Some of the Mackay region personalities who made the headlines in 2020 including from top left: Dawson MP George Christensen, Mackay Regional Council Mayor Greg Williamson, Mirani MP Stephen Andrew, Sarina Surf Lifesaving Club president Neil John, Canegrowers Queensland chairman Paul Schembri and Mackay mum Vicki Blackburn.
Some of the Mackay region personalities who made the headlines in 2020 including from top left: Dawson MP George Christensen, Mackay Regional Council Mayor Greg Williamson, Mirani MP Stephen Andrew, Sarina Surf Lifesaving Club president Neil John, Canegrowers Queensland chairman Paul Schembri and Mackay mum Vicki Blackburn.

The Mackay personalities who made headlines in 2020

What a massive year it has been for the Mackay region with COVID-19 and the local and state elections undoubtedly the guiding forces.

With that there has been a renewed vigour on speaking out on the issues that mattered.

So without further ado, here are some of the Mackay region personalities who featured in the headlines throughout 2020:

 

Shandee's mum Vicki Blackburn. Picture: David Kelly
Shandee's mum Vicki Blackburn. Picture: David Kelly

Vicki Blackburn

Vicki Blackburn, a mum plagued by "what ifs" since her daughter was brutally killed in Mackay almost seven years ago, has never stopped fighting for justice.

She started off 2020 by hosting an awareness morning tea before she bravely pushed through the findings of an inquest into Shandee Blackburn's death in which the coroner found John Peros responsible.

The mum then publicly named him for the first time as the person she believed to have killed her daughter when she was the guest speaker at the Mackay Says No to Domestic Violence fun day.

 

Sarina Sugar Shed distiller Sarah Parrott with the Christmas-themed rum called the
Sarina Sugar Shed distiller Sarah Parrott with the Christmas-themed rum called the "Sugar Shed Classic". Picture: Contributed

Sarah Parrott

Sarina Sugar Shed distiller Sarah Parrott has many accolades to be proud of this year.

The distillery and tourism destination won silver at the coveted Australian Tourism Awards in March, followed by a silver in the Australian Distilled Spirit Awards in November for a lychee-flavoured spirit.

Ms Parrott also concocted a limited edition SB13 rum that sold out in four days when it was released in August.

Most recently, she and the team produced a luscious rum with notes of Christmas.

Have you secured your bottle yet?

 

Dawson MP George Christensen. Picture: Matt Taylor.
Dawson MP George Christensen. Picture: Matt Taylor.

George Christensen

In what year since George Christensen became the member for Dawson has he not made the headlines?

This year, he voiced his views on climate change, Adani, political resignations, increasing the dole, the Great Barrier Reef, Urannah Dam and of course COVID-19 to name just a few.

And most recently, he was urging US President Donald Trump to pardon Julian Assange before he left the White House.

 

Sarina Surf Lifesaving Club president Neil John. Picture: Heidi Petith
Sarina Surf Lifesaving Club president Neil John. Picture: Heidi Petith

Neil John

Sarina Surf Lifesaving Club president Neil John splashed in the headlines for excelling in the sport and giving back to his community.

Not only was he crowned Queensland's Surf Lifesaver of the year, Mr John took out the national title as well.

 

Mackay Regional Council Mayor Greg Williamson. Photo: Zizi Averill
Mackay Regional Council Mayor Greg Williamson. Photo: Zizi Averill

Greg Williamson

The Mackay Regional Council mayor was front and centre of many stories this year for his role leading residents through the COVID pandemic.

He was also the spokesman for many council-related headlines whether they highlighted issues like the fish kills at the Gooseponds or celebrated milestones like the reopening of Queens Park after an $8.86 million upgrade.

 

Broken Ballerina Foundation founder Jules Thompson taking part in the Red Rose Rally.
Broken Ballerina Foundation founder Jules Thompson taking part in the Red Rose Rally.

Jules Thompson

The Broken Ballerina Foundation founder was a huge voice for women this year as she spoke out against domestic and family violence.

Ms Thompson pleaded for governments to pay attention, called for greater legal deterrents for family violence perpetrators and hosted awareness events like the Mackay Red Rose Rally.

