Raykey, Raymond, Gareth, Gideon, Trixie-Grace, Eli, Zion, father Gary Prior, Amaril and Jeremy together at Hensan Park in Bowen after Gary was announced as Father of the Year for Central and Northern Queensland. Photo Inge Hansen / Whitsunday Coast Guardian.
Raykey, Raymond, Gareth, Gideon, Trixie-Grace, Eli, Zion, father Gary Prior, Amaril and Jeremy together at Hensan Park in Bowen after Gary was announced as Father of the Year for Central and Northern Queensland. Photo Inge Hansen / Whitsunday Coast Guardian. Inge Hansen

Role model dad earns grand title

HE'S a mentor, artist, role model, has seven kids of his own, four fostered and is a father figure to many more. Despite his demanding roles, Gary Prior would not change it for the world.

Last week, the Juru local who lives in Bowen was named 2016 Queensland Father of the Year for the Central and Northern Queensland region.

"My wife was on Facebook and she said 'I'm going to nominate you for Father of the Year' and I just said okay but didn't think anything of it," Mr Prior said.

"It's a big honour and I'm overwhelmed."

It was 2003 when Mr Prior and his wife, Janeen saw four of their nephews and nieces in the Department of Children's Services and decided to take them under their wing.

"I saw them one day, four little boys and girls and I saw the sadness in their eyes and they just wanted to be a family," Mr Prior said.

"I couldn't walk away from them and neither could my wife."

Born and raised in Ingham, the couple moved to Bowen with their 11 children in 2013 and, since then, Mr Prior has been involved in the local community.

With a strong passion for helping young indigenous people, he attends local schools and educates students on their background through art and workshops.

Alongside Mission Australia, he also mentors young indigenous men who have come out of juvenile detention by giving them "food for thought" and teaching them how to "handle situations in society."

When Mr Prior's daughter Trixie-Grace, 7, was asked what the best thing was about her dad, a big smile spread across her face.

"He buys me toys, he gives me McDonald's and he gives me lots of kisses and cuddles," she said.

Despite being named Father of the Year, Mr Prior said he was still just a "normal, humble dad".

"There's lots of indigenous, Torres Strait and South Sea Islander dads out there who've been doing the same thing I've been doing for years," he said.

"In a way, I'd like to share this award with all those guys."

Mr Prior is one of five regional finalists for the statewide Father of the Year award, which will be announced this morning.


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