Buderim Educator Named 2020 Queensland’s Australian of the Year

Rachel Downie, a social entrepreneur and educator from Buderim, has been named Queensland’s Australian of the Year for 2020. She got the recognition, along with three other Queenslanders who will join the national awards ceremony in Canberra.

Ms Downie founded Stymie, an anonymous online reporting system that enables children experiencing bullying or other mental health challenges to seek support. Following a student’s death by suicide, Ms Downie decided she needed to find a way to support young people to say something when things are not right.

“After this boy died, the students came forward with what we believed was life-saving information. They told us he was bullied and excluded, that he was experiencing family violence and that he had been talking about not wanting to be ‘here’ anymore,” Ms Downie said. 

She said the boy was too frightened to tell them what was happening despite checking in with him every day. “I know that if we had the details of this harm, we could have helped him,” she said.

Ms Downie with the Stymie team (Photo Credit: Stymie/Facebook)

Stymie (old word for stop) works with school communities both nationally and internationally, to connect students with their empathy and conscience so that they can, in an empowered and courageous way, enhance or change the culture of care in their school.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk commended Ms Downie for making a stand against bullying, which is a significant national problem. The latest survey revealed three in five students have experienced bullying. 

“Last year she spoke to more than 83,000 students about creating a culture of care in their schools, conducting workshops with students, staff and parents covering topics such as eSafety, cyberwellness, personal safety and boundaries,” said in a media statement

Australian of the Year Awards 

The Australian of the Year Awards is a program of the National Australia Day Council, managed in Queensland by the Queensland Government. The other recipients of the award are:

  • Peter Dornan AM (Toowong) – 2020 QLD Senior Australian of the Year
  • Ashleigh Barty (Springfield) –  2020 QLD Young Australian of the Year 
  • Adjunct Assistant Professor Nick Marshall (Mermaid Waters) – 2020 QLD Local Hero

Ms Downie, along with three other Queensland recipients will be joining those from the other states and territories for the national awards ceremony at the National Arboretum in Canberra on 25 January 2020.