Memorial Hall was dotted with yellow shirts on Friday evening as representatives from local Rural Fire Brigades turned out for the Australia Day awards ceremony.
The shire has 500 volunteers across its 16 brigades, District Manager Sean McArdle said, as Boggy Creek, Bostobrick, Brierfield, Darkwood, Deervale, Fernmount, Gleniffer, Hydes Creek, Kalang, Megan, North Bellingen, Repton, Scotchman, Thora, Urunga, Valery, Group 1 and Group 2 brigades received their Homegrown Heroes award and the applause of grateful fellow residents.
Related: Celebrating our homegrown heroes
As mayor Dominic King said, "It's great to see so many yellow shirts here today - I feel very safe in regard to fire".
About 200 people came along to the ceremony to celebrate the winners and the worthy nominees recognised for their achievements and contributions across ten different categories.
As the citations were read out by MC Diana Christian, it was hard to see how the awards committee had managed to choose between such excellent candidates.
In a couple of cases they couldn't - and two winners were declared.
Citizen of the Year - Jo Brotherton and Barbara Moore
Young Citizen of the Year - Stella Rees
Community Service Citizen of the Year - Marie Rowe
Sportsperson of the Year - Lily-Rose Meredith Powell
Junior Sportsperson of the Year - Modena Schofield-Foster and Zara Leigh McLeish
Sports Team of the Year - Open Girls Football Team.
Community Event of the Year - Save Sight Community Challenge
Community Group of the Year - Urunga Lions Club
Creative Arts Award - Blake Rowe
The full text of the citations read out on the night is as follows:
Citizen of the Year
Open to persons performing outstanding service, 21 years or older on 26 January 2020
Nominee: Barbara Moore (joint winner)
At various times throughout 2018 Barbara has spent many hours assisting Bellingen Hospital Management, Bellingen Bush Regenerators and Bellingen Landcare. She continues in her position as President of the Bellingen Health Action Group. She was officially recognised by the SES in a Commissioner's Letter of Appreciation for her work with community engagement over many years.
Barbara's energy and commitment over a period of several years has saved our local hospital from a downgrade that would have forced Bellingen residents to travel to Coffs Harbour for hospital services. This is a major benefit to our community.
In late 2009, NSW Health announced the imminent downgrading of our local hospital. Barbara initiated a very energetic campaign called Save Our Services. Community support was very strongly with her and as a result of this campaigning new capital works, expanded services and regular maintenance resulted in an upgraded, not downgraded hospital. Barbara remains vigilant and continues to liaise with the Mid North Coast Local Health District on issues relating to services at the hospital.
As part of her commitment to our local hospital Barbara has organised funding for a community Wellness Garden in the grounds of the hospital. She was able to get the additional support from Lions, Rotary, local businesses and volunteers. This turned a $5000 grant into a project with a materials and in-kind value of over $90,000. The garden is used by patients, staff and visitors and is maintained by Barbara and the other volunteers of the Bellingen Health Action Group.
Over the past six years Barbara has assisted with the organising committee of the Bellingen Fine Music Festival. Her duties are organising the picking up of the artists, finding accommodation for all artists, providing food for the artists before and after performances, taking into consideration various dietary requirements.
In the face of her current significant health challenges she hasn't wavered from any of her duties.
Nominee: Jo Brotherton (joint winner)
Jo is a tireless worker for the local community. She is an executive member of the Urunga Mylestom Chamber of Commerce and a founding member of the Urunga Lions Club. Jo has boundless energy and is very passionate about Urunga and the Bellingen Shire. Over the last five years, Jo has spent countless weekends and lots of her spare time, fundraising for both the Chamber and the Lions Club. She organises the very successful Chamber Business Breakfasts, she's often working with the Lion's Club on Saturday mornings manning the barbecue and she is heavily involved in events at Urunga including, Carols in Urunga, Father's Day Festival and Sculptures in the Park.
