VNQ rolls out the red carpet for Volunteers

Individuals and leaders who enrich our Northern Queensland communities through their volunteer groups and activities in Townsville, Burdekin, Charters Towers, Hinchinbrook, Palm Island and the Overlander’s Way were celebrated at the 2022 VNQ Awards on Saturday 28th May.

220 guests enjoyed dinner, dancing and entertainment along with the all-important announcement of the awards finalists and recipients of the six volunteer awards categories.

The awards were decided by an independent selection panel that had their work cut out for them narrowing down the hundreds of nominations received to three finalists for each category and from there to the recipient of each award.

Congratulations to the following recipients of the awards.

Volunteer of the Year Award – Anthony “Tonka” Toholke
Anthony is passionate about community and will help any organisation that needs a hand. He has raised more than $150,000 for men’s mental health and more than $25,000 for palliative care in Mount Isa. 

The many organisations that benefit from Anthony’s volunteering include:
• Mount Isa international Men’s Day
• Mount Isa Apex
• Mount Isa Hockey
• Isa Rodeo
• Cloncurry Shire Council
• Bedourie Sports Club
• Mount Isa Show
• Royal Flying Doctor Fundraising Ball, Mt Isa
• Women in Mining Conference in Mt Isa, helping them at the Breast Cancer Fundraising Dinner

Youth Volunteer of the Year Award – Keely Johnson
Keely is the founder of the Golden Octopus charity and works tirelessly helping children with cancer and their families.

Keely has raised over $1million for different charities, and now her own charity. Diagnosed with childhood cancer at 13, Keely started making jewellery from her hospital bed to raise money for other families.

Despite her ongoing health issues, and whilst working as an Assistant in Nursing, Keely who has a beautiful voice, is a well-known music artist and has recently launched her album “Dance Like An Animal” which has spent time at No. 1 on the ARIA Top 20 Australian Country Albums. She also gives her heart and does presentations at fundraisers to help families dealing with cancer locally, and all across Australia.

Lifetime Contribution to Volunteering Award – Ann Dunn
A volunteer since 1963, Ann is currently Treasurer for three different organisations as well as Canteen Convener for the Charters Towers Touch Association. Ann also volunteers with the Charters Towers Cancer Branch, Charters Towers Lions Club and the Visitor Information Centre.

Ann lives for volunteering and never says no to anyone who needs a hand and in a small regional area, this is often.

Excellence in Volunteer Management Award – Angela Atkinson
Angela Atkinson is the Founder and Director of Townsville Foster and Rehoming Animals (TFRA). Angela saw a need for a group, different to those already offering similar services, to be developed in Townsville to assist with rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming vulnerable animals within the community. Foster carers act as a temporary, loving family for these animals before they are adopted into their forever family.

As the heart and soul of the organisation, Angela directs a group of roughly 90 volunteers.

Volunteering Impact Award – Kennedy Region Scouts

Kennedy Region Scouts provides fun youth development activities, building resilient and confident children, adolescents, and young adults in the Joey Scout, Cub Scout, Scout, Venturer Scout and Rover Scout sections. Youth members’ ages range from 5 to 26 years old.

Outside of the development of its youth and volunteer Leaders, Scouts from the Region participate in and support a number of community events and activities such as
• Clean Up Australia Day
• Landcare Activities
• Italian Festival
• Cultural Fest
• Towers Rush

Corporate Volunteering Award – Energy Queensland (Ergon Energy)
Energy Queensland’s Corporate Volunteering Program, provides staff with two days of paid volunteering leave each year. The program is available to more than 7400 staff, and covers every community from the Cardwell Range, to Bowen and out beyond Mount Isa.

Staff can volunteer as a team or individual staff members can do their own volunteering activity, ensuring that each volunteer activity is meaningful to the staff and benefits the communities.

Staff have contributed thousands of hours volunteering and fundraising for hundreds of charities and community organisations all across North Queensland.

Find out more about the awards and the amazing sponsors who supported each category at and check out the photos of the Awards Night, the VNQ Conference and the Civic Reception hosted by Townsville City Council at

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