Australia Day Local Awards

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Each year our nation celebrates the achievement and contribution of local community members through the Australian of the Year Awards. They inspire us through their achievements and challenge us to make our own contribution to creating a better Mornington Peninsula. 

2022 winners

Mornington Peninsula Shire has announced its 2022 Australia Day Local Awards winners.

The winners are:

Citizen of the Year: Dirk Jansen
Young Citizen of the Year: Oliver Walker-Peel
Community Event of the Year: Flinders Motoring Heritage
Local Champion Award: Geraldine Bilston 
Local Champion Award: Roslyn Ferres
Lifetime Achievement Award: David Pullin

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Australia Day Local Awards winners

2022 Australia Day Local Awards winners

Citizen of the Year: Dirk Jansen
Young Citizen of the Year: Oliver Walker-Peel
Community Event of the Year: Flinders Motoring Heritage
Local Champion Award: Geraldine Bilston 
Local Champion Award: Roslyn Ferres
Lifetime Achievement Award: David Pullin

Thank you to all winners and nominees for their commitment to our community. Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition. 

About Citizen of the Year – Dirk Jansen

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 Dirk is President of the Mornington Peninsula Koala Conservation group which he formed in 2019 to highlight the plight of koalas and the loss of habitat on our Peninsula. What started out as a Facebook group to record sightings of koalas has now gone from strength to strength with over 280 memberships it forms part of the National Landcare Network. 

Dirk has worked tirelessly as a champion of the cause to create habitat corridors for the endangered koala population on our Peninsula. The current five-year project will create a wildlife corridor and biolinks extending from Somers to Red Hill. So far, over 20,000 trees have been planted by the group and other volunteers.

Dirk has been successful in securing around $80,000 in grants. He has collaborated with local groups and landowners to design and begin tree planting and he’s given numerous talks to schools, community groups and landowners.

Not just focusing his efforts on koalas, Dirk has always maintained consideration for all wildlife on our Peninsula and wants to make sure protection and habitats are in place for future generations.

His nominators say he’s such an inspirational person who is so well liked and respected by everyone he meets.

About Young Citizen of the Year – Oliver Walker-Peel

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 Ollie, as he’s known, completed Year 12 at Balcombe Grammar last year and was School Captain. With students and families from Frankston to Sorrento, Ollie demonstrated compassionate and inspired leadership at a time of great challenge.  

Ollie has been the face of an optimistic and resilient Year 12 group and has modelled, especially for the younger students, a positive belief everyone can make a difference, and everyone counts.

Beyond the school gates Ollie’s involvement in local football promotion and celebration is well recognised.

Ollie’s family moved to Australia from England when he was nine and he brought a love of football (or soccer) with him. He started commentating with the Mornington Soccer Club before becoming part of the RPP FM sport team commentating on Aussie Rules football and cricket.

Ollie has Cerebral Palsy and can’t compete in the sports he loves, but he has never let that be a limitation on his optimism and participation in our community. A recent article on Ollie in Peninsula Essence called him ‘Captain Courageous’.

About Community Event of the Year – Flinders Motoring Heritage

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 Flinders District Lions has hosted the fundraising Flinders Motoring Heritage event for five years. The event celebrates classic, vintage, and veteran cars and motorbikes and is held in Flinders on Easter Sunday. There were over 150 prized vehicles exhibited, 2,000 visitors and over 30 volunteers. Some of the categories include Best Oily Rag, Best Vintage Car, Best Classic Car, Best Modified Car and Most Rare or Unusual Car, among others.

Over the years the event has donated over $85,000 to various projects and last year $28,000 went to Peninsula Health to help purchase a cardiorespiratory foetal monitor for babies allowing infants to be fully monitored when they are sick. Planning is underway for the 2022 event.

About Local Champion Award recipient – Geraldine Bilston

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 Geraldine is a woman with lived experience of family violence. She has become a strong advocate for women who experience domestic and family violence in Victoria and has written numerous articles on coercive control. She is the Deputy Chair of the Victim Survivor Advisory Council and is a Victim Survivor Advocate with Safe Steps Family Violence and Response, as well as being a volunteer member of the Mornington Peninsula Family Violence Primary Prevention Collaboration.

Geraldine articulates the experiences of women in a manner that is authentic, real and heartfelt. She is an active advocate for the prevention of family violence through the media, at corporate, community and fundraising events.

Geraldine is a beacon of hope and inspiration for women, particularly women with lived experience of domestic and family violence and abuse.

About Local Champion Award recipient – Roslyn Ferres

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Ros has been a member of McCrae Lions since 2015 when she moved to our Peninsula. Before this she made a significant contribution to her community through volunteering.   