Jo is also a member of Open Arms Care, an organisation with branches for Ageing Services and Children's Services in Bellingen and Urunga. Jo has also been on the Urunga Wetlands Advisory Committee - helping to shape this once toxic wasteland into a premium nature-based tourist attraction for the town.
Jo featured as a local legend in a Ilovebelloshire interview - these were some of the comments from the community that this article attracted: " I am in awe and admiration for all that you do for your community. You are a treasure. Urunga is lucky to have you and your commitment to so many groups. Thank you to you and to your partner Pete." "A true Urunga legend alright and wonderful woman. Jo does so much work for the community - she's an inspiration!" " A happy smile, an open heart and a willing pair of hands- always! Yes a true treasure in Urunga. Good one Jo".
Jo has also been working towards making Urunga a more inclusive community. She has been actively involved in helping to make Urunga more dementia friendly. This has involved advising council and other organisations on appropriate equipment and designs for public amenities and infrastructure. Jo is highly respected throughout the community. She is always friendly and gives her time freely to anyone you might need a hand.
Nominee: Robert Canning
Robert has been an outstanding member of the Urunga, Bellingen and Coffs areas. He has become very well known as the didgeridoo man playing in all areas, he also runs and supports the MUDD programme for men with depression and also working in the Spirit of the Rainforest programs connecting people to their land. He also opened the 2019 Australia Day Celebrations with his didgeridoo and has even done a private welcome to country for Jimmy Barnes recent Coffs Coast Tour.
Rob has always been a strong advocate for the Urunga community as well as the Aboriginal community. He has been busking in and around Urunga and Coffs Harbour, Toormina areas and is fast becoming a very sought after man for his contributions.
By doing what he does with the MUDD programme, the spirit of the rainforest, the didgeridoo man and all of his welcome to country ceremonies, Rob is putting this area on the map. People want to know where this man is from, they all speak very highly of him and he is becoming sought after for a lot of events on the Coffs Coast and beyond. Everyone knows this friendly-faced gentleman, he is very approachable which makes him quite popular.
Young Citizen of the Year
Open to persons performing outstanding service, under the age of 21 years on 26 Jan 2020
Nominee: Stella Rees (winner)
Stella Rees is a young environmental leader who has made the following contributions to our community during 2019:
Organised the March 2019 School Strike for Climate Change, where 500 people participated at short notice. In April Bellingen Shire Council declared a climate emergency. Clearly these issues are a top priority for Cowper youth and community.
Delivered a brave and important environmental question to the Federal candidates at Bellingen's Federal Election Forum. The question was: "In November 75 young people from Bellingen participated in a two-day Youth Leading the World Congress with OzGREEN. The top 3 concerns identified by young people were: 1 . Climate Change 2. Lack of political leadership on climate change and environmental protection. 3. Destruction of the biosphere - especially loss of biodiversity, pollution of rivers and deforestation."
Founded a grassroots initiative called 'Youth for Refugees' and organised a large concert to raise money for recently settled refugee families in our region.
Received the Bellingen High School 2019 Wellbeing Award.
Received a 2019 Sustainable Futures Environmental Excellence Award for Northern NSW
Received a 2019 Regional Leadership Award
Participated in Bellingen Shire's Youth Advisory Group
Stella had demonstrated outstanding civic leadership during 2019. She advocates, embodies and achieves many of the community's aspirations outlined in Bellingen Shire's 2027 Community Vision. For example, Stella is informed and engaged with a strong sense of civic leadership, she is actively involved in driving opportunities that foster intergenerational learning about climate change and is encouraging our community to work together to protect and enhance our environment. Finally, Stella is leading community initiatives that foster community tolerance and understanding.