 

Tourism Whitsundays CEO Tash Wheeler. Picture: File
Tourism Whitsundays CEO Tash Wheeler. Picture: File

Tash Wheeler and Tas Webber

Tourism Whitsunday CEO Tash Wheeler and Mackay Tourism CEO Tas Webber were thrust into the news as they navigated the unprecedented impacts of COVID on the tourism industry.

Mackay Tourism CEO Tas Webber. Picture: File
Mackay Tourism CEO Tas Webber. Picture: File

From lockdowns to border closures to travel bubbles and most recently, the reopening of interstate travel, the pair has been there representing regional tourism through every twist and turn.

 

Whitsunday MP Amanda Camm. Picture: Heidi Petith
Whitsunday MP Amanda Camm. Picture: Heidi Petith

Amanda Camm

Amanda Camm made the headlines this year for her journey to become the new Whitsundays MP.

It was a tight race as just 39 first preference votes separated the two frontrunners days after the community cast their votes.

During her election campaign, Ms Camm pledged to upgrade the Conway Circuit mountain bike trail, addressed climate change, spoke out about domestic violence and pushed for a $500,000 revamp of the Proserpine showgrounds - among other things.

 

Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert at Racecourse Mill speaking about the government’s push to reduce plastic use. Picture: Supplied
Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert at Racecourse Mill speaking about the government’s push to reduce plastic use. Picture: Supplied

Julieanne Gilbert

The Mackay MP was in the news for a wide number of topics this year including road projects like the Eton Range and the Ring Road, how the region was responding to the coronavirus pandemic and more recently, the situation at Keswick Island.

Ms Gilbert also became a regular - as did all the region's politicians - throughout the Mercury's extensive coverage of the Queensland election.

 

Lance Payne at Harbour Beach with a piece of washed-up coal. Picture: Tony Martin
Lance Payne at Harbour Beach with a piece of washed-up coal. Picture: Tony Martin

Lance Payne

Lance Payne featured in the news in 2020 for his environmental activism beginning with applying for an Administrative Appeals Tribunal review into coal spillage.

The Archibald Prize entrant also spoke out about fish kills, illegal tyre dumping and living with glaucoma.

 

Former Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan at the CQUniversity Mackay Ooralea campus. Picture: Zizi Averill
Former Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan at the CQUniversity Mackay Ooralea campus. Picture: Zizi Averill

Jason Costigan

The former Whitsundays member dominated the headlines this year especially leading up to the state election as he campaigned for north and central Queensland's "fair share".

He also made the news for his mission to rename the Bruce Highway to Captain Cook Highway and for airing in parliament how Mackay families were being forced to wait to bury loved ones due to a pathologists shortage.

 

Mirani MP Stephen Andrew. Picture: Heidi Petith
Mirani MP Stephen Andrew. Picture: Heidi Petith

Stephen Andrew

Mirani MP Stephen Andrew was the sole One Nation candidate to secure a Queensland seat in the recent election.

This year he made the headlines for advocating for a wide range of issues including road safety, reinstating Queensland's upper house and the need for a new ambulance station at Marian or Eton.

He was also unable to contact his extended family earlier this year after category five Cyclone Harold battered the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu.

 

Canegrowers Queensland chairman Paul Schembri. Picture: Contributed
Canegrowers Queensland chairman Paul Schembri. Picture: Contributed

Paul Schembri

Canegrowers Queensland chairman Paul Schembri was in the headlines for his passionate advocacy of Mackay region sugarcane growers, harvesters and mill workers.

This year, he campaigned against a proposed sugar tax, pushed back against "zealous" reef regulations, and championed India being brought before the World Trade Organisation for "blatantly" breaching global trade rules.

 

Chris Bonanno, Harrup Park Country Club general manager Adrian Young, Harrup Park Country Club chief executive Matt Cielens and LNP's David Crisafulli. Picture: supplied
Chris Bonanno, Harrup Park Country Club general manager Adrian Young, Harrup Park Country Club chief executive Matt Cielens and LNP's David Crisafulli. Picture: supplied

Matt Cielens and the Harrup Park Country Club team

What a year it was for the Harrup Park Country Club team with headline after headline until they secured $10 million of funding for the Great Barrier Reef Arena project.

The club also hosted an AFL premiership and its CEO Matt Cielens was awarded Manager of the Year at the Keno & Clubs Queensland Awards for Excellence.



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