastructure capability, to climate change and COVID-19 response initiatives and to science and engineering education.

Norma Mason – The former president of the Local Government Association of Tasmania was appointed an AC for significant service to local government and to the community. She served as president of the peak body from 2000 to 2006. Prior to that, she was the mayor of Flinders Island Council.

Allan Anforth – The honorary ambassador of the ACT and part time senior member of the Australian Capital Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to the law, to social welfare, and to education.

Elizabeth MacGregor – The director of Museum of Contemporary Art Australia was appointed an AM for significant service to museums and galleries through leadership roles with arts institutions.

Find more information on Australian Honours here, as well as information on how to make a nomination.

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