Presented to a person performing sustained service in a community organisation over many years
Nominee: Marie Rowe (winner)
Marie has excelled in each of the following areas in Urunga community
1 delivers meals on wheels in Urunga
2 Urunga Golf Club - gardening and assists Wed/Fri raffles and trivia
3 View Club - member/treasurer
4 Urunga Revellers - assists costumes making, onstage singing and dancing
5 Urunga Uniting Church - gardening weekly, manages opp shop, prepares Church and Hall for weekly services, organises functions funerals, baptisms, local needs, member/treasurer fellowship, organist weekly
6 makes up many town wreaths for ANZAC Day and other floral needs
Marie has been enjoying a busy life for the past 20 years. The above activities have been a continual service to the Urunga community over that known period. Although, it is believed her contributions have been for a longer period. It Seems the older Marie gets the better she becomes ... she will be turning 90 early in 2020.
Marie is a very caring and sharing lady. Her membership of the VIEW Club empowers her to have a voice for women and disadvantaged children in Australia whilst pursuing a better life and wellbeing within the Smith Family. An offspring being her delivery of meals on wheels to senior/disabled persons in Urunga. She does like to share a conversation when delivering. She also interviews those requiring financial assistance. If not available she will do all to procure. Marie's role within the Uniting Church gives her further opportunity to care and share her gentle nature to ensure the gardens are neat and tidy, the church is set to encourage parishioners to enjoy and gain spiritual presence from each other. She sets the morning tea table in preparation for all to gather and enjoy others company over a fresh morning tea. She will always be seen in the kitchen assisting with functions in the Hall, after funerals and baptisms.
Marie is the perfect gentle, honest lady who can lead, plan and be active within physical, social, financial and psychological aspects of the community. A woman well worthy of this award. A truly UNIQUE Lady.
Marie is an independent widow who can turn her hand to basic car maintenance, basic repairs to home and workplaces. A true all rounder.
Nominee: Fenella Briscomb
As an active tireless volunteer with Bellingen Hospital Action Group, Bellingen Red cross, Bellingen Community Arts Centre (Nexus gallery) & the Bellinger River Agricultural Show Society.
Since its inception in 2009 Fenella has been an active committee member of BHAG holding positions of secretary & public officer and since moving to Bellingen in 2004 the she has been and still is involved in many different volunteer groups which support the local community: The Bellingen Hospital Action Group as public officer & secretary, a volunteer hostess at the Nexus gallery for Sunday Bits, a volunteer for the Bellingen Red Cross & the Bellingen Show.
Nominee: Tianaha Willson-Baker
During 2019 Tianaha has been an active member of Mt St Johns Primary School Parents and Friends Committee, member of Bellingen Shire CDAT (Community Drug Action Team) Dorrigo Plateau Community Inc, Dorrigo Rangers, Dorrigo Chamber of Commerce just to name a few. and has worked with the volunteer organisation 'Doing it for our Farmers'. Helped deliver donated goods to the fire fighters and kept a check on friends and their families during the bushfires, ready to do whatever is needed to help out.
Tianaha has been involved in the community most of her life, starting as a Youth Representative on various Council committees from the age of 17. She has been involved in Dorrigo Youth Services since the beginning, first as a youth hanging out at the Youth Space, then as a volunteer Youth Room Supervisor and was a major part of getting the Dorrigo Youth Space opened again after it was shut down and continued on the committee to keep it open for many years.
In 2018 whilst the state was in the grips of major drought, Tianaha decided something needed to be done and along with the President of the Chamber, put out a call to local businesses to be drop off points for non-perishable goods for farmers doing it tough in the Tamworth area. Several businesses came to the party and the Dorrigo Community showed what it means to be generous. Several truck loads were taken to Tamworth to be distributed. Tianaha met the Tamworth Coordinator of Doing it for our farmers and This meeting lead to her working with Mt St Johns teachers, students and parents; holding a dress like a farmer day and gathering donations for students and families in a small school outside Tamworth called Duri Public School.
