Past Event

1 — 23 Sep

Brisbane Community Heroes

Is there someone in your community whose heroic acts deserve to be recognised by the wider public? Here lies the opportunity to acknowledge them!

In 2023 Brisbane Festival and Airbnb proudly presented the 'Community Hero program,' where we elevated the stories, voices, and people in this city whose positive contributions help foster our understanding and appreciation of Brisbane as the place many of us call home. From a pool of over 100 nominations, we carefully selected a group of exceptional individuals who stood out for their remarkable contributions to our community.

Among these outstanding heroes were Amy Gomes, Anna Campbell, Ansary Muhammed, Brodie McAllister, David Cameron; Debroah Ryan, Elyse and Kristy of the Salty Sirens, Leanne Phillips; Leichelle McMahon; Liz Johnson; Michael Diezmann; Paul Burchell; Rebecca Adams; Sammy Leone, Sonja Gersden, Yani Mills and The Community at Fletcher Parade, Bardon.

We invited the Brisbane public to nominate someone they wanted to praise for the work they did for the betterment of this city. Some of the words associated with these extraordinary people included - bravery, courage, honesty, inspiration, moral integrity, selflessness, strength, leadership, or self-sacrifice. Each of them have made and continue to make a significant contribution in their neighbourhood, leaving a positive impact on the lives of others. We wanted to acknowledge these everyday people who did extraordinary things.

These selected individuals had the opportunity to share their stories either through interviews at one of our Brisbane Serenades events during the Festival or as a part of a portrait installation at Australian Retirement Trust Festival Garden (captured by Creative Photographer, Thomas Oliver) in September. 

Thank you for joining us in celebrating the exceptional heroes who truly make Brisbane a better place to call home.




During each days final Brisbane Serenades performance


Approximately 15 minutes

Important Info

We received over 100 nominations and would like to say thank you once again to the following individuals who were selected from this pool as local community heroes: Amy Gomes, Anna Campbell, Ansary Muhammed, Brodie McAllister, David Cameron; Debroah Ryan, Elyse and Kristy of the Salty Sirens, Leanne Phillips; Leichelle McMahon; Liz Johnson; Michael Diezmann; Paul Burchell; Rebecca Adams; Sammy Leone, Sonja Gersden, Yani Mills and The Community at Fletcher Parade, Bardon.

To view a gallery of the hero portraits, please visit Thomas Oliver's Website here.

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Dates in September
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#Community Heroes

Amy Gomes

Amy Gomes, a dedicated critical care paramedic, showcases her boundless compassion through various initiatives. While on maternity leave, she penned "What Paramedics Do," a forthcoming children's book shedding light on the 000 emergency service and raising funds for Heart of the Nation, an organization working to expand access to Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in communities. Amy's commitment extends beyond her profession as she also serves as the president of the Queensland Ambulance Service Legacy Scheme Incorporated, offering invaluable support to the families of departed staff members. Her altruistic endeavors and community leadership embody the spirit of selflessness and care.

Anna Campbell

Anna Campbell, an enthusiastic community advocate and devoted parent, dedicates her efforts to creating safer neighborhoods for pedestrians and cyclists as the Executive Officer of Queensland Walks, an advocacy organization striving to promote walking and similar activities for all residents of Queensland. In addition to her advocacy work, Anna actively participates in local community campaigns that emphasize development and community-oriented centers in her hometown of Stafford. She fosters a sense of community and empathy, supports local businesses, and promotes the integration of social enterprises. Anna readily lends her support to community initiatives, demonstrating unwavering commitment to important causes.

Ansary Muhammed

Ansary Muhammed, Managing Director of Merciful Servants, has led a compassionate initiative that has provided over 41,000 meals in Brisbane, Logan, and the Gold Coast within the last 2 years. With a team of over 150 volunteers, Ansary's mission is to combat hunger and support the homeless and vulnerable populations in a city where 1 in 200 people experience homelessness. His personal journey, marked by adversity after losing his father at a young age, fuels his dedication to helping others. Ansary focuses on engaging at-risk youth through volunteer work and considers all of Brisbane his community. His commitment shines through moments like these before heading out with Merciful Servants.

Brodie McAllister

Brodie McAllister is the visionary behind Made Now Music, an independent Brisbane record label and concert series dedicated to authentic and exploratory music. Since 2017, Made Now Music has collaborated with numerous local artists, hosting numerous gigs and releasing albums featuring 27+ local talents. The core values of MNM revolve around community building, support, and providing a platform. The concert series, currently situated at local artspace KEPK, serves as a testament to this ethos. Brodie's multi-faceted approach includes nurturing artists' creative visions, teaching, fostering connections within the music industry, and building a self-sustaining community. His commitment extends to Talkin' Jazz, a program engaging high school students in jazz.

