The accomplishments of locals throughout the Macleay Valley were recognised at the Kempsey Shire Council's 2021 Australia Day Awards Ceremony today, January 26.
Held at the Slim Dusty Centre, the awards aim to showcase locals who have made an outstanding contribution to the community throughout the year.
In a moving Welcome to Country, Dunghutti Elder Bob Smith reminded those who were present of the different emotions evoked on this day.
"This is a day to celebrate those who have achieved great things in the community over the past year, but this day also means the loss of parts of our culture and many people still view this day with different eyes," he said.
"There are people who view this day as one of mourning and invasion, but it's also a chance for us to express admiration for those who have worked hard."
Mayor Liz Campbell, in her opening speech, said Australia Day is a chance for the whole community to come together.
"It's a day for us to celebrate what is means to be Australian and to acknowledge those in our community who have made a difference and celebrate the resilience of the Kempsey Shire," she said.
"Congratulations to all of the award recipients and of course, to all of the deserving nominees.
"The calibre of nominations received across each category was very impressive this year, making this a very difficult decision for the Australia Day Committee.
"The Australia Day awards are a simple yet important way we can pay tribute to the individuals and groups in our region who continue to devote their time to improving our shire," Cr Campbell said.
Kempsey Shire's 2021 Australia Day ambassador Dick Adams APM OAM RFD reiterated the Mayor's comments in his speech.
"I am humbled by the nominees for the awards today and the work they have done," he said.
"Today we reflect on the resilience of our communities and the contribution of all Australians."
The 2021 Kempsey Australia Day Award winners are:
Citizen of the Year - Stafford and Dianne Everson
For over 40 years, Dianne and Stafford Everson, born and bred Macleay Valley residents, have contributed to the lives of Macleay Valley people.
Largely unrecognised for their charitable support of many groups across the Shire, Dianne and Stafford have grown Eversons Processors from scratch, employing hundreds across the shire over many years.
They have never waivered in their support of various charities, community and sporting groups as well as individuals in need during challenging times.
Throughout the bushfires they arranged food drops to the upper Macleay, donated and supported to the local SES groups and ensured that their 200 staff were kept employed even during the worst of the drought.
Despite any challenges they face personally or professionally, and within the context of 2020 and its issues Dianne and Stafford have never wavered in their support of their staff and our community.
Young Citizen of the Year - Keely Lawrence
On top of working a full-time job as a veterinary nurse, and studying Veterinary Technology Keely Lawrence has found time to inspire us all as a champion of young people, the agriculture industry and the Macleay.
As the reigning Miss Kempsey Showgirl Keely has raised over $17,000 for Dolly's Dream charity and been named Chief Beef steward for the 2021 Kempsey Show.
During the bushfires Keely was a front and centre volunteer in the evacuation centre and went on to volunteer with Blaze Aid repairing fences on properties throughout the shire.
Keely is an active member of the Kempsey Cancerian Committee and as a family impacted by bowel cancer, Keely and her siblings have initiated an annual fundraiser for Bowel Cancer Awareness. In 2020 not deterred by COVID Keely took the fundraising online and still raised almost $3000.
Community Group of the Year - Kempsey-Crescent Head Surf Life Saving Club
The Kempsey-Crescent Head Surf Life Saving Club is celebrating 100 years of service to the Macleay this year.
The club is owned and run by its members, who have given thousands of hours service to protecting our community through the decades. The organisation has a rich history including many heroic rescues and has almost 200 members at present.
The successful nippers program has attracted many new members to the club, keeping generations safe on our beaches.
At competition level, the Boat Crews have done the Macleay proud with both State and National recognition, as recently as the 2018/2019 season.
This past season, which was interrupted by COVID-19, members still managed to complete 2104 hours of community service in patrolling and maintaining Crescent Head beach as a safe aquatic zone for residents and visitors.
The Australia Day Committee were very impressed with the nominations for this category and decided to award two Highly Commended Awards for this category:
Highly Commended Community Group of the Year Award - Lilli Pilli Ladies
The Lilli Pilli Ladies, started as a small group of friends who had been impacted by cancer in various ways and they wanted to help others.
They provide support for those with cancer in the Macleay Valley through popular fundraising events such as morning teas, which they have held regularly over the years.
This past year, they designed creative ways to fundraise while keeping the community safe.
Highly Commended Community Group of the Year Award - My Church Kempsey
My Church Kempsey, also known as the Macleay Coast Church, is an active and vibrant supporter of people in need around our Valley, through food donations and fellowship.
The popular youth group enables young people to take a break from difficult home lives by providing access to light-hearted fun and religious education.
Welcoming of everyone and the group worked throughout 2020 to support many beyond the formal Church.
Volunteer of the Year - Andrew Kirby
Andrew Kirby is the type of volunteer who has his hand permanently up and often puts his own business behind the needs of his community.
He is integral to the Hat Head community volunteering hours of his time with the Hat Head Surf Club and the Hat Head Triathlon Club.
Through the Tri Club he organises races and training and constantly motivates people to adopt a healthy lifestyle. He gives his time to guide and help new members wherever possible.
In August 2020 he coordinated a Dementia Duathlon with a group target of 1000km of riding and running to raise funds for Dementia.
As an RFS volunteer, during the fires he protected the property of others through the night, then would barely make it home for a short sleep before working all day for his own business and repeating the process again for days on end.
Volunteer of the Year - Michael Kemp
Michael Kemp was integral in providing support to his local Wittitrin community during the Black Summer Bushfires.
Throughout 2020 Michael continued to support the community by donating funds, materials and labour to build shelters over donated caravans.
He personally built five of the shelters and creatively used remaining materials to supply an additional shelter to someone in need.
He has since joined the RFS and has provided initial support and funding to get the newly formed Wittitrin Progress Association off the ground, where he acts as the Communications Officer.
Additionally, through his business, Michael volunteers to speak at our local schools and community events on health and well-being.
Lifetime Achievement Award - Kevin Farrawell
Kevin Farrawell has been a tireless worker for our community over 50 years.
A member of West Kempsey Rotary since 1970 where he was once the President and was awarded Rotary International's highest honour the Paul Harris Fellow Award for community service.
Through Rotary his countless community projects include the Mid Coast Trade Fair, High School Science and Technology Fairs, local prk beautification and international exchange programs.
Kevin was a founding member of the Kempsey Men's Shed, and a founding board member of the Cedar Place Nursing Home, the Slim Dusty Heritage Centre and Slim Dusty Foundation.
He's also been a member of countless community committees such as the Business Chamber, the Bush Fire Concert and CBD revamps.
Kevin started Farrawell Aluminium in 1973 and built it into one of the largest employers in Kempsey while ensuring manufacturing was always done in Kempsey.
He started Farrawell Powdercoaters in 2000 and is now developing Kempsey's only new industrial estate in almost 40 years, further expanding local employment opportunities.