Kim Stokes – Queensland Community Achievement Awards Semi-Finalist

Listen to the Kim Stokes interview PODCAST

Public speaker, MC, voice artist, media marketing & engagement adviser, community advocate, and mentor, Kim Stokes has been nominated for the 2019 Queensland Community Achievement Awards.

According to their Facebook page: “The Australia Pacific LNG Community Hero Award acknowledges those individuals making a significant contribution at a local level in Queensland.

“These are selfless people who, through their actions, have positively impacted the lives of others and their community.”

In response to being named a finalist, Kim Stokes explained what it meant to her.

“Oh, you’re really going to get to probably the depths of my soul with that question,” Kim Stokes said in the podcast interview above.

“And I always try and be as authentic as I can be, and I’ve got to be true to myself in answering that, and I will share.

“The last five years of my life I lost my mum to lung cancer…

“…and that was a long and difficult journey.

“She and I were the closest of close.

“Within four months after that my niece, who had come to one of the Business Disability Awards as my guest, she was killed in a car accident on the way home from those awards.

“My dad passed away the next year from an undetected duodenal ulcer which burst, and I lost two other friends as well.

“And I’ve got to be honest, and say I didn’t know that I was going to come back from those things.

“I lost a lot of joy in my life, and it was real hard.

“So, to be nominated for an award like this, for me, it’s like what I was saying before, it is such an honour to know that people see who you are, and what you’re trying to do, and who you’re trying to be in your life.

“And it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, the fact that you’ve been recognised in that way, that’s the win,” Kim Stokes concluded.

Winners of the Australia Pacific LNG Community Hero Award will be announced at the Awards Gala Presentation Dinner – on Friday, 29 November 2019.

Read the Kim Stokes interview TRANSCRIPT

McCarthy-Wood: Thank you for your company. I’m Andrew McCarthy-Wood. Look, we have Kim Stokes. She’s a speaker, presenter, MC, voice artist, media marketing and engagement advisor, community advocate and mentor, does a whole lot in the community, particularly up through the Toowoomba region, but much, much wider and broader than that. Gets involved in not just communities but also causes within communities. Now, to have a chat with Kim Stokes we have Daryl Nicholson. He’s an advocate for Toowoomba. He’s on the line. Daryl, how are you going?

Daryl Nicholson: Oh, good morning, mate. Thank you, and yeah, going really well. Happy and joyful, actually. They’ll put that on my grave stone when I die, “He was happy and joyful.”

McCarthy-Wood: Now, Kim Stokes, you’re on the line as well. How are you going?

Kim Stokes: Oh Andrew, I’m very well. Thank you for that lovely introduction. You forgot to add in there ‘crap housewife’ though.

McCarthy-Wood: Well-

Kim Stokes: I’m not so good in the domestic duties, let me assure you.

McCarthy-Wood: Well, when you look at all of the other things that you’re busy doing, I think that gives you a free hall pass, doesn’t it?

Kim Stokes: Oh no, no. And if you met my husband, he’s so lovely and grounding. He is honestly my rock. I feel like he’s always the one that should get the best of me. Does that make sense?

Daryl Nicholson: It does.

McCarthy-Wood: Well, I think the community quite often demands the best of you as well, by the sounds of it. Daryl, you have known Kim for quite some time.

Daryl Nicholson: Yeah, we go back, probably, I’m talking 12 maybe 15 years, and we’ve just recently caught back up again after a of bit of time apart and, Kim, good morning. Welcome along. I haven’t welcomed you.

Kim Stokes: Good morning. You should remind Andrew and our listeners though, it wasn’t a bad breakup, it was nothing like that.

Daryl Nicholson: No, no, no, that’s right. No, it wasn’t a breakup.

Kim Stokes: No one got the fridge and the… No, it was nothing like that. Sorry.

Daryl Nicholson: But Andrew, that was a beautiful opening, I do appreciate that. And you’ve taken most of my notes here. So, what I’m going to start with, Kim reached out to me in about February. I was probably going through a little bit of depression, and I think she saw that with myself. And, yeah, we got together in early June, and Kim was doing The Bus Ride of a Lifetime. Now, I want to talk to you about disability, and Kim’s the big advocate for disability. And disability is not what you can’t do, but what you can do. So, Kim, tell us about your passion about disability work and that Bus Trip of a Lifetime with Help Enterprises?

