Today, founder of West End’s Community Friends, Mark McDonnell, was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in the 2023 King’s Birthday Honours, “for service to the community through charitable initiatives”.

Typically self-effacing, Mark accepted the award “on behalf of my volunteers and supporters.”

“I think it is an ideal opportunity to draw attention to the difficulties that people in need have,” Mark said.

Community Friends provides a free food giveaway service every Wednesday in Bunyapa Park.

Mark, who had worked as a Registered Nurse and Nurse Manager, began Community Friends in 2009.

Around 2011, Mark bought a boarding house in West End, accommodated some homeless people, and subsequently moved in with them.

Mark was the first male to join the National Council of Women of Queensland. He was also the State Adviser for the National Council of Women of Queensland for the Habitat portfolio, dealing with poverty and homelessness issues.

The Community Friends team received a Griffith Australia Day Award from local MP Terri Butler in March 2021.

Mark previously had head and neck cancers and is currently in remission following  radiation treatment.

When I interviewed him in 2020, Mark said he was not religious or motivated by any particular ideology other than wanting to leave the world a better place than he found it.

In a Facebook update, he talked about the ‘butterfly effect’, which he describes as “the hypothetical proposition that asserts how small initial differences may lead to large unforeseen consequences over time.”

Growing Need

Community Friends initially provided food to about sixty people. In 2011 the charity gave away 5,481 meals, and by 2012, this had increased to 25,668 meals. Now 13 years later, Community Friends supports over two hundred people weekly.

The team provides food and other necessities each Wednesday in Bunyapa Park from 3.00 pm, and individual food hampers are available seven days a week.

Mark said demand grew significantly during COVID, doubling their numbers, and remains high as cost of living and housing affordability issues continue to bite.

During the worst COVID lockdown, Community Friends distributed four hundred meals each week at Bunyapa Park, many to stranded overseas students without any government support. But the most vulnerable are also still with us.

Community Friend’s Wish List

Supplies come from Foodbank, Fair Share, Oz Harvest, Creative Cuisine, and various local Coles, Woolworths and various Chinese supermarkets. In addition to companies, members of the public donate tinned food and other non-perishable items.

When asked what items are high on the Community Friends wish list, Mark said they desperately need storage space and much more food. Sadly, he said, Community Friends recently had to knock back a pallet of food because they ran out of food storage space. Two weeks later, they ran out of food.

On a positive note, Mark recalls how a school and a business (Queensland Building and Construction Commission ) achieved outstanding results by conducting a food drive for Community Friends.

Mark is happy for anyone to phone him any day, between 9.00 am and 5:00 pm to discuss possible storage options or food drives.


If you are able to help out, you can donate online here –

Contact details for Mark and Jimmy and here –

The complete list of The King’s Birthday 2023 Honours recipients is available on the Governor-General’s website at


Cover image by Jan Bowman – Jimmy Fahham (L) and Mark McDonnell (R)