BEV Hanley was presented with the prestigious title of South Gippsland Shire Citizen of the Year at the annual Australia Day Awards Ceremony in the Leongatha Memorial Hall last Wednesday.
The shire’s award for Community Event of the Year went to the Mirboo North Italian Festa.
Competition for both awards was fierce, with some very worthy nominations in both categories.
Bev Hanley was up against Deb Collins of Fish Creek, Darlene Jones of Meeniyan, Marg Thomas of Mirboo North, Darren Hardacre of Leongatha, Tony and Andrew Moon of Korumburra, Glenice Griggs of Leongatha, Lorraine Knox of Korumburra and Eric Wang of Mirboo North.
Also in the running for Community Event of the Year were the 2016 South Gippsland Relay for Life at Fish Creek, Leongatha Primary School’s production of ‘Lennie the Legend’, the official opening of the Dumbalk Community Centre and the Meeniyan Garden Walk.
Nominees and their supporters – more than 100 people in total – filled the memorial hall, which was gaily decorated with Australian flags and bunting for the occasion.
The evening began with entertainment from Leongatha duo Jackie V (Jackie Van Velzen) and Paul Foster on guitar and vocals. They then led the singing of the Australian National Anthem.
The shire’s community strengthening manager, Ned Dennis, was master of ceremonies. Alongside him on the stage were seated the mayor, Cr Ray Argento, and deputy mayor Cr Maxine Kiel. The other shire councillors – Aaron Brown, Lorraine Brunt, Meg Edwards, Don Hill, Andrew McEwen, Jeremy Rich and Alyson Skinner – were also in attendance, along with shire CEO Tim Tamlin.
Cr Argento said that the occasion marked the beginning of celebrations for Australia Day, with local celebrations scheduled for various locations across the shire on Australia Day itself. He encouraged people to take the opportunity to appreciate how fortunate they are to live in this beautiful country.
“Congratulations to all the nominees,” he declared. “Your work has not gone unnoticed. And thank you to the nominators who made the effort to get these people recognised.”
Ned Dennis then spoke about the award of Youth Community Contribution. At the recommendation of the youth of South Gippsland, represented by the Youth Council, this is a non-competitive section. This year there was only one nomination – 15-year-old Jasmine Mackie of Meeniyan, an active member of the Meeniyan Branch of the Country Women’s Association of Victoria (CWA) since 2009. She was not able to attend the awards ceremony, and her grandmother, Marilyn Mackie, accepted the award on her behalf.
Mr Dennis then acknowledged the recipient of the South Gippsland Achievement Award for a Person with a Disability, Darren Bone, a longstanding member (and current chair) of the shire’s Access and Inclusion Advisory Committee.
Representatives of the community events nominated for Shire Community Event of the Year were invited up onto the stage and presented with certificates.
Then, much to their delight, representatives of the organising committee behind the Mirboo North Italian Festa were invited back to the stage as their event was announced as the winner.
Organised by an enthusiastic new committee, many of the members of which have Italian heritage, the 2016 Mirboo North Italian Festa was a rebranding of the traditional Feast of St Paul festival, first held in 1966 as a way for the Italian community at Mirboo North to celebrate the faith, customs and traditions of their old homeland in Italy in their new homeland of Australia. Thousands of people attended the event from all over Victoria, as well as interstate and overseas (Italy). Donations were made to local charities and organisations. The 2017 festival will be held on February 12 and promises again to be a fun-filled family festival of food and entertainment.
Rosie Romano and Gina Carpinteri came to the stage to accept the award, laughingly saying they were “Thelma and Louise”. They said that as the children of migrants who had come to Australia with nothing and gained much from their new country, they were delighted that the festival provided an opportunity to give back to the community. They said the committee had taken a little festival and built it up to something that the whole region could enjoy.
Mr Dennis then introduced each of the people nominated for Shire Citizen of the Year and read out their lists of achievements – quite long in many cases.
The mayor announced that the winner of the prestigious award was Bev Hanley.
Mrs Hanley has contributed to the Dumbalk community for many years, through the Progress Association, community centre, Ladies Auxiliary, as a thoughtful, friendly neighbour and in many other ways. She has been actively involved in the Dumbalk and district community her whole life. Her interests, passions and support have involved a variety of organisations, clubs and groups including local sporting clubs, the former Dumbalk Kindergarten, Dumbalk Hall, training teenagers for the Debutante Ball, Secretary of the Dumbalk and District Progress Association, Relay for Life committee member, a member of the Back to Dumbalk 2008, an organiser of the Dumbalk Village Market, Dumbalk Newsletter and member of the Leongatha Secondary College Reunion Committee.
Bev, and husband Ed, have been the driving force behind keeping the former Dumbalk Kindergarten/Infant Welfare Centre building open. It is envisaged the refurbished building will provide long awaited medical services to the town.
Mrs Hanley said she was thrilled to win the award. She congratulated her fellow nominees, saying: “You’re all volunteers and you do a wonderful job.”
“As volunteers, we enjoy what we do, but it is especially enjoyable when our hard work comes to fruition.”
Mrs Hanley thanked Toine Bovill for nominating her and thanked the people who supported the nomination. She added that she believed that it was a team award, as she had always had the support of great people. She thanked the judging panel, her family, the South Gippsland Shire and especially her husband Ed for his support. “He is the driving force behind everything we’ve done. It is always a joint effort,” she said.
Mr Dennis wound up the formal proceedings by noting proudly that according to the Census South Gippsland has one of the highest rates of voluntarism in Australia.
The evening concluded with a light supper for all in attendance, while guests mingled and congratulated the well-deserving nominees and award winners.