2023 Australia Day Local Awards winners
Published on 26 January 2023
Mornington Peninsula Shire has announced its 2023 Australia Day Local Awards winners.
The winners are:
- Citizen of the Year: Jack Van Der Zwart
- Young Citizen of the Year: Josh Berry
- Community Event of the Year: Mornington Community Christmas Lunch
- Local Champion Award: Charles Reis
- Community Inspiration Award: Cecelia Witton
About Citizen of the Year recipient – Jack Van Der Zwart
Jack is being recognised for his work caring for foster children, cooking for the homeless in Rosebud and helping those in need by providing meals.
From 1980 to about five years ago, Jack and his wife Arina took in 22 foster children, giving them a family to call their own in their most vulnerable time of their life.
Jack’s love and commitment to young people and to connect with them on their level is a gift not every person possesses. He goes out of his way to see that whatever is needed for their success is provided. Jack and his family still have contact with many of them today.
Jack cooked as a volunteer with a friend for five years at one of the local churches that provided 400 – 500 meals a week to the homeless and those struggling.
Jack is a man who has little materially, but what matters to him and what is most important is the richness of a caring, loving family. A truly remarkable man!
About Young Citizen of the Year recipient – Josh Berry
Josh is being recognised for his project called ‘Two Pairs Each’ which focuses on helping homeless people.
His aim is to collect 50,000 pairs of socks so every one of the 23,000 homeless people in Victoria can have two pairs each.
He started the project at 9 and a half years old and is now 17. Over the last seven years, Josh has collected and given over 39,000 pairs of brand-new socks and has engaged donors and business partners.
Through this program Josh educates members of the community on the facts and issues surrounding homelessness to put a human face on a growing social issue.
Josh is involved in other community areas and activities, such as: the Junior Fire Brigade, Sailability (supporting people living with disability to sail), and Air Force Cadets.
His leadership shows what one citizen can do with a small idea to impact many.
About Community Event of the Year recipient – Mornington Community Christmas Lunch
The Mornington Community Christmas Lunch was held on 25 December 2021 at The Studio at the Peninsula Community Theatre.
The lunch was brought to the community by the Mornington Community Support Centre for locals who would otherwise have been alone on Christmas Day.
This was the 22nd anniversary of the lunch and each year it is generously supported by local businesses and organisations, as well as organised by about 40 volunteers who kindly donate their time on Christmas Day helping their community.
About Local Champion Award recipient – Charles Reis
Upon hearing the Flinders Pier was under threat of demolition, Charles gathered people across the Peninsula and the Melbourne metropolitan area who shared his concern about preserving the historic structure.
He held a community meeting with over 300 people at the Flinders Hall, set up a committee of volunteers, rallied divers, swimmers, visitors, residents, commercial operators and local fishermen to support the Save Flinders Pier campaign.
He also established an online petition growing 43,000 supporters and drew in media support by involving Sir David Attenborough and was a frequent voice on talk-back radio.
Charles' tenacity raised more than $40,000 of campaign funds from the public and the Flinders Pier was saved from demolition. The Heritage Listing recently announced is the first of its kind on the Mornington Peninsula.
Charles is also a member of the Flinders Coastal Advisory Group, and recently joined the Board of Saltbush Balnarring Beach.
About Community Inspiration Award recipient – Cecelia Witton
Cecilia has dedicated her life to protecting Western Port and was Executive Officer of the Western Port Biosphere Foundation.
Her experience and knowledge of environmental matters has ensured many areas of the Mornington Peninsula have been protected from industrial development and restored for future generations to enjoy.
Some of Cecelia’s biggest accomplishments include: successfully opposing a bitumen plant in 2011 and a gas import terminal in 2021, presented at a UNESCO international conference in South Korea on ‘The Impacts of Climate Change on Coastal Settlements in Western Port’, being a member of the Crib Point Stony Point Foreshore Committee for over 25 years and recently establishing the Friends of Woolleys Beach Community Group.
Cecelia is a very dedicated and determined member of her community and a tireless educator of the environment.
Quote attributable to Mayor Councillor Steve Holland:
“My fellow Councillors and I would like to congratulate all nominees and winners for their unwavering commitment to our community.”
Mayor Holland with the 2023 Australia Day Local Awards winners