WARATAH Bay legend Joan Newman was the guest of honour at a morning tea hosted by South Gippsland Shire Council in Leongatha on Tuesday March 29. 2022 to mark her 2021 Council on The Ageing (COTA) Victoria Senior Achiever Award.
Accompanied by neighbours and friends from Waratah Bay, Fish Creek, Buffalo, and Foster, Joan was formally welcomed into the council chamber by COTA chief executive officer Tina Hogarth-Clarke and her staff.
South Gippsland’s Mayor Mohya Davies, Cr John Schelling, Shire CEO Kerryn Ellis, and several senior council staff members were also present to acknowledge Joan’s award that had been officially announced last November.
COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have forced COTA Victoria to postpone the 2021 Senior of the Year Awards’ presentation ceremony at least once so far, which ordinarily is a special event held each year at Government House in Melbourne.
“Unfortunately I haven’t got your actual Senior Achiever Award trophy here for you today,” Tina told Joan.
“Hopefully, the trophy will be presented to you at Government House soon, but in the meantime, we’ve gathered in Leongatha to celebrate your award and to offer you our congratulations,” she said.
“It’s fabulous to be face-to-face again; this is one of the first events that I’ve been able to attend in person for a long time,” Tina said.
“COTA Victoria has been going since 1951, so last year was the organisation’s 70th birthday, which is a real milestone in a long tradition of working with older Victorians and finding and creating opportunities for them to age well.
“We work with all levels of government; local, state and federal, to promote all positive aspects of ageing,” she said.
“Surveys seeking to understand the challenges of ageing have identified eight attributes that can support ageing well, including maintaining a positive attitude, having purpose and meaning in your life, and being socially connected.
“Keeping in touch with the changing world, feeling safe in your home, being financially secure, being in charge of your health and decision-making, and being able to get around are required, too, to age well, and to live and love life,” Tina said.
“You may have heard the expression that it takes a village to help parents raise young children, and I believe a village is required for all people, for which the modern term is ‘community”.
Tina noted that people in Leongatha and, by extension, South Gippsland, were “particularly blessed to be living in such a supportive community, as evidenced by Joan and the work she does in and for her community.
“The COTA Victoria Senior of the Year Awards recognise the contributions people like Joan make to their communities,” she said.
“Even right in her 90s, she is still energised and willing to give her time and support to her village.”
Joan was nominated for her Senior Achiever Award by Marge Arnup and her son Drew, supported by Nadia Stefani, and by Dr David Iser.
Tina read the award’s citation to the guests at the morning tea, which was based on the application the Arnups submitted to COTA Victoria on Joan’s behalf.
“Joan Newman is a very active member of the Waratah Bay community, respected in particular for organising the annual Easter community event Charlie Brown’s Family Fun Day,” the citation reads.
“This event is a celebration of what community is all about. Joan oversees everything – insurance, sponsors, catering, music, publicity and engaging volunteers to present beach activities, sports and treasure hunts – the whole shebang.
“In daily life Joan is a Fish Creek Op Shop volunteer, she knits children’s jumpers and toys for donation to charity, works on the annual Cancer Daffodil Day stall and Biggest Morning Tea, and looks out for her neighbours, delivering meals and support when they are unwell or need a chat.
“And at 93 she is still getting up at 4 am in the morning to bake dozens of her famous chocolate eclairs for weddings and other local celebrations,” the citation said.
“Joan is inspirational because her age does not get in the way of what she does. When life has thrown her curve balls she tosses them right back.”
Mayor Mohya Davies described Joan as “a wonderful member of the Waratah Bay and the broader South Gippsland community.
“You’d reckon that at 93, Joan would be happy to slow down, but she most certainly is not, for which I’m very glad because Charlie Brown’s Picnic is one of my favourite events!” she said.
“Joan exemplifies everything we all need to do as we get older, and South Gippsland Shire Council is delighted to celebrate her Senior Achiever Award together with COTA Victoria and members of her own community.”
Joan thanked COTA Victoria and the Shire before stating quite clearly that “it’s the Waratah Bay people who have put me where I am just now.
“Charlie Brown’s Day began 10 or 11 years ago, run by the best possible team of volunteers,” she said.
“It all starts before dawn with Lindsay Williams and his helpers marking out the sandcastle competition area on the beach and hiding the Easter eggs Anne Williams always donates in the sand-dunes.
“Butch Prain comes out from Foster first thing on Easter Saturday to put up his marquee on the Village Green at Waratah Bay in readiness for our live music performers, continuing an idea suggested very early on in the piece by our chief note-taker photographer Trudi Prue,” Joan said.
“The Fish Creek Scouts come along and set up their their sausage sizzle; Kath Vagg, Nell Zannit and Barb Sauvarin prepare the strawberries and cream, Ken Vagg and Drew Arnup get ready for their respective roles as race steward and starter, and Marge Arnup is always there in charge of the entries table.
“We receive a lot of support and donations from local businesses as well as from individuals on the day, everyone does their bit and we all have a lot of fun,” she said.
“The Fish Creek Op Shop’s Nadia Stefani and Dot Christie always provide me with welcoming smiles and a cup of coffee every Saturday morning, and Dr Iser is a marvellous friend and support, too,” Joan said.
“This award is really for all of you people, not me.”