After this Tianaha wanted to do more to help drought effected farmers and their communities and came to the Chamber of Commerce with the idea for a concert. This started the process of organising a major charity concert - A Day on the Hill Dorrigo held 15th December 2019. This was done with a small group of volunteers under the guidance of Tianaha and the event was a huge success raising in excess of $7000 for Buy A Bale and managed to make it rain (at least that day and the next). Tianaha has continued to work with Doing it for Our Farmers
Tianaha's contribution has help many people in both the local community and wider area by showing Initiative and compassion and providing assistance in times of great need.
Sportsperson of the Year
Presented for achievement in sport at all levels - local, state, national - and/or contribution to sport (e.g. coaching, organising, fundraising, etc) during 2019
Nominee: Lily-Rose Meredith Powell (winner)
Lily's sport is Equestrian in Dressage. She Represented Team NSW @ Marcus Oldham National Interschool Equestrian Event 2019 and Lily placed 2nd in the Novice Freestyle event & 6th in the Secondary Senior Novice 2B. She Represented Team NSW @ Thoroughbred Industry Careers Pony Club Australia Nationals Event 2019 and placed 3rd Elementary Junior 3A, placed 4th Elementary Junior 3B, placed 1st Elementary Junior 3C.
Lily bought home Reserve Champion Overall Elementary Junior & Champion & Overall Elementary Junior Team.
Pony Club NSW State Dressage Championships: Champion Overall Senior Novice, Champion Overall Team
Zone 9 Dressage Championships: Overall Elementary Champion, Champion Senior Elementary
Coffs Harbour Show Dressage: Champion overall Novice, Champion Overall Elementary
Kempsey Show Dressage: Champion Overall Novice, Champion Overall Elementary
NSW State Interschool Event: 2nd Novice 2C & 7th Novice 2B = 4TH Overall Senior Novice
Lily has supported many local Equestrian events by way of ridden & or as a volunteer and has a great understanding of the importance of giving her time freely to support Equestrian events within our community. Lily's contribution within the Equestrian community & greater Community through her volunteer work demonstrates a young person giving back to the community & understanding the important of young person's roles in keeping sporting events alive & continuing for community members for years to come.
Lily is a regular volunteer through Bishop Druitt College Community Service program at the Op shop in Coffs Harbour, this contribution through the Op shop demonstrates compassion & understanding of those less fortunate than ourselves. By volunteering Lily learns skills which helps her integrate into the larger community once an adult, she learns the art of giving & receiving friendship, honesty, integrity & loyalty. Lily has demonstrated lots of these skills having to bring on a young horse & training her to a National standard.
Bishop Druitt College - Most Valuable BDC Individual Equestrian Team Member
Principals Gold award - Christian Community College
Galaxy Award - Bellinger River Pony Club
Young Riders Award - North Coast Equestrian Club
Junior Sportsperson of the Year
Presented for achievement by a school student in an organised school sport
Nominee: Zara Leigh Mcleish (joint winner)
Zara has excelled and made a significant contribution in the areas of High Jump & Athletics.
Always participating in everything that is being offered and is true to her best.
Her contribution in her preferred sports has helped Mount Saint John's School be recognized at Sydney and Lismore carnivals. She had a heap of people excited about how she went and very proud of her achievement. And Zara made it to the podium at Sydney Olympic stadium and came 10th in the Catholic schools NSW.
Nominee:Modena Schofield-Foster (joint winner)
Modena's excels in the sport of Endurance horse riding, which is an equestrian sport based on controlled long-distance races. It is one of the international competitions recognized by the FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale. There are endurance rides worldwide. Endurance rides can be any distance, from 80km to 160km in one day and up to 400km marathons.
Modena and her Horse Kalarney had 100 per cent successful completion in (AERA) Australian Endurance Riders Association.
Modena has excelled at Endurance riding in 2019 and has started mentoring other young riders into the sport had has inspired other young riders to chase their dreams and enjoy horse riding.
She is the youngest rider (14yo) to have successfully completed the "Big three" in Endurance riding. This recordhas not been broken for four years. The previous successful completion was back in 2005 and was held my Modena's older sister Isabel Foster (15yo).
