Australia Day is the official national day of Australia. Celebrated annually on 26 January, it marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, NSW, and the raising of the flag of Great Britain at that site by Governor Arthur Phillip.
In present-day Australia, celebrations reflect the diverse society and landscape of the nation, and are marked by community and family events, reflections on Australian history, official community awards, and citizenship ceremonies welcoming new immigrants into the Australian community.
2024 Award Winners
Photo: 2024 Australia Day Awards winners and nominees – Casino, 26 January
Citizen Of The Year: Lillian Colless
Lillian is an inspiration to all for her passionate selfless community spirit and energy. Lillian exemplifies the volunteer spirit of the Richmond Valley and has done so for multiple decades. You will see her nearly every morning on a 20k bike ride before putting in a full day at the Evans Head Living Museum she helped create. The golden threads that bind a community together are constantly being created by her.
Lillian spent most of her life at sea, and you can see how it has shaped her attitude to life. The first law of the sea is to always look after those who look after you because you never know when someone may throw you a line. She brings that attitude with her everywhere she goes. Her leadership and creativity have worked to the benefit of many in the community.
Lillian created and researched the exhibits on the fishing industry, the Black Sand mining industry, the sugar cane industry, and local sporting heroes, including four sculling world champions and the Surf Club.
In 2009, she coordinated the 70th Anniversary WW2 RAAF celebrations over a weekend. This also involved the Governor General & over 2000 people were at the aerodrome. She included all the local schools and the Casino Dance group.
Young Citizen of the Year: Abbie Yourell
Abbie is a highly committed young member of the Evans Head Casino Surf Life Saving Club who has made notable achievements in everything she does. She is an extraordinary athlete, academic, community leader and volunteer. She is an extraordinary National Open Water Swimmer and academically has been at the top of her school year for many years. She is a well-mannered, polite, and respectful young woman with great family values and support.
Abbie has been a member of the surf club since 2012. She commenced nippers as a five-year-old, gained her Surf Rescue Certificate in 2020 and began patrolling with two of her brothers. She gained her Bronze Medallion at the start of 2022 and has now been patrolling for four years.
On top of volunteering at the Surf Life Saving Club events, flood recovery, and her local dance school, Abbie is on the School Student Council, volunteering weekly in the school canteen and at all school fundraisers. Abbie has been a member of the School Student Council for the past nine years and is always available to lend a helping hand when needed. This was recognised in December 2023 at the Evans River K-12 Final assembly, where Abbie was awarded the Evans Paddon Award for excellence displayed in Academic, Sporting, Cultural and Leadership fields, along with many other awards.
Abbie is a highly valued asset to the surf club and her community. She represents everything Surf Lifesaving aims to achieve, being a quiet but determined young woman who strives to be the best she can be at everything she does. She is a high achiever in all aspects of life and always strives to improve and help others.
Volunteer Of The Year: Maree Donaldson
Maree is a proud volunteer broadcaster at Casino’s Own Wireless (COW FM). Her music program, ‘Marees Country,’ has cheered the Richmond Valley community every weekend for twenty-one years. Maree’s passion and commitment are evident in all she does at COW FM.
Maree joined COW FM in June 2002 at 21, and her continuous contribution to the station over those years is significant. Her radio program’ Marees Country’, presented on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, has amassed a large following. Maree’s listeners appreciate her knowledge of Country music, her talent for programming a fresh and interesting selection of songs each week, and the passion and enjoyment she conveys in her presentation.
Maree takes every opportunity to encourage our Richmond Valley community to embrace COW FM. She assists with fundraising and awareness-raising activities, street barbeques, participating in the Beef Week parade and functions, and volunteering throughout the inaugural two-day “Casino COW Country Music Muster” in 2022.
COW FM is a proud equal opportunity station, where Maree is one of the 22 percent of volunteers with a disability. Her committee work is an example to others that with passion and commitment, a leadership role at the station is achievable for all.
Young Volunteer Of The Year: Elaina Underhill
Elaina shows commitment to fundraising for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service and has been fundraising for this service for the past six years. She has been the highest individual fundraiser for this service for the past three years.
Elaina is 10 years old and, on December 18 2015, was critically injured in a road trauma accident which claimed the life of her four-year-old sister, Elle.
She sustained life-threatening injuries and was transferred to the Queensland Children’s Hospital by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter. Time was critical, and this service saved her life.
During 2021-2022, Elaina individually raised $16,000, and in 2023 raised almost $7000, a combined total of $23,160. To this date, $61,850 has been raised for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter by Elaina and her parents.
Elaina inspires others by telling her story of her trauma and recovery at fundraising events and tells the important role the Westpac Rescue Helicopter played in saving her life. She also speaks of the importance of road safety and awareness of other road users with her video messages.
Each Christmas, Elaina ‘pays it forward’ in remembrance of her sister Elle. This means the money Elaina would have spent on a Christmas gift for her sister is now given to a random stranger.
Sportsperson Of The Year: Anthony McAteer
Tony has been an instrumental part of the Casino Cricket Club as a player and as a mentor to fellow players and newer generations.
Tony has more than 30 years of service, running fundraising events for cricket, including calcuttas, raffles and training days. Tony organises team events, ensuring there are enough players for the weekend teams and organises the preparation of the pitches. He presents prizes at the end of the year presentations, which is welcomed by the club members.
Tony has spent his January weekends taking part in a youth carnival in Lismore and Casino; he is living proof that you are never too old to keep moving, regardless of the aches and pains.
Tony is an inspiration to the younger members of the club and will always turn up on short notice to fill in when a team is short. He is likeable, and it is his time in the game that makes him knowledgeable and approachable to younger players.
Young Sportsperson Of The Year: Elle Hannigan
Elle possesses outstanding determination and grit to strive to be better at every sporting commitment. Her achievements are admirable, and her positive attitude is reflected in her performances.
Over time, Elle has shown commitment that excels expectations with the Casino Cougars Rugby League Club. Her leadership qualities influence her fellow teammates, and in turn, she became Team Captain and has held this position for the past two years.
Elle is involved in many sporting teams and events and has always managed to commit to each and every one with as much motivation and determination as the other. Elle not only commits to every sport she puts her heart to but also gives back by volunteering her spare time to her local football club with the younger players and the committee.
Elle’s abilities and skills are more than worthy of this award, and to see an up-and-coming female represent her community and herself is exciting.
Local Hero award: Isabelle Miller
Isabelle is 14 years old and is in year nine at Casino High School. She has shown courage and bravery by risking her safety to prevent a school bus from crashing in November 2023.
Isabelle was on another school bus talking to her friends when she noticed the bus moving. She noticed the driver was not in the driver’s seat, so Isabelle jumped into action to steer the bus away from the North Casino Mini Mart, avoiding oncoming traffic, pedestrians, and the petrol bowsers. She safely stopped the bus, preventing any injuries or damage. Isabelle then returned to her own bus to ensure she got home that afternoon.
Isabelle is a kind and caring young lady who thinks of others and is the first to help when possible. She is incredibly humble, and her only concern is ensuring the safety of those around her. Even before this incident, Isabelle is well-known at her school for her respect, inclusion, safety, and effort in all areas of her learning.
Isabelle is exceptionally caring and compassionate to all those she meets.