Pride of Australia medallists Lex Petersen, Rochelle Courtenary, John Hadok and Vanessa Fowler. Picture: Tara Croser
Pride of Australia medallists Lex Petersen, Rochelle Courtenary, John Hadok and Vanessa Fowler. Picture: Tara Croser

You may know their stories, if not their faces

THESE are our unsung heroes - the men and women who have made an extraordinary contribution to society through acts of bravery, kindness and awareness.

From saving a young boy in a house fire to raising awareness about domestic violence, six brave and inspirational Queenslanders were recognised during the Pride of Australia ceremony in Brisbane yesterday.

News Corp Australia partnered with Australia Post and Channel 7 to uncover the nation's unsung heroes.

VANESSA FOWLER

Ms Fowler was tenacious in seeking justice for her sister Allison Baden-Clay, who was tragically murdered by her partner Gerard in 2012.

Despite suffering incredible heartache and loss, Ms Fowler helped establish the Allison Baden-Clay Foundation to open up a conversation around domestic violence.

She was nominated for the Pride of Australia award because of her tireless work and dedication to the issue of domestic violence.

"It's very much a surprise but (I'm) of course humbled," she said.

"We just find strength and motivation in the fact that we're keeping Allison's legacy alive and making it a positive one and also helping save lives as we try to make a difference in the community."

Allison Baden-Clay's two eldest daughters Sarah, 14, and Hannah, 16
Allison Baden-Clay's two eldest daughters Sarah, 14, and Hannah, 16

Ms Fowler's leadership qualities have passed on to her nieces, who she said had made her family proud.

"Hannah's following in her mother's footsteps," she said.

"It's certainly bittersweet. We're very proud of what the girls have achieved. It's also heart-wrenching that Allison isn't here to see it."

Hannah Baden-Clay has just finished Year 12 at Ipswich Girls Grammar and will look to study at university next year.

"We're just doing our best to raise them to be strong independent young women and they're doing us very proud," Ms Fowler told The Courier-Mail at yesterday's Pride of Australia ceremony.

Pride of Australia medallists Lex Petersen, Rochelle Courtenary, John Hadok and Vanessa Fowler. Picture: Tara Croser
Pride of Australia medallists Lex Petersen, Rochelle Courtenary, John Hadok and Vanessa Fowler. Picture: Tara Croser

LEX PETERSEN AND PATRICK DRINAN

The Kingaroy residents were recognised for their heroic actions in saving a four-year-old boy from a burning house, which claimed the life of three other people.

Mr Petersen, a retiree, was driving home from a Rotary Club lunch on March 24 when he came across a one-storey house in Kingaroy completely engulfed in flames.

Lex Petersen
Lex Petersen

Sarah Bond, 33, arrived a short time after and could only watch in horror knowing that her son Zach was trapped inside along with Connor, 2, Bruce, 11 months, and their dad, Bruce Fisher Sr, 42.

Mr Petersen was joined by stranger-turned-friend Mr Drinan in trying to break into the house to rescue anybody that they could.

"We tried to get in through the back door but the fire was just too much," he said.

"We had to break in through a window because little Zach (Fisher) was standing there."

The young kid became so terrified at the breaking glass he fled to the next bedroom, where the fire was even more ferocious.

The men had to break the window of that bedroom as well and were able to pull Zach to safety.

Such was the ferocity of the blaze, Zach's two siblings and father were killed inside.

"At least we were able to save one life," Mr Petersen said.

Mr Drinan said reuniting with Zach several months later was an incredible experience.

"To see Zach as well as he was, running around as a five-year-old should, it was mind-boggling," he said.

"If we hadn't have rolled up and done what we'd done, there would have been no way that boy would be running around that park."

ROCHELLE COURTENAY

THE Share The Dignity founder has been recognised for her contribution to society through her incredible initiative.

After going through tough times herself, Ms Courtenay read an online article about the plight of homeless women in Australia.

Rochelle Courtenay
Rochelle Courtenay

She was devastated at the thought women had to go without basic necessities such as pads and tampons, just to buy food to survive.

In March 2015, she started a small collection of sanitary items for her local community.

Today, more than 1.5 million packets of pads and tampons have been donated to those in need.

"Though we've collected so many, we've got nothing left (such is the demand)," she said.

"I don't think we'll ever get to a stage where we're able to store these items.

"Homelessness is such a big issue and we don't talk enough about the basic sanitary needs these people need."

 

JEREMI SIMPSON

The Toowoomba dad was awarded a Pride of Australia medal for stopping a knife-wielding man from robbing a store.

Mr Simpson was doing his weekly shop in Toowoomba when he became an accidental hero.

The young father was shopping with seven-month-old son Kaiden when he noticed the man he had just walked past had a knife.

Jeremi Simpson with son Kaiden
Jeremi Simpson with son Kaiden

Moments later, the man pulled the weapon on a female worker.

"I saw him draw the knife from his side and threaten the young lady behind the counter and demand cash," he said.

Mr Simpson calmly placed his trolley, carrying baby Kaiden, out of harm's way and launched into action.

"Another bloke had nudged him with a trolley, yelling at him," Mr Simpson said.

"That's when I grabbed him from behind, bearhugged him and just dropped him to the ground while the other bloke ran over and

helped restrain him."

The pair detained the man until police arrived, then shook his hand for a job well done.

JOHN HADOK

Cid Harbour shark attack victim Justine Barwick has been reunited with the doctor who helped save her life.

Dr John Hadok, a generalist of emergency medicine, visited Ms Barwick in Tasmania on Thursday - almost three months after she was bitten by a shark on her upper-right leg.

Dr John Hadok, the doctor who treated shark attack victim Justine Barwick
Dr John Hadok, the doctor who treated shark attack victim Justine Barwick

Dr Hadok was awarded a Pride of Australia medal for his quick-thinking and lifesaving efforts in the moments after the attack.

The 46-year-old Tasmanian woman remarkably survived the attack after she suffered "very serious injuries" and life-threatening blood loss.

Dr Hadok yesterday revealed he had flown down to visit Ms Barwick.

"She was really good," he said.

"We realised this wasn't the actions of a hero though. There are everyday miracles from people in the community.

"The award should be for those mundane miracles which occur every single day."

Ms Barwick was one of three shark attack victims at the same spot which resulted in a shark cull and drumlines being installed in the area.

Rain and flash flooding warning issued for Whitsundays

Rain and flash flooding warning issued for Whitsundays

Severe weather warning issued for the Central Coast and Whitsundays.

Concert to fundraise for firies

Concert to fundraise for firies

Proserpine is hosting a fundraising concert tomorrow.

District fires contained

District fires contained

The fires at Bloombury, Andromache and Conway are contained.

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