For a relative newcomer to the West End, such as myself, the Kurilpa Peninsula Local Legends awards night held at Archive Beer Boutique on Saturday, May 10, could not have been a better introduction to the people and the spirit of the community.
This was the second of the Local Legends events hosted by the Gabba Ward’s Councillor Helen Abrahams. Councillor Abrahams said that the awards, presented in four categories for Creativity, Youth, Environment, and Business, are by the community, recognising people they know in the community.
The unique awards for the evening were designed by local artist and businessman, Mr Hiroaki Eba from Hanasho flower shop and art gallery and represent the river and the Kuripla Peninsula.
Federal Member for Griffith, Ms Terri Butler, and Local State member for South Brisbane, Ms Jacki Trad joined Councillor Abrahams in presenting awards.
Nominees for the Creativity Award were announced by Ms Butler. Reading from his nomination, Ms Butler said that first nominee Mr Chris Maver has “tenaciously and energetically promoted flamboyant entertainment in the genre of gay and allied gender in the arts.” Mr Maver has also authored and produced a documentary about local artists in the community which is available from the West End library.
The second creative nominee was Debaran Wright. Ms Wright is an art teacher and therapist who has volunteered at West End Community House for more than 12 years.
There were two group nominations for the creativity award which included the West End Making History Group the authors of the Streetwalker Guides of the West End. Ms Butler said the group members “are local heroes who exemplify the creative and sharing culture of our West End community”.
Fiona Stager from Avid Reader (and a member of the Making History Group) nominated West End’s Kurilpa library for the creativity award. The library was established in 1929 and was the first purpose-built municipal library in Queensland. In her nomination, Ms Stager wrote, “I cannot imagine West End without the Kurilpa Library”.
The winner’s award went to Ms Litsa Stilianos, Director of the Greek Orthodox Child-Care Centre in Browning Street, South Brisbane, a role she has held for 25 years. Her philosophy is that the child-care centre should be providing a service to the parents and the broader family as well as the children. Ms Stilianos has also been part of the organising committee for the Paniyiri Greek Festival for the last 10 years and presents and compares popular cooking demonstrations at the event.
The youth award announced by Ms Abrahams went to Brisbane State high school student Anikah (Ani) Shah. Ms Shah was nominated for being an outstanding student who consistently displays “a heart for social Justice and compassion within our community”. Ms Shah has worked with the local community through Micah projects and with the Brisbane Homelessness Service Centre. She has also been involved with World Vision and is a key member of her school’s Peer Helper team.
Young musician Louis Whelan was also nominated for the Youth Award. Louis plays in several West End bands, is the manager of the Mouldy Lovers and Rivermouth, as well as a volunteer for community radio 4ZZZ.
There were two nominees for the local environment award. Entomologist Tim Heard was nominated for his work over 30 years with the Australian native stingless bee. Mr Heard who has helped introduce over 300 hives to residences across metropolitan areas, was represented at the awards by his partner Katina because he was off giving a native bee workshop in Ipswich. Anyone interested in having a native beehive in their garden should visit Tim’s website www.sugarbag.net.
The winner of the Environment Award was the deserving Meg Kanowski, who is well-known for her work with the Jane Street Community Garden and more recently for establishing and maintaining the wonderful community garden at Paradise Street, Highgate Hill. Ms Kanowski, has been doing community garden work for the past 11 years, and Councillor Abrahams said she is a “much loved member of the local community often recognised for her razor sharp wit [who is] deeply caring and generous towards everyone she meets. Meg is the unsung hero that keeps the gardens as wonderful places to visit”.
I don’t know if Ms Kanowski is also known for her eloquence, but her acceptance speech was the highlight of the night for me. Acknowledging the traditional owners of Paradise Street, Ms Kanowski said of the garden that ”it is a greeting place, a meeting place, a place for argument, joy and despair ….we don’t only share food, we share stories, we share fire, we share beauty and sanctuary…”
South Brisbane MP, Ms Jacki Trad presented the Local Business award. The West End library was again a nominee along with Ms Brenda Fawdon of Mondo Organics. Ms Trad, said that Ms Fawdon has been a restaurateur and chef in Brisbane for 22 years. Inspired by a concern for the increasing use of pesticides, preservatives and genetically modified additives in everyday foods, Ms Fawdon opened Mondo Organics restaurant in 2000. People come to West End from all over Brisbane to eat at Mondo and to attend its cooking classes. Ms Fawdon’s cookbook, ‘Wholehearted Food’ was published in 2013.
The winner of the Local Business award was former president of the West End Traders’ Association, Mr Peter Marinelli. Ms Trad said that Mr Marinelli is a well-known West End business icon. He lives in the West End and with his wife Maria runs the local Swiss Deli famous for its Portuguese custard tarts among other wonderful delicacies. A sponsor said of him, and that Mr Marinelli is a “tireless community worker and benefactor who during the 2011 flood emergency delivered food and refreshments to residents and flood workers”.
The climax of the night was The Westender award (although Councillor Abrahams was at pains to point out that there was not a hierarchy of awards). Nominees included many of those previously nominated. Additional nominees were the Paniyiri Organising Committee, Mr Jeff Lam, Owner and Manager of the Health Works West End, and local window cleaner Mr Charley Lay and his little dog Tubsie.
Reading from his nomination, Ms Abrahams said that Mr Lam had been operating the Health Works in West End for almost five years and that he has an emphasis on fitness for everyone, no matter what age or social situation. She said that Mr Lam had consciously kept membership fees low to enable people to access a safe and friendly environment in which to exercise.
Ms Abrahams said that the first Paniyiri festival held 37 years ago had attracted a few thousand people and now it is a nationally recognised two-day extravaganza, attracting more than 60,000 people. This year the Paniyiri will be held in South Brisbane’s Musgrave Park on May 24 and 25.
The Westender award went to Mr Joe Hurley whom his sponsor said has been “a guiding light in the West End community for nearly 20 years as team leader, coordinator and now manager of the West End Family Care Services”. His nomination said that under Mr Hurley’s leadership, “the organisation has delivered free breakfasts drop-in advice information referrals housing support and provided a refuge of hope and opportunity for thousands of residents. Mr Hurley has recently been instrumental in expanding services Annerley and Yeronga under the banner of community plus”.
“Mr Hurley is a fiercely loyal and local legend who deserves our recognition”, Councillor Abrahams said.
Far too often lately we have seen protests and complaint, often for good reason, so it was wonderfully refreshing to spend an evening celebrating the ordinary and the extraordinary people who make a real and lasting difference in our community, I felt privileged to be there.