Kim Stokes: I should start off by saying in that, Daryl, and acknowledging Andrew, Daryl was fundamental in that activity becoming a success, and I’m so incredibly grateful for that. The connection to disability really does go back a long way in that I’ve had a lot of people in my family who have had, I’m going to say, visible or notable disabilities or experience with disability. But I’d probably go out on a limb here and say that I think that all of us have disabilities. We all have things that we can’t do.
But seeing my dad, for example, my dad’s brother, he was born deaf, and he ended up marrying a very beautiful woman who was also deaf. They have three children who are all adults now with no disabilities, but they weren’t able to speak or hear, and the things that they achieved in their lives were incredible to me. And the communication, and love, and people that they became, right from a very young age I very much tuned into that and thought, “Well, why do people treat people differently just because they’re not the same?” And that has always been a bit of a social justice stickler for me. I’m not suggesting that there should be an entitlement attitude in the world, but I think we should just get more into this focus of… It’s like I wouldn’t come to you and say, “Hey Daryl, I’m thinking about doing the… What is it? The Bridge to Brisbane?”

McCarthy-Wood: Oh, the Bridge to Brisbane. Oh, yeah.

Daryl Nicholson: Yeah, yeah.

Kim Stokes: I can’t run. I mean, look at me. I can’t run. I am not a runner.

Daryl Nicholson: Yes, yes.

Kim Stokes: I wouldn’t say that. I’m sure if I wanted to have a go you’d say, “Okay, great, we’ll have a go.” But my point is: ask me what I can do. And so-

McCarthy-Wood: Yeah, Kim, just along those lines is that you mentioned, rather than looking at it as a disability, maybe looking at it as different abilities and not the handout mentality, but is it more about enabling?

Kim Stokes: Oh, absolutely. And the thing is, I can think of a lady that I’ve only just spoken with recently. She is in a wheelchair. She lives with MS. She’s incredibly intelligent. She’s got three or four degrees, a master’s, I think, in two. And the work it has taken her just to get job interviews is insane. And I think why is that? Just because we can’t recognise what she brings to the table and how that can benefit an organisation or a business, because we’re looking through the wrong lenses, I think, most of the time.

McCarthy-Wood: Yeah. Yeah. So, when you get involved in the causes that you do and you take that approach of enabling, what are some of the results that you see?

Kim Stokes: I think one of the cool things even that I experienced, when I was very young and I got into radio, and I was writing at this stage, I’d already worked in GP and I’d got a transfer down to 4OK in Toowoomba. I was writing at that stage, and there was a very senior, highly accomplished announcer who I’d written the script for. And, seriously, I had no idea what I was doing. Anyway, we went into the production studio and he said, “Who wrote this?” and I’ll leave out the last few bits of the sentence. And I remember being very proud at the age of 19 and put my hand up and said, “Well, I did.” And he said to me, “Oh, it’s garbage.”

McCarthy-Wood: Oh, no.

Kim Stokes: “It’s 45 seconds long, it should be 30 seconds.” But here was the beauty in this, there was this amazing woman who I’m still connected to today, Sharon [inaudible 00:06:10], who was in sales at the time, who came to me and said, “Do you know what? You’ve got this. You can do this.” And that has always been an inspiration to me, as so many other people are, to be able to look at people and say, “I see you.”
And that’s what drives me, like Daryl just mentioned before about when we reconnected, I just saw a man that maybe in there, I just knew there was so much talent, so much community spirit, so much leadership, so much potential. And it’s like, “How can I help get that out, so other people can see what I see?” And I honestly just find so much of the time that I come across people, whether I’m doing mentoring or whatever it is, and I go, “Do you know what? I get you. I get who’s in there. I’ve just got to help you get it out.”
And so, that enabling is not an entitlement. It’s a, “You know what? The world is missing out because you,” as an example, Daryl, or you Andrew, “are not living your passion or feeling like you’ve got the permission to live your passion, or being encouraged to live your passion,” and that’s not right. We all want to be seen.

