Seniors Awards

Each and every day throughout Townsville there are countless senior residents who volunteer their time, contributing to the wellbeing of the Townsville community. Across our community, these volunteers connect people and provide services to others. The knowledge, skill, commitment and energy displayed by Townsville's senior residents is overwhelming.

These volunteers give their time, energy and skills without seeking public recognition or accolades for their contribution. The Townsville City Council Senior Awards have been designed to provide public thanks to those quiet achieving seniors who give so much to our city.

2020 Senior of the Year Awards

Nominations for the Senior of the Year Awards have now closed.

COVID-19 has presented an unprecedented and challenging time for everyone. Unfortunately, this year's Seniors Expo and Seniors Luncheon will not go ahead, however, the Senior of the Year Awards winners have been announced below.

Winners and Nominees

Awards were presented in person by the Mayor of Townsville, Cr Jenny Hill on Friday 21 August 2020.

Female Senior of the Year

Mrs Patricia CarrMrs. Patricia Carr

Patricia Carr has been actively involved in community work for quite a few years, mainly in the local entertainment field.

She has participated in local productions with Townsville Choral Society, NQOMT, Townsville Little Theatre, both as a cast member and in later years as a volunteer make up artist.

Patricia is a poet and has self-published several books. Her literary efforts are mainly based on her own life in Townsville with local landmarks prominent in her writings.

She is a regular visitor to Loreto Home, reading books to the residents as well as reciting poetry and tap dancing.

She has also given tap dance classes to the visitors at Ozcare Respite Centre in Mooney Street.

Patricia has been performing as part of a tap dance group called D'Esly Dancers for 30 years or so. In recent years she has been instrumental in keeping the group going when the other long term members retired. Performances are at local aged care and respite facilities. Patricia also recites poetry at these morning teas, both her own and those of Banjo Patterson. These poems she recites totally from memory.

Patricia has also volunteered as 'The Queen' at the All British weekends at the Cathedral School and danced for Melbourne Cup Day luncheons at Carlyle Gardens as well as Biggest Morning Tea at Magnetic Island.

Nothing is too much trouble for Pat and she willingly puts her hand up for any worthy cause particularly if it involves her beloved tap dancing.

The residents at the facilities Patricia visits, love to see her dance and hear her stories and poems. She is of the same generation as most of them, and they love her energy, wit, and general love of life. The staff appreciates that the residents are being entertained and it makes their jobs easier at the same time to see the residents having fun.

Male Senior of the Year

Dr Ernie Hoolihan

Dr Ernie Hoolihan

For over half a century Ernest Hoolihan has been a tireless and humble worker in gaining equal rights and improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Born in Ingham in 1933, his family later moved to Townsville where he was successful in gaining a scholarship and becoming the first Aboriginal student to attend the Townsville Grammar School, where he excelled at sports and was recognised as a role model as he paved the way for other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. Ernie excelled in sports of all kinds, playing rugby league, athletics, swimming, and tennis.

In 1956, while working for the Department of Social Security in Townsville, Ernie noticed how many ATSI people had great difficulty in filling out the required forms meaning that they were often either refused benefits, or overpaid and faced repayment of large sums.  Further stress was caused by people’s fear of authority due to government policies, a reluctance to access services, and cultural and language differences.  Ernie took it upon himself to help and advise them about their entitlements and how to navigate the system.  Much of this work he did in his own time and he actively lobbied the need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Liaison officers to be employed in Commonwealth departments and made this recommendation to the Whitlam government.

As the first Aboriginal public servant, Ernie was contacted by government agencies to organise meetings and form local Indigenous medical and housing services.

In 1973, Ernie, together with his late wife Maud, established Yumba-Meta Limited to provide long-term, medium-term, and short-term secure and affordable accommodation and services to disadvantaged people, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This includes social housing, supported housing and emergency housing; a women's shelter providing a safe place for women and children experiencing domestic and family violence; transitional housing for people travelling from remote communities to access employment, education or training; a 24/7 sobering up facility supporting people engaging in public intoxication and at risk of incarceration; disability accommodation for eligible NDIS participants will ensure that young people with disabilities can live amongst their age group with dignity and not in nursing homes.

In addition to Yumba-Meta, Ernie has worked to strengthen Indigenous culture having helped establish the Townsville Aboriginal Cultural Centre, supporting Aboriginal inmates through the associated Legal Service for 30 plus years, addressing educational disadvantage with the Headstart Kindergarten program, ongoing work with the Seniors Safety Group of the Townsville Safe Communities Project, along with fund raising for the local Leukaemia House.

In 1974, Ernie also played a significant role in the establishment of  Townsville Aboriginal and Islanders Health Services (TAIHS) as part of the wider movement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to take control of the delivery of health care services in their communities.

Through his community service and leadership positions over the years are immeasurable, his efforts are somewhat reflected in his rich collection of accolades, including being acknowledged; as a Queensland Senior Citizen of the Year, a Distinguished Past Student of Townsville Grammar, with an Honorary Doctorate, and with a Medal of the Order of Australia on the Queen’s Honours List.

Ernie has been a Justice of Peace for thirty-two years and a Civil Marriage Celebrant for twenty-seven years, marrying over 500 couples in that time.  His achievements over many years involved active participation and leadership in many Indigenous services, past and present.

At 87, Ernie Hoolihan continues to make significant contributions to the advancement of human wellbeing in the community.  Throughout his life, Ernie has acted with the humility and tenacity of the quiet achiever that his labours attest. This Award will recognise his outstanding service to the Townsville and North Queensland community.


  • Mr Gary Costigan
  • Ms Sue Gardner
  • Mr Leslie Hyland
  • Mr Lance Jenkin
  • Mr Ari Korhonen
  • Mr Ken Mooney