When Lou Norgard answered the phone to be told she had been nominated for an Australia Day Award, she tried to turn it down.
“I’m not into this, thanks,” an embarrassed Lou told the Cook Shire council employee.
“But they said I had no choice and couldn’t get out of it! It was all a bit embarrassing for me. I don’t want praise or recognition.”
Her humble attitude was one of the main reasons why Lou was named as Cook Shire’s Citizen of the Year.
The 76-year-old is kept busy with a number of volunteer roles, helping shape the future of the Cooktown Hospital and the region’s health system, as well as providing support to those who attend the courthouse.
In her capacity as chair of the Community Advisory Committee for Cooktown and District Multi-purpose Hospital and Health Care, Lou successfully advocated for a kidney dialysis machine in Cooktown and is actively involved in the steering group for the proposed new hospital.
She has also been the Southern Cape York representative on the community advisory committee for the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service for the last five years, regularly volunteers at the Cooktown Magistrates Court and was one of the founders of the Cooktown 60’s and Better community ground that has promoted inclusion, support and wellbeing to older adults.
For Lou, it is “no big deal”.
“I just do things and get on with it,” she said.
Admitting to stepping on a few toes along the way, the Cooktown resident of two decades has a way of cutting through red tape.
“I learnt that it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission,” she said with a cheeky smile.
“The city people don’t understand the bush, so we need to help them understand it.”
Successfully pushing for birthing to return to Cooktown was a highlight for Lou, while her behind-the-scenes work at the court is also something she is proud of.
“A lot of it is just helping things to go smoothly,” she said.
“We have a brochure and teach people how to address the court and make sure their phones are turned off.”
Lou has developed strong ties to the surrounding communities, including Hope Vale, Wujal Wujal, Laura and some of the stations.
“They all know me and trust me, which makes it easier,” she said.
Cooktown singer and songwriter Ella Hartwig was unable to attend the Australia Day awards ceremony but said she was blown away at winning the Young Citizen of the Year Award.
“I grew up in Cooktown and thought it kind of sucked,” the 18-year-old admitted.
“But now I’m older I realise how special it has been to grow up in a community that has been so supportive of me.”
Ella is currently working on Thursday Island in an administration role for the health service and hopes to go on a coastal tour of Queensland when her three-month contract ends.
“I’ve got a new song coming out on February 6 called Dear Grandpa, which is a sad, slow ballad,” she said.
“It’s a little bit different from some of my other work but it’s special to me.”
Art and culture
Coen resident Naomi Hobson was also unable to attend the ceremony but was a popular choice with judges for the Art and Culture Award.
Naomi is a Southern Kaantju/Umpila multi-disciplinary artist.
Since her first exhibition eight years ago, she has been a three-time finalist in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards and was winner of The Alice Prize in 2016.
Naomi’s colourful abstract compositions act as a link between individuality and a shared identity, while her photography grapples with Indigenous identity and social issues confronting Indigenous peoples.
Her continual inspiration is the vast traditional lands of her ancestors surrounding the town of Coen and her culture.
Naomi’s works are already hanging in the National Gallery of Victoria, while last year her distinctive art has featured on one of the country’s biggest makeup retailers, MECCA.
Bob Norris probably doesn’t have the word “no” in his vocabulory. He seemingly puts his hand up for everything.
It was no surprise when he was named Volunteer of the Year.
Bob joined the Endeavour Lions Club in 1999 and served as the secretary for seven years.
His dedication to fundraising events, activities, combined with his innovate commitment to the Containers for Change scheme has greatly increased the club’s profits, bringing in more than $130,000 for the Lions Club.
Bob is also the vice president of the Cooktown RSL Memorial Club and current welfare officer for the RSL sub-branch.
Since 2002, Bob has also been the president of the Cooktown Historical Society, and in 2022 looks forward to changing roles as the treasurer.
The Cooktown Underwater Hockey Club was a notable winner of the Sports Award for 2022.
Last year, the club took eight junior players to Tasmania to represent Queensland at the national underwater hockey competition in a number of age categories.
A testament to their tireless training and dedication to their sport, the team took home a gold and two silvers medals, making their community proud.
Cook Shire mayor Peter Scott congratulated all nominees and award recipients on what was an invitation-only event at the PCYC.
“From music and the arts, to sport and the passionate commitment of the many tireless volunteers in our community, our award recipients and nominees are to be applauded for their hard work and dedication,” he said.
“Their passion demonstrates the Australian spirit in action. The amazing work they all do showcases the richness and diversity of our community which all contributes towards making Cook Shire such an amazing place to call home.”
This article appeared in Cape York Weekly, 1 February 2022.