Sports Team of the Year
Presented for achievement by a team or group of any age in an organised competition
Team Name:Bellingen Bats (Girls 14 years)
North Coast Football - Premiers 2019 Season / lost Grand Final 0-1 via disputed penalty.
Northern NSW - Champion of Champions - Premiers (Newcastle - Tweed heads).
Young people involved in sport and having a positive attitude to training and participation has a flow on affect in the community. Other young people, parents, coaches, officials and other members of the community are inspired by their performance.
Team Name:Open Girls Football Team (winner)
In NSW State Knockout Bellingen High School defeated Dorrigo High School 10 to 1, defeated Woolgoolga 2 to 0, defeated Coffs Harbour 12 to 2, BHS defeated Wauchope 4 to 0, North Coast Finals they defeated The Rivers 5 to 1 (The Rivers is a 3 campus team comprised of Lismore HS, Kadina HS and Richmond River HS).
The North Coast Final win placed BHS into the final 16 of the State and BHS lost narrowly to Cheltenham Girls HS 2 to 1.
In 2018 BHS made the final 8 in the State losing to Burwood Girls HS 2 to 1 during sudden death extra time.
Many of these students play in local teams for Bellingen Football Club or Urunga Football Club and they are all positive role models for younger players to aspire to.
Many of the players are also in the BHS 19s Futsal Team that are the current Northern NSW Champions.
Note: At this point I would like to acknowledge the commitment, dedication, expertise and passion of their coach Liz Hoy for the many years of inspiration that she provides to the students at Bellingen High School.
Community Event of the Year
A Community Event of the year is an event, or series of events, that creates public interest and enhancement in any activity related to the Bellingen Shire within the past two years.
Nominee:A Day on The Hill - Dorrigo
On 15 December 2018 "A Day on the Hill" Dorrigo was held. This event was put together to raise money for Buy a Bale. 14 acts performed on the day with many local musical talents along with some travelling from afar. Despite the rainy weather a great crowd turned out for the concert, and everyone attending had a great time.
Without the help of sponsors the event would not have gone ahead, so a very big thanks to all the sponsors who helped make this day the success it was.
Dorrigo Chamber of Commerce was the auspicing body behind the event with much work and support from the president. Bellingen Shire Council require a great deal of thanks for supporting the event through working with the volunteers to obtain a successful DA and for selecting A Day on the Hill as successful grant applicant for the Events Fund Grant.
Altogether we raised a wonderful amount of $7200.95 this amount was sent to Buy a Bale to help farmers in need through tough times.
Events like this do not happen if it were not for volunteers, those who give freely of their time over a several months with consistent effort to pull things together. A special thank you to all the volunteers who made this amazing event happen.
Nominee:Save Sight Community Challenge (winner)
In March 2019 Urunga Lions Club set a challenge to Urunga and the extended Bellingen Shire District to raise funds for the Sydney Eye Bank, through the Lions Save Sight and Public Health Care Foundation.
The idea was formulated with the Kalang River being the central focus point as it offered the river for swimmers. The river was the just the right distance for kids and older folks to walk across, and the block behind the southern end of the bridge, including the Kalang Motel, down over the railway bridge and back along the road next to the gold course, provided the perfect running phase.
Each completed lap of the event choice, and it could be all three, constituted a $10 sponsorship donation to the Challenge which was sourced from businesses in the town.
The swim course was 200m. Urunga Surf Lifesaving members acted as Marshalls and guided the swimmers through the course they had set earlier that morning using buoys, bunting and anchored boats. The Lifesavers were on hand for any SOS calls as were NSW Fire & Rescue volunteers.
From 9am people registered their preferred challenge and were given a briefing by the Safety Officer of the Urunga Surf Lifesaving Club.
