Australia Day honours for Tweed locals

Graeme Stevenson OAM

FOR HIS remarkable achievements in spreading the joys of art around the world, Murwillumbah local Graeme Stevenson has been named as an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) recipient.

Mr Stevenson is the only Tweed OAM recipients whilst Bernard ‘Bernie’ McKay of Terranora and Mick Fanning were named an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).

The OAM was awarded to Mr Stevenson for service to the visual arts. He first founded Colour In Your Life in 1984 and is the host of the ‘Put Some Colour In Your Life’ television series that he started in 2000.

He founded the Paint Your Life Fund, in 2013, a not-for-profit organisation that provides art therapy and creative relief to those less fortunate in the community.

Mr Stevenson dropped into The Weekly this week to talk about the award and his latest Colour in your Life Projects.

“The award means to me the recognition of 35 years very hard work to establish a good name for myself in the Art world but also to have been able to help many others along the way,” he said.

“The Colour in your Life TV series has been able to open the hearts and minds of people all over the world, we are now airing in four countries with another two coming on board this year.

“We have been able to give expsoure to many 100’s of Artists across three countries and also been a part of teaching millions of people across the world the beauty of creativity.

“We have helped inmates in jails, the elderly in nursing homes and disabled children to see the benefits of what Art can do in their lives.

“The award itself is a great and unexpected honour. I really was not seeking any accolades when I started the journey of putting all of these things together.

“I simply wanted the world to be able to see inside the minds of the great talents of the world and give people the opportunity to find a better peace within themselves.

“I’m happy to say that as Colour in your Life crosses the globe that’s exactly what it is doing, changing the lives of millions of people.

“We are currently discussing a number of opportunities for the series and obviously the exposure that the Artists get. We have assisted in getting Australian artists into leading galleries across the world and also onto many TV and digital platforms globally.

“Colour in your Life is now on 244 major corporate apps across the world as well and this year we are signing a deal with all of the cruise ships across the globe to get CIYL onto all of those ships as onboard entertainment for the cruising guests, making it possible for each artist to be seen by potentially 30 million people a year.

“We have major corporations and manufactures now signing on to work with us on a global basis to build the largest Art portal on the Planet which eventually will house any and all digital information on Arts across the world.”

Graeme Stevenson OAM in Murwillumbah

“I have lived in the area on and off for 40 years but have lived in another five countries in that time as well.

“When you see as much of the world as I have you get to understand how special a place we have here.

“To sit in LA traffic 16 lanes of cars and feel the temperature outside reach 48C in the middle of summer and then come home to this, I think you know what I mean.”

He said he was hoping to film more around the Northern Rivers and Queensland.

“We will be filming some folks in the area, Byron, Brisbane for the series, but there is no one directly in the Murwillumbah area, we never really got much response from the region at all but of course from everywhere else it is amazing,” he said.

“I think there is an old saying about being a profit in your own town.”

Bernard McKay

Bernie McKay. Source: ABC

Terranora resident Bernard ‘Bernie’ McKay received an Officer (AO) in the General Division of the Order of Australia for his distinguished service to public administration, particularly to the health sector, through the development, promotion and implementation of preventative health campaigns, programs and policies.

Mr McKay was head of the Australian Government Department of Health under Bob Hawke from 1984 to 1987.

He was behind several influential public health campaigns, including ‘Quit for Life’, and AIDS awareness including commissioning the Grim Reaper advertisements.

He was involved in several reviews including of Worksafe Australia, transport regulation in the ACT and ambulance services in the Northern Territory.

Mick Fanning

Mick Fanning received an AO for his service to surfing as a professional competitor at the national and international level, and as a supporter of a range of charitable foundations.

He said that he was not expecting the award.

“I’m freaking out! Beyond honoured to be named an Officer of the order of Australia today along with some amazing people. I love my country and its characters,” he said.

“Feeling so proud and happy right now. Enjoy today (and everyday!) with friends and family lapping up everything this beautiful country has to offer. Take a minute to remember how lucky we are to live in this amazing country and remember the traditional land owners.”

Mick’s career highlights include: World Champion, Association of Surfing Professionals (now the World Surf League), 2013, 2009, and 2007 and Rookie of the Year, 2002. He has been Australian Male Surfer of the Year, 2011, 2010, 2008, 2007, 2004, and 2002 and a professional surfer since 2002.

He was host of the Red Bull Future Surf Camp in 2012 and his commitment to charitable service includes:

Starlight Ambassador, Starlight Children’s Foundation, since 2014.

Active Supporter, ‘Wings for Life’ Spinal Cord Research Foundation, ongoing and Supporter, ‘Wings for Life World Run’, ongoing.

Active Supporter, Cure for MDN (Motor Neuron Disease) Foundation, ongoing.

Provided financial donation to Matt Lee, a body-boarder who was attacked by a Great White Shark at Ballina, New South Wales in 2015.


Aussie hero through and through

TWEED PALLIATIVE Support President Meredith Dennis and NSW Finalist of Australian of the Year 2017 – Local Hero category has declined a trip to Sydney this Australia Day to instead continue helping people.

Meredith Dennis

This week Meredith helped Bella and her family celebrate her 10th birthday at Wedgetail Retreat Community Hospice.

Bella’s dad, Travis Leech, is dying of lung cancer, but the photos show the family had a special day during challenging times.

The Chairman of the Australia Day awards invited Meredith to a glittering event at the Opera House on January 26 with Tina Arena and Guy Sebastian performing.

But Meredith graciously declined and will be celebrating locally and visiting palliative clients at the Wedgetail Retreat Community Hospice on the day.

Bella’s mum Linda Leech said, “Meredith, the volunteers and nursing staff are taking wonderful care of Travis and all of us. We don’t know what we would have done without them.

The unique thing about Wedgetail Retreat is that all of our family were welcome to stay with Travis. Gemma, Bella’s sister, made a birthday cake in the Wedgetail Retreat hospice kitchen with the help from Deb the volunteer chef.

It has made a sad time uplifting for us. It’s a very special place.”

Bella added that she loved her chocolate cake but was sad that her dad was sick.

Travis is one of hundreds of Northern Rivers and Gold Coast locals with a life-limiting illness cared for by the charity every year.”

To help continue Meredith’s work readers can donate to Tweed Palliative Care online or phone (02) 6672 8459.