McCarthy-Wood: Yeah, look Daryl, I know you’re usually taking a role with these conversations as one of the interviewers, but if I can just ask you, just because of the way this conversation’s come about, how much more have you been able to give to the community because of your contact with or the reconnection with Kim and what she’d been saying?

Daryl Nicholson: Well, mate, the first six months of this year I got behind the camera, and I was just afraid to get back in front of it. And when Kim and I connected back in, it was like May, early June, Kim just got me to just see that there is some great stuff in what I do. And, mate, I went home and I watched two to three hours of all my YouTube stuff to see what I was doing, and I got myself back in front of the camera.
And on the 10th of June, it was my birthday, we went on the Bus Trip of a Lifetime, and it was. We went down to Help Enterprises and had a look at the work that that organisation is doing to show people what they can do. They’ve got disabilities, but what they can do. And it just breathed some fresh air back into me, and I’m just feeling much more alive since the 10th of June this year. It’s just been amazing, and I really do want to thank Kim for giving me that self confidence again and to get me back there. So, it’s been amazing, and it’s been an amazing ride coming into the end of this year, so looking forward to 2020.
Kim, just I want to come back to you, not me, but later this month, the Queensland Community Achievement Awards, you’ve been nominated for that. And I’m so proud of you for doing that. What does that mean to you to be recognised in that way?

Kim Stokes: Oh, you’re really going to get to probably the depths of my soul with that question. And I always try and be as authentic as I can be, and I’ve got to be true to myself in answering that, and I will share. The last five years of my life I lost my mom to lung cancer-

McCarthy-Wood: Oh, dear.

Kim Stokes: … and that was a long and difficult journey. She and I were the closest of close. Within four months after that my niece, who had come to one of the Business Disability Awards as my guest, she was killed in a car accident on the way home from those awards.

McCarthy-Wood: Oh, gee.

Kim Stokes: My dad passed away the next year from an undetected duodenal ulcer which burst, and I lost two other friends as well. And I’ve got to be honest and say I didn’t know that I was going to come back from those things.

Daryl Nicholson: Yeah, I understand that.

Kim Stokes: I lost a lot of joy in my life, and it was real hard. So, to be nominated for an award like this, for me, it’s like what I was saying before, it is such an honour to know that people see who you are, and what you’re trying to do, and who you’re trying to be in your life. And it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, the fact that you’ve been recognised in that way, that’s the win. Because what that said to me was, “You’re back on track. You can keep going.”
And, again, we have people all around us at the time. We’ve got only got to look at the drought. We only have to look at the devastation of the fires that we’ve been hearing about in these last number of weeks, particularly. There’s courage all around us.

Daryl Nicholson: There is, yeah.

Kim Stokes: But I say to people all the time, “I love that word, encourage, but I also know the word in courage as in I-N,” and it took me to be in courage in order to even get to where I am again today. And Daryl, it means so much to me to hear you say the impact that I’ve had in your life because that makes me go, “There’s still more to do. There’s more to live for. There’s more purpose in your life.” And I’ve really had to find a new normal in many ways as we all go through experiences that are tough and life changes. And I’m not going to lie, that’s been hard.
So to have a really good friend, and I didn’t know that I was being nominated, and the person who nominated me, I would say she’s one of those people that I hold such high levels of esteem and respect for and that says as much about her, to me personally, than what it says about me. You know what I’m saying?

Daryl Nicholson: Yes.

Kim Stokes: To be able to recognise in others. That’s her saying, just like I say to you, “Oh, Kim. I see you. I know what this has taken to keep going.”

McCarthy-Wood: Yeah. Kim, you’ve mentioned, just in what you were saying there that, and rightly so, right now Australia is going through some challenges, the Eastern seaboard and out through the rural areas. Daryl and I have seen it, unfortunately, firsthand. There’s been fires. There’s been drought. Then we had big hailstorms that went through the Sunshine Coast. But there’s been four people that have lost their lives through the fires. Just with all your experience in mind, what would you say to somebody right now who just think there’s no future?

Kim Stokes: Oh, wow.

McCarthy-Wood: A big question. Sorry.

Daryl Nicholson: Yeah, that’s a big question.

