THERE was barely a chair to spare in the Leongatha Memorial Hall last Wednesday as locals, visitors, Shire councillors and special guests gathered to witness the announcements and presentations of the South Gippsland Shire’s Australia Day awards.
Ned Dennis, Council’s Community Strengthening Manager was master of ceremonies for the evening. South Gippsland Shire Mayor Jeanette Harding addressed those attending, urging everyone to appreciate the benefits which living in Australia affords us.
“The recent terrorist activities across the world have shaken the sense of security we take for granted in Australia. This country provides us with unparalleled safety, freedom of speech, health and prosperity,” Cr. Harding said.
“Take time on Monday to celebrate outstanding good fortune with your family, friends and communities,” she urged.
“We appreciate their outstanding contributions to our Shire and to the people who live here,” Cr. Harding said in acknowledgment of the 25 nominees.
“Thank you also to those who prepared the nominations; tonight’s ceremony is the happy result of your combined efforts,” Cr. Harding said.
Youth Community Contribution Certifcate
Mr Dennis then introduced the first group of nominees for 2015 – the six young people to be awarded the Youth Community Contribution Certificate, noting that four years ago feedback was received from a number of young people that they didn’t want to be chosen over their peers when many of them had worked on common projects. In response, this it was decided that this category be made non-competitive.
Council’s Community Strengthening Support Officer, Sophie Dixon presented certificates to the six recipients: Eleanor Patterson, nominated by Rebecca Coulter; 25-year-old Mark Coulter of Leongatha, nominated by the Meeniyan RSL Sub-branch; 16-year-old Tahnae Blight of Poowong who was nominated by the Strzelecki Lions Club; 15-year-old Emily Duffus of Foster, who was nominated by the Fish Creek RSL; and 17-year-old Stephen Loftus of Leongatha, nominated by Fiona McKenzie.
“We congratulate these dynamic young people making their mark so early in their lives. They may be our community leaders of tomorrow, perhaps returning to settle after they have made their mark elsewhere in the world. Wherever they go, they are bound to make a difference,” Mr Dennis said.
South Gippsland Achievement Award for a Person with a Disability
In addition to Citizen of the Year, Youth Community Contribution, and Community Event of the Year, a fourth category was added to the presentations for 2015 – that of the South Gippsland Achievement Award for a Person with a Disability.
Councillor Harding explained that for the past three years this had been announced in December on International Day of People with a Disability, but as it was felt that this award deserved a wider acknowledgement than afforded at that time, it would be awarded this year during the South Gippsland Shire’s Australia Day presentations.
Graham Ireland of Council’s Access and Inclusion Advisory Committee and Marge Arnup, Access and Inclusion Officer, presented certificates to the nominees: Vince Sgarioto, nominated by Milpara Community House; Corran Djuric, nominated by Yooralla Group Services; Emily Drysdale, who was nominated by the Gatha Food Store; Jim Geary, nominated by the Leongatha Men’s Shed; Mitchell Price, nominated by Janet Parker; Allan Summerfield who was nominated by the Korumburra Bena Football/Netball Club; and Vince Sgarioto, nominated by Milpara Community House.
Local nominee, Emily Ardley, who grew up in Toora, is a determined young lady who has reached personal goals such as attaining a Certificate III in Hospitality, becoming an actor and musician, and studying while living independently in Melbourne.
In addition to being a part time employee at Hair Bairs Salon in Leongatha, Emily is a passionate advocate and relationships educator for young people with diverse abilities. Her positive view of life’s possibilities provide inspiration to others.
“It was a very difficult decision this year as the nominations were of an extremely high quality and we were unable to separate two of the nominees, so we have decided to share the award between two people; Emily Drysdale and Allan Summerfield,” said Cr Harding, who presented the awards to the delighted recipients.
Emily Drysdale has overcome her shyness to become a strong advocate; speaking locally and at conferences and large forums in Melbourne, to educate the broader community on issues faced by people with disabilities.
