STONY Creek dairy farmer Fay Sinclair is the 2011 South Gippsland Shire Citizen of the Year.
The announcement was made at a gala awards ceremony in the Leongatha Memorial Hall last Wednesday evening.
Fittingly for this Australia Day Awards Ceremony, the hall was quite a spectacle, decked out with clusters of red, white and blue balloons, a huge Australian flag draped across the back of the stage. A giant screen showed the various award nominees in action, as well as scenes of South Gippsland, including several that had been entries in the shire’s recent photography competition.
The shire’s Community Strengthening Coordinator, Ned Dennis was MC for the evening.
He pointed out to the assembled throng, who numbered about 100, what a great honour it is to be nominated for Citizen of the Year. He said that such people are often modest about their achievements, but they are looked up to as role models in their communities.
Mr Dennis said that South Gippsland Shire has a relatively small population spread across 28 mostly small communities, but among these were many people working hard for their community, and these awards were a way of showing appreciation for those people. He thanked the community members who had taken the trouble to prepare nominations of people they considered noteworthy.
The first award announced on the night was for the South Gippsland Shire Community Event of the Year.
Mr Dennis invited a representative of the 2010 Event of the Year, Mr Paul Griffiths of the Tour de Tarwin, to present certificates to the nominees. These included the Hills Cluster ACMI Film Premiere, the Korumburra Agricultural Show and Lyrebird Arts Council Meeniyan Carnivale.
South Gippsland Shire Mayor Warren Raabe then announced the 2011 Community Event of the Year to be the Lyrebird Arts Council Meeniyan Carnivale.
This was a three-day event organised by the Lyrebird Arts Council to celebrate their tenth anniversary, and to celebrate their history of consistently bringing highly acclaimed artists to perform in Meeniyan Hall.
The president of Lyrebird Arts Council, John Fowler, proudly accepted the award.
There was no question who was Young Citizen of the Year, as there was only one nomination. Eliza Attenborough is clearly, however, a very worthy Young Citizen. She was nominated by Poowoong CCC Inc, who explained that through her involvement in her local netball and basketball clubs, school and cattle exhibiting, Eliza has demonstrated natural leadership qualities and wisdom beyond her years. Her support of her clubs ranges from umpiring, coaching and fundraising to waitressing, bookwork and cleaning. She is an active member of the South Gippsland Dairy Youth Group. Currently in her first year of nursing at Ballarat, she still finds time to help out on the family farm.
Eliza was unfortunately unable to be at the awards ceremony, but her parents Annie and Ted accepted the award on her behalf.
There was a musical interlude before the Citizen of the Year was announced. Vocal trio ‘Real Women’ (Tarnya Wilson, Sue Cullen and Debbie Paul) entertained the crowd with some classic Australian songs – ‘Great Southern Land’, an a capella song by Ruby Hunter called ‘Welcome to all people’ and a beautiful rendition of ‘Waltzing Matilda.’
Then it was time for the big announcement.
Fay Sinclair was among five worthy nominees for South Gippsland Shire Citizen of the Year. The others were: Karen Anton, a shining star in the Mirboo North community who spearheaded the recent establishment of its community bank, CFA captain and hero Mick Dorling from Fish Creek, tireless charity worker and toymaker Ben Stephenson from Toora and Leongatha Youth Clinic founder Anna Close-Mewitt.
The 2010 Citizen of the Year, Foster GP David Iser, was called upon to present certificates to each of them, before the award was presented to Fay Sinclair.
Fay was nominated by the Meeniyan Progress Association.
A dairy farmer who milks 240 cows morning and night, she has been on the South Gippsland Netball Association Committee for 30 years, the Meeniyan Recreation Reserve’s for 24, and in the process of raising four energetic sons with her husband Daryl, has been actively involved in Cubs, Scouts, school committees, the MDU Football Club, Young Farmers and Landcare. She also coaches and umpires netball, teaches cake decorating to Grade 6 students voluntarily and works in the local kindergarten one day a week.
In her acceptance speech she thanked the Meeniyan Progress Association for nominating her.
“I’m truly honoured to be here,” she said. “I’m sure I speak for the other nominees when I say that we don’t do the work that we do for an award at the end. We do it for the community and for our children and the children to come.”
Australia Day Coordinator Jeannie Hicks then unveiled the honour board which now bears the 2011 names.
“It is inspiring to learn of the contributions so many people in our community make,” she commented later. “Most of the nominees are nonplussed about their activities, just shrugging it off as though everyone does it. And perhaps that’s the magic of South Gippsland, that so many do ‘do it’, and I encourage everyone to make an effort this year to acknowledge ‘ordinary people doing extraordinary things’ through avenues such as the Australia Day Awards.”
Dr Iser said he had enjoyed his year as South Gippsland Shire Citizen of the Year.
“It has been a great honour. I opened a few art and flower shows and attended a few events that I would not normally have got to. It’s taken me out to the community and allowed me the opportunity to increase awareness of the health services of Corner Inlet, talk to people and see for myself what needs there are to be met.”
Jeannie Hicks said she’d like to encourage people to make nominations for the three categories of the Australia Day Awards.
“It’s such a simple way to show your appreciation and gain recognition of what people are doing in your community,” she said.
Nominations can be submitted throughout the year up until 31 October, with forms available from Council and on www.southgippsland.vic.gov.au