Kim Stokes: It is a big question.

Daryl Nicholson: Yeah.

Kim Stokes: It is a big question. Oh look, I can’t begin to understand their experience. And I think a lot of the time in life one of the mistakes we make is we say to people, “I understand,” when we don’t. I think I would want to say that, “As best I can I understand what pain and suffering is like,” maybe a lot of different levels. But I think the other thing that I would say to them is, “Please reach out.”
Because there’s so many of us, are there not, in life that we go, “I just want to be asked. I just want to be asked, can I do something? Can I help? Can I be of service? What can I do?” that often people don’t know how to ask. And I think that as a community we need to strive more towards kindness and gratitude. And I would just encourage those people to just stand up, put their hand up and say, “Hey, I need help.”

McCarthy-Wood: Yeah. Kim Stokes, can I take this, and sorry Daryl, I sensed that you might want to ask a question there, but if I can now just really look at your philanthropic efforts. Can you take us through some of the organisations, because you’re involved in quite a few organisations, whether it be through the MC efforts or some of the behind the scenes stuff, and just tell us what’s going on in the community?

Kim Stokes: Oh well, there’s a lot of different groups that I have the privilege to sit alongside and I try and contribute to. I mean, one of the ones that I am the most passionate about is the Business Disability Awards, which I mentioned before. Paul Wilson, David Wallis and I founded those in 2012, and that was on the back of Paul who has a beautiful daughter, Jasmine, who lives with Down Syndrome. And that came about because his vision was that when Jazzy got older that she’d be able to get a job. And so, more people had to understand, like we were speaking about earlier: what can she do? And so, that’s how it began, to bring community together to acknowledge and also recognise those businesses who were working within our communities like Toowoomba to actually do something, to have a more diversified and inclusive workforce. Now it’s several years on. Those awards, next year, will not only be in Toowoomba, but we’re also branching them out into the greater Brisbane region. In Toowoomba alone last year there were 55 sponsors, I think it was-

McCarthy-Wood: Wow.

Kim Stokes: … and I don’t for a moment suggest that all of that work and the success has come from my efforts. But certainly a lot of the time what I feel very proud about being able to do is I’ll be someone that’s involved at a concept stage to get that through to completion. So, definitely, I’m very passionate about disability.
I’m a director of Inclusion Access, which is something about making all of our places more accessible. It’s a new project that has only been going about 12 months with Josh Marshall and Liz Schneidewin. I’m part of the regional Access Disability Advisory Committee to the Toowoomba Regional Council. I’m a director of In Sight of Dreams, which is a charitable organisation that was started by Ben Felten. Ben Felten resides in Sydney, and he’s the world’s fastest blind motorcycle rider.

McCarthy-Wood: Yeah.

Kim Stokes: I did say that correctly.

Daryl Nicholson: Yeah, yeah, that’s correct.

Kim Stokes: And he’s got a number of other accolades and achievements to his name. I’m on the newly-formed committee for Butterfly Hands, which is about deaf ‘can do’. Look, I’m next year going to be doing more and more in chaplaincy and specifically in the Brisbane region-

McCarthy-Wood: Oh, good.

Kim Stokes: … about supporting chaplaincy in schools with fundraising. And I’ll be doing a lot of MC-ing there, but also orchestrating event management and that type of thing. There’s many other organisations. Yeah. Honestly it’s, Andrew, for me, if I really feel a calling and a connect and someone says, “Hey, I think we’re a good fit,” I don’t ever try and come along and say, “Hey, I’m the right person for you.” An organisation or a person knows what they need, and I like them to be in charge and to have control and respect of what that is. But I will put my hand up to do as much as I can, and particularly as far as keynote speaking, I love doing that, mentoring women, anything to do with use. I don’t know. Have I answered that correctly?

McCarthy-Wood: Yeah.

Daryl Nicholson: Yes.

Kim Stokes: Oh, good.

McCarthy-Wood: Kim Stokes, you mentioned that you put your hand up to do as much as you can, and that takes effort. That also takes resources. Now, you have a business, Kim Stokes Communications. I would imagine that that would enable you to do some of this sort of stuff. Media marketing engagement, what sort of businesses do you like to align yourself with and work with?