For more than 40 years Ros has been a volunteer with Very Special Kids, a charity supporting children with terminal illnesses. It takes an extraordinary person to work with young children who will never reach adolescence.

Ros has also been a volunteer with the Girl Guides Association for more than 30 years and is involved with numerous community groups assisting in various roles.

As a result of the bushfire and flood events over the last two years Ros has spent most of her time in lockdown knitting beanies, scarves and blankets which are also provided to homeless and cancer patients. 

Through her work with Lions, she regularly provides food and other personal items to the Eastbourne Primary School to help students who are the subject of family issues. For her hard work and selfless efforts, Ros was awarded the Melvin Jones Fellowship, the highest recognition in Lions.

Ros is a great role model and an inspiration to others.

About Lifetime Achievement Award – David Pullin

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 David has been an active member of the Somers Volunteer Fire Brigade for 56 years. During this time, he has been an active fire fighter right up until recent times. He received the National Emergencies Medal following the Black Saturday fires and the National Medal for his services to a volunteer organisation – the Somers Country Fire Authority (CFA). He is also a Life Member of the CFA.

David volunteered his time and woodworking skills to teach the Somers Primary School children simple woodworking skills. The impact David had on the students was easy to gauge by looking at the smiles on their faces. As well, David has built and donated two honour boards for the school.

David is a long-term resident of Somers and has always been involved in the community, helping anyone in need, mowing lawns, gardening and handyman jobs. David is always willing to help and is a true asset to the Somers and broader community.

2021 Australia Day Local Awards winners

  • Citizen of the Year: Julie Saunders
  • Young Citizen of the Year: Phoebe McShane
  • Community Event of the Year: Senior's High Tea (Mary Budd)
  • Community Spirit Award: Josie D'Alia
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Michael Wunderly
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Colin Blythe

Thank you to all winners and nominees for their commitment to our community. Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition. 

About Citizen of the Year – Julie Saunders

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When the COVID crisis hit in March, Crib Point local Julie Saunders knew straight away how she could help. During the lockdown Julie and a group of dedicated volunteers cooked, packed and home delivered a three-course meal to around 60 households every Wednesday. In total there were 1,200 meals delivered to mainly older residents in need in the Crib Point area. The community chefs worked out of the local RSL kitchen while the local football/netball club was a constant source of volunteers and donations.
 
Julie also acts as an IP, which stands for Independent Person. This is a voluntary position administered by the Department of Justice. The role involves making yourself available 24/7 to assist young offenders 12-17 of age who have been arrested by the Police. When a parent or guardian is not available an IP is required to sit with the alleged offender to assist them through the interview.
 
She has also been a committee member of the Crib Point Football/Netball Club, the Crib Point Junior Football Club and St Josephs School Committee and assisted with catering for several local community organisations. 
 
Julie has found time to assist in writing several books on the history of Crib Point and recently helped compile the history of the Crib Point Football/Netball Club.
 
About Young Citizen of the Year – Phoebe McShane

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At 15 years of age Phoebe McShane became the founder and director of Ausome Hoops, a specialist basketball program for children diagnosed with Autism. Phoebe’s brother George was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when they were both young. Big into basketball, Phoebe wanted George to play, but found that many of the sports and activities he tried weren’t inclusive. She sought to change that, for George and others with Autism Spectrum Disorder in their local community.
 
A team of basketball coaches, teachers’ aides and junior basketball players assisted in delivering this one-of-a-kind program to kids on the Mornington Peninsula. Ausome Hoops not only taught the children basketball skills but provided the right support that many mainstream programs lack.
 
Phoebe who heads into Year 12 this year was nominated by her school. In 2020 Phoebe was recognised with an award by the Foundation for Young Australians and spoke to Senator Janet Rice to discuss the need for more Autism inclusive programs in Australia.
 
About Community Event of the Year – Senior's High Tea, Crib Point Community House (Mary Budd)

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Each year the Crib Point Community House organises a free high tea for seniors.  Because of COVID-19 and restrictions, including the 5km travel limit, the toll on mental health and the need for our seniors to connect, it was decided to take the high tea to the seniors in the Western Port area and hold it virtually. 
 
In October, 184 ‘goodie bags’ with everything needed to have a High Tea at home with a loved one or friend were made up and delivered by volunteers, from Balnarring to Baxter. The bags also had information on community houses, the Mornington Peninsula Shire and relevant information for seniors. Sponsorship and donations were received from local businesses.
 
The goodie bags brought so much joy, not only to the seniors receiving the bags, but also to those who helped out as they felt they were able to do something positive for others during these difficult times. So many messages with thanks and appreciation were received and the virtual event was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

About Community Spirit Award – Josie D'Alia

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Five nominations were received for Josie for her incredible support to so many in the community. 
 
