Liz Downes: Queensland Volunteer of the Year 2020

1 December 2020 | Author: Paul Sutton

On Tuesday, 1 December, the Pied Imperial Pigeon Count at North Brook Island, begun 55 years ago by Margaret and Arthur Thorsborne, was again counting the thousands of pigeons flying back to their nests on the island. For the back story of this wonderful experience see The Coming of the White Birds in the Wildlife Queensland online shop.

One of many special people on that trip was Liz Downes, our 2020 Queensland Volunteer of the Year who was about to be presented with her award the next day. With typical Liz humility, she didn’t mention anything about it so we missed a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Liz’s recognition in the very place where her friend and mentor Margaret Thorsborne’s ashes were gently spread.

In her acceptance speech, Liz nominated Margaret as one of several people who inspired her. It is equally true that Liz was a great friend and support to Margaret over the 40 years of their friendship. One does not get awards for such friendships, but it highlights the many contributions Liz has made beyond her consistent and thoughtful contribution to conservation, her beloved Mabo Library at James Cook University and many other projects to which she has made an almost lifelong voluntary contribution.

Liz’s humility about her contribution is such that I doubt anyone really knows the full extent of her volunteering and wide-ranging efforts. It is wonderful to see her recognised as the Queensland Volunteer of the Year. It is a well-deserved award and the Townsville Branch of Wildlife Queensland has been especially fortunate to have had Liz as a long-term active member, current Vice President and custodian of much of the history of the branch.

While we know Liz has done much beyond our conservation family, it is our pleasure to congratulate and salute Liz on this welcome recognition of your lifelong contribution to volunteering and thank you especially for your long and continuing support for Wildlife Queensland.

About the 2020 Queensland Volunteering Awards

Liz Downes wins Volunteer of the Year Award 2020

The moment Liz Downes (top right) is announced the winner of the Volunteer of the Year Award.

The Queensland Volunteering Awards acknowledge the value and vital contribution of volunteering to the well-being of Queensland and its people.

Awards are presented across six key categories:

  • Volunteer of the Year Award
  • Youth Volunteering Award
  • Lifetime Contribution to Volunteering Award
  • Excellence in Volunteer Management Award
  • Volunteering Impact Award (a volunteer program)
  • Corporate Volunteering Award (an employee volunteering program)

The Volunteer of the Year Award is the premier award for volunteers in Queensland, and Liz Downes was chosen from among 147 other nominations.

The 2020 Queensland Volunteering Awards Ceremony was held on Wednesday 2 December 2020Watch the online awards ceremony (watch from 45:00 for the Volunteer of the Year Award presentation).

Editor’s note: In 2020, Volunteering North Queensland honoured Liz Downes by awarding her the ‘Heart of Volunteering Award’. Liz also collected the Margaret Thorsborne Award for an outstanding contribution during the year July 2019 to June 2020 by a member of Wildlife Queensland.


About the author: Paul Sutton is a member of the Wildlife Queensland Council and is the Traeger Qld State Government Elections Returning Officer 2020.

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