David Cameron

David Cameron, a dedicated and selfless individual, has spent over 29 years supporting his community through various roles. As an administrator at the Picabeen Community Centre, he ensures smooth operations, benefiting children, families, social work students, volunteers, and seniors. David's passion for photography extends to volunteering his skills, capturing moments that promote community events and activities. His commitment doesn't stop there; he regularly volunteers at community events, going the extra mile to help others. Even in challenging times, he offers unwavering support, exemplifying true community heroism. David's genuine connections and celebrations of milestones make people feel more connected to their community. His consistent dedication and reliability inspire us all.

Debroah Ryan

Debroah Ryan, a retired healthcare professional, radiates warmth and compassion in her community. With a rich background in nursing, including Orthopaedics, Palliative care, Rehabilitation, general ward nursing, and Mental Health care, she has dedicated her life to caring for others. Beyond her professional life, Deb extends her generosity to neighbors, regularly collecting for St. Vincent's Hampers and tending to injured wildlife. She is also a creative soul, expressing her boundless heart through mixed media art and poetry performances. Deb's immense kindness has earned her the admiration and love of colleagues, friends, patients, fellow volunteers, and anyone fortunate enough to experience her generosity.

Kristy Capstanfield and Elyse Fitzpatrick of The Salty Sirens

"Elyse ""Fishpatrick"" and Kristy ""Capstanfield,"" accompanied by their renowned accordion ""Moni,"" are the creative forces behind The Salty Sirens. This dynamic duo has earned a reputation as swashbuckling heroes for their contemporary sea shanty singalongs, performed at local venues and folk and shanty festivals throughout Australia. Their performances provide a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere where people unite to celebrate queer joy, liveliness, and creativity through spirited singalongs.

What truly sets The Salty Sirens apart is their modern reinterpretation of sea shanties. They transform these traditional tunes into queer-friendly, sex-positive, community-supporting, LGBTQIA+ educational experiences while maintaining the debaucherous and raucous spirit of the original songs. The Salty Sirens' nomination recognizes not only their kindness and boundless energy but also their remarkable contribution to creating a space where queer individuals and their allies can thrive joyfully."

Leanne Phillips

Leanne Phillips is a dedicated advocate for inclusive and healthy communities, driven by a profound commitment to fostering acceptance and boundless love. A spiritual healer, mentor, and warrior with a heart of gold, she embodies heroism with unapologetic courage. Leanne's initiatives, including 'Womyns Shed' and 'Retreat to Culture,' create safe spaces for diverse women to empower one another and promote holistic well-being. Through 'Spiritual Business' and 'Disciplined Attunement,' she unlocks peoples potential and assists in healing traumas. Leanne's 'Bugalma' gatherings celebrate unity, meditation, and universal laws. Her deep knowledge of bush remedies and advocacy for Aboriginal women's business continues to benefit the community greatly.

Leichelle McMahon

"Leichelle McMahon is a dedicated and selfless rescuer who has made a profound impact on her community. Over the past 15 years, she has saved countless animals from death row pounds, demonstrating unwavering dedication to animal welfare. Shell's efforts extend beyond rescue work; she has provided shelter and support to families and their pets during times of crisis, offering pet boarding and setting up the Pet Pantry to help those facing hardship care for their animals.
In addition to her rescue work, Shell is a passionate advocate for animal welfare, actively lobbying for legislative changes and participating in parliamentary hearings. She has also played a key role in shaping animal care education in Queensland through her involvement in TAFE course development.
Shell's commitment to mentoring and passing on her extensive knowledge to trainees and students showcases her philanthropic spirit. Furthermore, she has expanded her impact by completing veterinary courses to contribute to the establishment of Brisbane's own wildlife hospital.
Beyond her work with animals, Shell's dedication extends to supporting both human mental health charities and animal welfare organizations, highlighting her selflessness and commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of both people and animals."

Liz Johnson

Liz Johnson is a compassionate and dedicated community member who provides invaluable support to new mothers facing numerous challenges through her Mothers group, Mothers Connected in addition to support Mothers experiencing homelessness and domestic abuse. Liz is a remarkable woman and mother who selflessly serves her community, embodying qualities of caring, gentleness, compassion, and understanding. Her actions exemplify the essence of a community hero.

Michael Diezmann

Mike Diezmann, a dedicated netball coach for over 25 years, found his passion when he stepped in as a coach for his daughters' local club, addressing the shortage of coaches. Under his leadership, Wavell Netball Club, which initially had 6 teams and 48 players, has now expanded to 20 teams with 176 players in just three years. Mike's warmth, focus, and unwavering enthusiasm have propelled the club to the top ranks of the Brisbane Netball Association. Beyond coaching multiple teams, he organizes trivia nights, fundraisers, and mentors budding coaches and umpires. On game days, Mike's contagious enthusiasm and unwavering commitment make the club a thriving hub for young people to grow, make friends, gain confidence, improve their skills, and enjoy the game of netball.