For the past 30 years Josie has volunteered her services to the Italian Rosebud Club as secretary. She organises trips, weekend outings, dinner dances and shows. She also supports and assists local residents in need by phoning, visiting, driving them to appointments, shopping and helping with basic needs. 
 
Josie was also involved with the establishment of Our Lady of Fatima primary school and the second campus of Padua College.
 
Josie is a very loving and caring person and brings a lot of happiness into so many lives. She is also a very modest person and asks for no recognition. In 2000 Josie was honoured by the Australian Government with a Centenary Medal for caring for the community.

About Lifetime Achievement Award – Michael Wunderly

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Mick, as he is known, has made an outstanding contribution over three decades to the Mornington community, especially the Mornington Football Netball Club.  He has been on the committee since 1997 and started Alexandra Park project with Martin Scanlon, project treasurer, in 2016 and has worked tirelessly to improve facilities and grounds at Alexandra Park.
 
As president of the Alexandra Park project, Mick approached the Mornington Peninsula Shire, the Honourable Greg Hunt MP and The Bays Hospital to build a new community pavilion, rather than just a sporting club, that could be used during the day by The Bays Hospital and groups like Wallara. With that vision The Bays Hospital received a federal grant to go towards consulting rooms and a rehabilitation gym in the new building due to be built in 2021-22. Mick has raised over $250,000 for the project.
 
Mick was also instrumental in raising funds for Mornington Salvos to purchase a van to service the needs of late night revellers in Main Street, Mornington.
 
Mick is a great family man, always supportive of family and friends. Around the clubs he is looked on as a mentor for many players and has found employment for many young people too. His door is always open if somebody needs assistance or reassurance.

About Lifetime Achievement Award – Colin Blythe

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Colin has given over 25 years to McCrae Lions in many roles including the past five years as club president. He is well known and highly respected by the many clubs on the Peninsula for promoting the service work undertaken by Lions in assisting the needy in the community.
 
For the past 16 years, Colin has been a driving force on the Dromana Australia Day Committee, the success of which can be attributed to the dedication and work ethic Colin has for promoting community involvement.
 
The McCrae Lighthouse was an unused under-valued Peninsula icon until Colin came up with the idea of lighting it up for Christmas for the community to enjoy, which supported charities such as breast cancer, autism, family violence, police remembrance, daffodil day and red nose day.
 
Colin also came up with the idea of Carols by Headlight, a community celebration over three nights held at the Dromana Drive-In, to replace Carols by Candlelight which could not be held due to COVID.

2020 Australia Day Local Awards winners

  • Citizen of the Year: Veronica Whittaker
  • Young Citizen of the Year: Ellie-May Maguire
  • Community Event of the Year: 91st Red Hill Show
  • Community Inspiration Award: Valerie Rowe
  • Community Inspiration Award: Harrison Hansen
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: William Mackenzie
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Jean Stirling
  • Acknowledgement of Excellence Award: Uncle Bob's Club Annual Good Friday Wheelbarrow Push

Thank you to all winners and nominees for their commitment to our community. Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition. 

About Veronica Whittaker – Citizen of the Year

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Veronica is being recognised for her work with Clothes4U, a not-for-profit boutique providing clothing to those in need.

In 2013, local women got together to discuss how they could help disadvantaged women and girls on the Peninsula. Their idea was to pamper women who were fragile and raise their confidence. Veronica became President of Clothes4U and led the team. There is now the same service for men. 

Both men and women can be clothed, fitted with shoes, under garments and toiletries. There are educational programs to assist with interview preparations and a free hairdressing service for clients on a weekly basis.

Veronica achieved a non-profit status and Clothes4U became a registered charity, eventually receiving deductible gift recipient status.

About Ellie-May Maguire – Young Citizen of the Year
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Ellie-May, aged 22, is being recognised for her advocacy in juvenile diabetes research, her contribution to JDRF Australia (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), her involvement with the local Type 1 Diabetes community, and her own career as a Paramedic. 

Ellie-May is a lead campaigner for Victoria advocating for Type 1 Diabetes research, she is a mentor to the younger community living with Type 1 Diabetes, and she is the public face of JDRF at Kids in the House in Canberra. 

She was also involved in securing bipartisan support from the Government for $54.5 million in funding for clinical research to prevent, treat and cure Type 1 Diabetes.

About 91st Red Hill Show – Community Event of the Year
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The 91st Red Hill Show was held on 9 March 2019 and run by the Red Hill Horticultural Society which was formed in 1896.

The Red Hill showgrounds were transformed into a colourful, appetizing and entertaining spectacle, attracting around 11,000 people – many of those making the trip from Melbourne and further afield.