She has represented Victoria in basketball and has participated in a DVD promoting the capabilities of young people like herself and their capacity to be good employees.
Allan Summerfield’s life changed forever in 1987, when only in his mid-twenties, he was involved in a tragic accident that left him a quadriplegic.
During the last 15 years he has undertaken all executive roles of the Korumburra Cricket club, while serving as secretary of the Korumburra Bena Football/Netball club for the past nine years. Allan aims to keep young people engaged in sport and ensure top class facilities are available. He has been a junior cricket coach for seven years , was integral in the formation of the Junior Football Club and was pivotal in gaining grants for the playground, watering system and turf wicket for the Recreation Reserve.
Allan has embraced modern technology and is a meticulous record keeper. He manages volunteer workers at the recreation reserve and showgrounds. His participation in able-bodied sports has resulted in many people being active and having a place in the local community.
Shire Community Event of the Year
The six very diverse community events nominated for Shire Community Event of the Year were:
- The Blessing of the Bikes, represented by Marcel Widmer;
- The CWA Community Mental Health Forum, represented by Ellen-Jane Browne;
- The CWA 60th Exhibition of Handicraft, Art & Home Industries, represented by Evelyn Stephens;
- The Poowong Swimming Pool 50th Anniversary;
- Meeniyan Town Tavern Night 30th Anniversary, represented by Eric Mould;
- The Toora Community Bank 15th Birthday, represented by Irene Spooner.
Each of the event representatives were presented with a certificate by Graeme Heath who represented the 2014 Community Event of the Year – the Leongatha Courthouse Centenary.
Cr. Harding then announced the recipient of the Community Event of the Year for 2015 as being the Meeniyan Town Tavern Night 30th Anniversary, and amidst great applause, presented the award to founder of the event, Eric Mould.
“Over the 30 years of holding the Meeniyan Town Tavern Nights, there has always been a fantastic group of people who organise these nights,” Eric said.
“The current group consists of a number of original members and those who have joined in more recent years. They come along, do what needs to be done and put in as much effort as they possibly can to make sure that the Tavern Nights are wonderful events,” Eric said.
“Without these people the Tavern Nights wouldn’t happen. It’s always a team effort. he added.
Citizen of the Year
A number of previous recipients of the Shire’s Citizen of the Year award were present in the audience: Neil Trease (2005) who was also named Victorian Senior of the Year in 2008; Heather Gregg (2006); Neville Meikle (2009) and Faye Sinclair (2011).
Anne McIntyre – Citizen of the Year (2014) presented certificates to the nominees for 2015: Roslyn Bryan of Foster, Peter Carruthers of Leongatha, David Green of Leongatha, Pat Kuhne of Leongatha, Geoff Pittaway of Mirboo North and Cathy Waldron of Meeniyan.
Cr. Harding announced that David Green is the recipient of this year’s award and presented him with a trophy and two badges in recognition of his skill in taking young people with raw talent, or simply enthusiasm, and moulding them into vibrant athletes exuding confidence, good health and at best, world class performers.
David and his wife Lyndal knew it takes more than talent to make gold and set about, with others, to form the South Coast Athletics Inc., – a pathway for young athletes to progress from Little Athletics to senior participation and/or competition in the sport. In total, members of his squad have won in excess of 100 Victorian and 20 Australian titles, culminating in Eleanor Patterson’s World Youth Championship and Commonwealth Games successes.
Stunned by the announcement that he had been awarded Citizen of the Year, David humbly accepted the trophy, and said that it could not have been possible without the aid and support of his wife and family.
The South Gippsland Shire Council is very grateful to Woolworths for the generous sponsorship of the Australia Day Ambassador Program which has brought two outstanding Australians as guest speakers to South Gippsland this year – Nigel Dick, the former chairman of Southern Cross Media, who spoke at the Australia Day celebrations at Meeniyan, and Warragul-bred Matthew Christie from Crown Casino, who spoke at Mirboo North.