Paul Burchell

"Paul Burchell has dedicated 25 years of selfless service as a volunteer search and rescue crewman with the Brisbane Coast Guard. His bravery and courage have saved thousands of lives in various weather conditions, day and night, from Moreton Bay to the Brisbane River and even as far as Ipswich. During the 2011 Brisbane Floods, Paul led rescue efforts in the Lockyer Valley and later in Brisbane, receiving recognition from the Governor General, Queensland Government, and the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard Association.

Paul's inspirational leadership continues as he leads a permanent roster at Brisbane Coast Guard and serves as the Flotilla Security Officer. His unwavering dedication and countless successful rescues have made a significant and positive impact on the lives of local residents and visitors alike. Paul Burchell is a shining example of selfless community spirit, inspiring others to follow in his footsteps, and is deserving of recognition as a true Community Hero."

Rebecca Adams

Rebecca Adams, a young widow at 33 following a tragic loss, discovered a lack of support for others in her situation. In response, she founded First Light, a charity that has since aided thousands of young widowed Australians on their journey through grief. Leading a small team, Rebecca tirelessly fundraises to provide essential programs, including the annual national conference, Camp Widow Australia, which unites widows from across the country in Brisbane. Her tenacity, resilience, and unwavering dedication are changing lives for the better, embodying the qualities of strength, courage, and determination. Her family and community stands in awe of her remarkable efforts and achievements. Learn more at

Sammy Leone

Sammy Leone, the founder of The Boss Boxing since 2019, has established an inclusive and culturally sensitive space for individuals of all ages and abilities, highlighting Aboriginal culture through the sport of boxing. His primary goal is to empower and educate the next generation to assume leadership roles within their families and social circles, promoting cultural exchange through mentoring and boxing. Sammy's own life was transformed through boxing, earning him regional, state, and national titles. Yet, his true achievement lies in his work at The Boss Boxing, where he dedicates himself to reducing crime, preventing suicide, and fostering positive mental health and well-being among marginalized communities and the broader Brisbane Northside community.

Sonja Gerdsen

"Sonja Gerdsen has overcome formidable obstacles and life challenges and through this has now devoted herself to creating a better life for her children and her community. As the founder of Amity Place, she leverages her training and personal experiences to offer peer support and advocacy for individuals impacted by domestic and family violence (DFV) and relational abuse.
Amity Place stands out by addressing the gaps in domestic violence services. Unlike many organizations constrained by funding criteria, Amity Place takes an inclusive approach, assisting people of all genders and relationships individually while fostering real change. Sonja's dedication extends to organizing fundraising creative workshops, community events, and music gatherings to support Amity Place's mission. In the photo, she stands at her front door, symbolizing her unwavering commitment to bringing DFV out of the shadows."

Yani Mills

"Yani Mills, a true hero in her community, has spent over 30 years passionately creating and leading community choirs. She fosters inclusivity, connecting individuals from diverse backgrounds through the joy of song. Yani's work with Multicultural Australia's Mosaic Multicultural Choir exemplifies her dedication to building bridges between cultures and spreading joy through music. She goes above and beyond, securing performance opportunities and writing challenging arrangements that push her choir members to excel.
Yani's infectious positivity, warmth, and encouragement uplift those around her, making a genuine difference in people's lives. Her work with asylum seekers, Indigenous groups, and many other community choirs reflects her heroism in promoting unity and well-being through song. She is a beacon of hope and inspiration for all she touches."


Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the criteria for a community hero?

The only criteria is that this person in your eyes should be praised for the positive and selfless work they do for the betterment of Brisbane.

What if I don’t have contact information for this person?

That’s ok! Share with us as much information about this person and we will do our best to find them.

Does this community hero have to work in the arts industry?

No! We are welcoming nominations from all walks of life and all industries of people!

Airbnb was born in 2007 when two Hosts welcomed three guests to their San Francisco home, and has since grown to over 4 million Hosts who have welcomed more than 1 billion guest arrivals in almost every country across the globe. Every day, Hosts offer unique stays and experiences that make it possible for guests to connect with communities in a more authentic way.

Airbnb is proud to celebrate the city’s vibrant communities and heroic residents alongside Brisbane Festival as its Community Engagement Partner.


Thomas Oliver

Thomas Oliver

A Meanjin/Brisbane-based portrait photographer and videographer. With a decade of experience, he emphasizes open communication in his process, involving his subjects in engaging conversation that results in a photograph or video.


Brisbane Festival expresses deep respect to and acknowledges the First People of this Country.