For the bridge walking event, there were flags highlighting the course and Lions Club members guiding the foot traffic north across the Kalang, each competitor received a stamp on the wrist and were turned around to complete the trip south. One 12-year-old managed 17 laps of the 1.2 kilometres each over the return journey and he raised $170 and was named the 'hamp of the Meet'.
Then there were the runners who turned left at the top of the stairs, continuing a round trip of 1.73 kilometres. The Lions Club had invited the Valla runners, the Park runners and various other groups and had a good roll-up. Some participants ran behind prams and strollers, some held weights etc.
The major event sponsor was Club Urunga who donated $2,500 and whose name appears on the perpetual trophy. We received raffle prizes and support from the local businesses too.
The event will be repeated in 2020 and already plans exist for inclusion of the Gold Club by introducing the 'nearest the pin' event to many of the varied challenges.
The community challenge lasted approximately two hours and was scheduled to finish with drinks and a presentation at Anchors Wharf Café. The Café ended up being booked out on this occasion, so we set up at the barbeque at Lions Park and served a sausage sizzle to say thankyou to all those who participated.
The overall amount raised by the Urunga Lions Club for the Lions Save Sight and Public Health are Foundation was $7,000 and was gifted to the Sydney Eye Bank with other Community Challenge balances totalling $200,000.
Community Group of the Year
Presented to an organisation enhancing the community within the past two years
Urunga Lions Club (winner)
Urunga is very fortunate to have a service club dedicated to raising funds to assist all forms of needs in the local community and across the Bellingen Shire. Every Saturday the members are cooking in the main street of Urunga, they are at the markets in Urunga each month and each year they assist Rotary in Cycle Classic and are instrumental in the running and clean up the Bowraville section of the world rally.
Early in 2019 the club held the Save the Sight and Health community challenge including those community members wishing to swim, walk or run to raise funds Save Sight and Health Care Foundation, for the Sydney Eye Hospital. $7000.00 was raised.
A major project that had been years in planning and process the new BBQ facility at Lions Park under Kalang River Bridge became a reality and opened on 2 November 2019. Apart raising much needed funds and receiving matching grants for the project, many local community members pitched in offering their trades and abilities making it a community inclusive project.
In 2018-19 Urunga Lions raised $12240.00 for the Need for Feed drought appeal and assisted with a fund raiser at Anchors Warf to raise $8000.00 for the Tarthra fires.
Each year the club offers two students from Urunga, Raleigh or Repton, who are less fortunate to attend Camp Getaway. This camp is for one week duration and provides positive changes and confidence for the children.
The club is involved in the Youth of the Year Quest where students enter on the back of their own achievements of Leadership, community involvement, sporting or Scholastic and deliver in a 5 minute speech on a topic of choice. The club is involved in Youth Exchange and has hosted many students from other countries. They assist with Chamber of Commerce events, Raleigh Urunga Masonic Village and the Urunga Neighbourhood Centre.
Urunga Lions have donated considerable funds to Urunga, Repton and Raleigh Public Schools, Children's Mobility program, a school in Cambodia, Urunga Museum, Urunga Neighbourhood Centre and numerous worthwhile services, research and health projects.
Creative Arts Award
Presented for Music, Art, Written or Performed, open to persons under the age of 21 years on 26 January 2020
Blake Rowe (winner)
Blake lives half time in Armidale NSW with his grandparents and half time with Mum & siblings in Raleigh. Blake has special needs and is unable to attend school though excels when given the opportunity to be creative through welding and making sculptures with scrap metal and old horse shoes etc.
Blake has been welding since he was 8 years old and won the Junior Art Prize at the 2018 Father's Day sculpture in the park. Blake makes and sells many sculptures.
Blake is dealing with past trauma and is learning how to regulate his emotions, this alone is an outstanding achievement for this young man. Welding and being creative gives him something to be proud of.
Blake attends the Backtrack Program in Armidale through the week and is learning new skills. Blake's positive attitude and dedication to learning new skills and bettering his life is an inspiration to all.