Kim Stokes: Well, I’m probably going to answer this a little bit differently because my husband and I have a little joke sometimes where he says, “Honey, is this another pro bono?” And I say, “Yeah, it’s another pro bono. Wait till I tell you how amazing these people are!” So, I don’t work my way around that way. I don’t want to be, and I’m not making any judgement on other people, but I’m just saying for me, I could not be true to myself if it was, “Well, when I get this amount of money, or resources, or whatever, then I’ll do something.” I’ve just not ever been that person, and I don’t think I’m geared that way. I’ll always be more probably on the philanthropic side. That’s just who I am.
But look, I’ve done a lot, as you know, in radio and different parts of media and things like that. And it really is, I have to say, I’m always open to evolution because one thing I’ll say to people in business is, “Please, don’t do things for the sake of tradition.” “Oh, this is the way we’ve always done it.” No, you have to be aware of: what is the market telling us? What are our customers telling us? What’s our audience telling us of what they want or how the world’s evolved or grown? And you’ve got to be receptive to that.
So, I’m the same as far as with where I invest my energy and time. If it’s something that I might have a skillset at but I go, “You know what? I just don’t feel like I’ve got a calling to put energy and effort into that right now,” then I will listen to myself. I think you do have to be able to back yourself and trust yourself. But yes, in there, you’ve got to earn a few dollars. And I’m very fortunate, like for example, this year I was invited to MC the Access Conference, which is all about disability in Sydney. And that was one where they had a wonderful array of keynote speakers who blew my mind. How blessed was I to walk in that room, because I’m going, “Oh, my goodness. I’m being paid to be here, and I am learning from some of the most amazing people in the country.” And I’m so grateful for that because I love walking in a room and going, “I know what I know, but I don’t know what you know. And that’s what I can learn.”
So yeah, in between more, look, I love to do keynotes, and I love to do MC-ing. Yes, I do some stuff on brand development and whatnot, but again, the whole point of this interview for me is not to focus on that stuff, but to focus on, “Okay, what can we do more of?” I’m so grateful that early next term I’ve been invited to do a couple of speeches at a few schools about service. And I’m so grateful for that. When I was in year 11 I was actually awarded an award, which is called Instructor of the Year, and it was promoting a book. I was supported by [inaudible 00:20:58]. That was such a significant thing for me to learn how, when you’re ready to just give… You know what? If you want to call it karma, if you want, I don’t know, you can call it whatever you want, but I think you reap what you sow.

Daryl Nicholson: Yep.

Kim Stokes: I’ve had so many, honestly, but one thing I will say to you, even with what I’ve done in radio and all that, can I tell you? I’ve had some of the most brilliant people, not only around me as far as directing me or producing me, but I’ve had some of the most brilliant partnerships you could ever wish for. So much of what I have learned in life, it’s not because, wow, I was amazing, it’s because I had some great teachers, and I always want to be a student.

Daryl Nicholson: And that’s the beautiful thing with Kim, Andrew. She loves celebrating, and she loves collaboration, and there’s a really honest soul in there and such a beautiful person.

McCarthy-Wood: Yeah, that sounds great. Kim Stokes, thank you very much for your time with our listeners.

Kim Stokes: You’re welcome. And I just want to finish by saying that this is a great platform and an opportunity for people to get to know people more, because it’s funny how Daryl and I talk all the time, and he will say, “You know what? I didn’t know that about that person.”

Daryl Nicholson: That’s right.

Kim Stokes: So, what I want to encourage people to know from this interview is that if anything I said made any sense, maybe it was just when I was talking about that I like chai lattes, I don’t know, and you want to reach out, and you want support, and there’s something I can do to be there for your cause, please do so. I’ll give it my best, and hopefully we can achieve some things together.

Daryl Nicholson: Excellent.

McCarthy-Wood: You’ve just heard from Kim Stokes. You can find out more about her by heading to Also, Daryl Nicholson, Toowoomba advocate, what’s your tagline, mate?

Daryl Nicholson: Toowoomba 4350 TV, it’s more than just the postcode. We’re all about community.

By Andrew McCarthy-Wood

News Videographer/Photographer/Journalist and Media/Communications Consultant.