There were 96 trade sites, 450 exhibitors and 1,500 exhibits, championed by 150 volunteers and supporters.

Peninsula producers were the focus of the celebrations and the newly created Mornington Peninsula Paddock was full, with gourmet food and 5-star producers. 

The show is focused on social sustainability and community building and provides an opportunity for community groups to fundraise and/or promote their organisations.

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The Selection Panel in its consideration of nominations for the 2020 Citizen of the Year Award came to unanimous agreement that there were candidates who warranted consideration beyond the scope of the current award categories. 

Based on the exceptional merits of these candidates, and in recognition of the significant contribution to the community, the Selection Panel unanimously agreed on three extra awards – Community Inspiration Awards, Lifetime Achievement Awards and an Acknowledgement of Excellence Award.

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About Valerie Rowe  Community Inspiration Award
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Valerie recently set up Seawinds Capel Sound Boomerang Bags – a group that sews reusable bags to reduce plastic bag use.

Valerie coordinates the group and works with the community to see where else help is needed. She recently coordinated swags for the homeless on the Peninsula foreshore and organised cancer bags for people receiving intravenous treatment to be mobile.

Another of Valerie’s initiatives is ‘Boomer Bears’ which are small handmade teddies used by Emergency Services when attending difficult family scenes and car accidents to reduce stress on young children. 

These free bears are made using recycled fabric and the local services have said it gives their staff and volunteers a real lift in sad situations.

As well as managing the Angel Op Shop in Rosebud and increasing their profits for local charities, she organises fundraisers for families in need, volunteers for any emergency event and is a foster mum for dogs for kids with disabilities.

About Harrison (Harry) Hansen – Community Inspiration Award
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Harry is only 16 and has just completed Year 10 at Western Port Secondary College.

Harry was one of the Year 10 leaders and has been involved in mentoring programs for challenging Year 3 and 4 students to support their successful transition into secondary schooling. 

With the support of other Year 10 leaders, he essentially ran the Year 7 camp and helped organise and run Community Days, such as R U OK Day, and ran school tours for prospective parents and students. 

He has participated on many committees organised by school leadership seeking feedback about college initiatives and is also involved in the Youth Advisory Council. 

About William (Bill) Mackenzie  Lifetime Achievement Award
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Bill has had a very long and full life, being greatly involved in the Mornington and Frankston Rotary Clubs and establishing the Mount Martha Rotary Club, foundation member of Mount Martha Probus, member of Mount Martha Bowls Club, founding member and elder of Mount Martha Uniting Church and secretary of Mount Martha Book Club.

Bill is very community minded and is a firm believer in volunteering his time fundraising for many organisations, handing out ‘how to vote’ cards on election days, running book stalls, taking parishioners to appointments, and opening his home to bible study classes. 

He also established Kankama in Mornington, which provides a day service to adults with an intellectual disability across the Mornington Peninsula.

Bill has been a very committed and dedicated member of the community for nearly all of his 95 years.

About Jean Stirling – Lifetime Achievement Award
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Jean has been recognised for her exemplary and dedicated service to the Sorrento community through 65 years of active volunteering roles.

Jean was a foundation member of the Sorrento Ambulance committee where funds were raised for the purchase of land and building of an ambulance station which opened in 1965.

Jean was Secretary of the Sorrento Presbyterian Church committee Church Ladies Guild for 25 years and organised fetes and flower shows to support church activities.

She was also Secretary of the Sorrento Red Cross committee and arranged for the first visits of the mobile blood bank to Sorrento.

Jean has also been involved with the Sorrento Op Shop and Nepean Historical Society and has been recognised for her work with both of these organisations.

She has spent 91 years of her life living in Sorrento and surrounding areas, has maintained a lifelong commitment to service to the Sorrento community and still volunteers at 95. 

About Uncle Bob's Club Annual Good Friday Wheelbarrow Push – Acknowledgement of Excellence Award
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For more than 60 years the Uncle Bob’s Club has raised money for the Royal Children’s Hospital.  The Peninsula members of the Club are made up of less than 20 members, many in their 70’s and 80’s. 

The group’s main event has been the 29-kilometre Good Friday Wheelbarrow Push from Sorrento to Safety Beach.

The community drops money into the barrow and into the collection tins of the walkers as it passes by on its six-hour journey. 

While the barrow is being pushed, a contingent of fire trucks from the CFA drive around the streets also collecting on behalf of Uncle Bob’s Club, and other volunteers, including members of other service clubs, assist by collecting at traffic lights between Mornington and Rosebud.

Over the years the event has raised well over $2 million, with last year’s event raising over $90,000.