Queensland Senior Australian of the Year 2016 final four
Nerida Egan, 68 - Drought relief supporter (Charleville)
When tough times hit in the 1990s, Nerida Egan and her husband Brian lost their family farm in southern Queensland. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, Brian spent a year in hospital while Nerida battled to raise their four daughters. When a psychologist told Brian to “find someone worse off than you are and see if you can help them”, the couple started a charity to provide practical help right to the farm gate. They called it Aussie Helpers and since then they have helped countless farming families, giving away thousands of tonnes of hay, groceries, gifts and almost a million dollars in drought aid. Working seven days a week, Nerida undertakes the charity’s administration, packs grocery hampers and pamper parcels in the warehouse or lends an ear to farming families doing it tough. Never having received a cent for the work of Aussie Helpers, Nerida has been rewarded by seeing the daily difference they make to the lives of many on a daily basis.
Tim Fairfax AC, 69 - Philanthropist (Hamilton)
One of the country’s most successful businessmen, Tim Fairfax is also one of the most generous. With pastoral interests in Queensland and New South Wales, Tim is passionate about supporting rural, remote and regional communities. The founder of the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, Tim has gifted more than $16 million since 2008 to community-based arts, music and sporting projects in regional Australia. Tim also chairs the board of the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, named after his father, which has donated more than $100 million. A keen supporter of ‘The Ekka’, Tim is also Chancellor of the Queensland University of Technology and promotes higher educational opportunities, particularly to students in struggling rural communities. A founding benefactor of the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, Tim is one of its largest donors. Sitting on numerous boards and trusts for the arts, Tim is a keen collector and donor of art and is making an extraordinary philanthropic contribution to Australia’s arts community.
Philippa Harris, 65 - Mental health innovator (Kelso)
A registered psychiatric nurse, Philippa Harris moved to Townsville in 1990 to learn of horrific human rights abuses of people with mental illness at Townsville Hospital. Deeply affected by what she encountered, Philippa set her mind to humanising mental health and showing that recovery from mental illness is possible. Joining the Mental Illness Fellowship of NQ Inc as a program coordinator, Philippa was critical to the growth of the fledgling organisation, securing funding for a range of support services. After rising to become the organisation’s Chief Executive Officer, Philippa stepped down in 2008 to pursue her passion for community education. Today, Philippa delivers mental health first aid courses, trains doctors and nurses and helps volunteers with a lived experience of mental illness share their stories with medical students. With a mission to reduce stigma and discrimination, Philippa has delivered education programs to tens of thousands of students to counter the myths and misunderstandings about mental illness in the wider community.
Col Reynolds OAM, 76 - Cancer crusader (Belgian Gardens)
A former tourist coach driver, Col Reynolds was driving his empty coach past the former Camperdown Children’s Hospital in Sydney when two young children with bald heads crossed the road. On the spur of the moment, he parked his coach and stepped into the hospital. Touched by the spirit of the children he met that day, Col made it his personal mission to help kids with cancer. For almost 10 years Col funded day trips and camps for the children in the oncology unit and every few weeks he faced inevitable heartbreak when a child passed away. Realising the only way to stop this heartbreak was through medical advancement, Col turned his passion to raising money for childhood cancer research. In 1993, Col founded what is now known as The Kids Cancer Project. Since then, Col’s foundation has committed research funding of almost $27 million dollars in childhood cancer research, leading to world breakthroughs towards a cure for childhood cancer.