Sunshine Coast Australia Day Awards. David Larkin won the Citizen of the Year. Photo: Warren Lynam / Sunshine Coast Daily
Sunshine Coast Australia Day Awards. David Larkin won the Citizen of the Year. Photo: Warren Lynam / Sunshine Coast Daily Warren Lynam

School chaplain takes home the Coast's highest honour

A SCHOOL chaplain has taken out the Sunshine Coast's most prestigious award - Citizen of the Year.

Buderim Mountain State School's David Larkin beat 12 other nominees for the title at a special ceremony held at Lake Kawana Community Centre.

Mr Larkin's "dedication and commitment to working with students on personal development and issues to do with grief, loss and self-esteem set him apart from the rest".

His award comes at a time when the work of school chaplains has been under close scrutiny, with two landmark court decisions challenging funding.

"Chappy Dave" has personified the value the role can have.

He facilitates programs for youths like Seasons for Growth, Drumming Circles and Happy Being Me.

His family are involved in foster care and he has developed strong links and networks within the community to improve children's lives.

For him, it has never been about preaching a religion.

"There are a lot of myths that have been smashed about chaplaincy," he said.

"We are not in the old school role where we walk around the school with a Bible under our arms.

"We have a practical role and do home visits, providing meals and networking with other community organisations.

"For me, it's about sharing values, it's not about me pushing a religious agenda. It's about serving the needs of the community."

The number of lives he has affected was highlighted when he was in hospital, desperately fighting for his own life in September, 2014.

He had he suffered a ruptured aortic aneurysm and was rushed to Brisbane's Prince Charles Hospital where he underwent seven hours of emergency surgery.

His doctor said if he had arrived 15 minutes later he would not have made it.

The Buderim community rallied around David and his family while he spent months undergoing intensive rehabilitation.

He received more than 1000 get well letters from students.

It's been a slow recovery process. Mr Larkin only started running again during the Christmas holidays.

"I'm in my second year of recovery," he said.

"It's been going good. I'm doing five kilometre runs."

Other people nominated for the top award included Amanda Jones, who volunteers at the Caloundra Music Festival and helps various charities, Jayne Taylor from

the Sunshine Coast Disability Group, long-serving lifesaver David McClean, music teacher Steve Schultz, Vintage Calender Girls founder Misty Bland, oncologist nurse Christine Morris, swim coach John Wallace, the Alexandra Headland Rotary Club's Christopher Baker, Yandina Street Fair organiser Marie Reeve, Australian Apprenticeship Ambassador Sharan Berry, Coolum Beach Community Preschool and Kindergarten director Lorelle Frost and Food and Agribusiness Taskforce chair Andrew Eves-Brown.

Mayor Mark Jamieson paid homage to the award winners.

"This year we received 86 nominations for the awards - one of the biggest fields ever - and we have had the opportunity to hear about these fantastic people and to celebrate and acknowledge their many achievements," he said.

"They have been nominated and commended by their own communities because of their willingness to go above and beyond and there is no doubt that their efforts are truly commendable.

"Every year it is truly an honour to be invited to announce the award winners and to celebrate the people who show us what it really means to be an Australian.

"They are, in the main, quiet achievers, unsung heroes - people who work tirelessly to help others without thought of reward or recognition.

"The Australia Day Awards are our chance to say thank you and provide some well-deserved recognition for all the nominees, and especially to acknowledge that, by naming our award winners, we are also naming our region's ambassadors.

"These are the people who set a positive example and are great role models for our community."

The 2016 Australia Day Award recipients were nominated by the community and selected by a panel of local leaders and experts, including the 2015 winner, Chris Turner.