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The Cairns Historical Society is celebrating Dr Dawn May – Far North Queensland’s long term Volunteer of the Year. The award recognises the enormous contribution Dawn has made to Far North Queensland.


Dawn has been a contributing volunteer – above and beyond the call of duty – for the Cairns Historical Society and the Cairns Museum for the best part of 30 years. Her commitment extends to a number of other heritage bodies who have gained enormously from her generosity and expertise. We at the Society, including the Cairns Museum, have been particular beneficiaries of her knowledge, generosity, organisational skill, eye for detail and willingness to lend a ‘hands-on’ hand – not just tell people how to do things.

Dawn is generous and welcoming to newcomers and willing to share her incredible breadth of knowledge as a former lecturer in history at James Cook University.  In addition to the work she does for the Cairns Historical Society, Dawn has also made an enormous and entirely voluntary contribution to the heritage sector in Far North Queensland: 

  • Secretary of the Far Northern Branch of the National since 1992 & Treasurer to the Townsville Branch of the National Trust Qld, before she came to Cairns in 1987.
  • 2005 to 2008: Member, National Trust of Queensland Regional Heritage Committee (Northern Region). This committee assessed nominations from North Queensland to the Register of the National Trust.
  • 2011-12 Member, Cairns Regional Council/Department of Environment and Heritage Protection –  Heritage Advisory Group
  • Member State-wide Heritage Survey Moderation Committee, Far North Queensland region, 2008-2010
  • She is/was newsletter editor for Cairns and District Historical Car Club
  • Coordinating with Dr Jan Wegner from 2009 onwards annual heritage tours and trips to mark National Heritage Week
  • Attending working bees at the Atherton Chinese Temple
  • Organising and/or working with National Trust heritage surveys at Ingham, Mossman and parts of Cairns eg Shields St
  • Organising and working in photographic surveys of the Cairns CBD every 10 years (we have the photos in the CHS collection – 3 surveys to date);
  • Writing numerous nominations of places to the National Trust register or the Qld Heritage Register


It’s exhausting isn’t it!?

There’s more! 


Dawn has been a volunteer with the Cairns Historical Society since the late 1980s and remains an active volunteer in our photographic department.  She was Vice-President of the Cairns Historical Society from 1989-2001, she then took over as Secretary from 2002 and 2014, then has now also taken on the coordination of the Society’s public lecture series, the distribution of bulletins and newsletters, including the stuffing of envelopes.

She was an active contributor to the redevelopment of the Cairns Museum, including fact checking, proof reading and the research and writing of content.


Congratulations Dawn for your genuine, lived commitment to community service and to Far North Queensland. 

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