2014 - Australia Day Winners

Major Award – Citizen of the Year

Frank Bezzina

Frank Bezzina is a man with a big heart and huge capacity for giving. In his persona as Koko the Clown he has been an entertainer, teacher, hero, ‘doctor of the soul’, inspirational role model and friend to many people. Frank has offered his services and talent, free of charge, time and time again – purely to bring a smile to a child’s face. He gives wholeheartedly, asking nothing in return and never seeking accolades or recompense.

Frank has a unique gift of being able to ‘read’ people and interacts particularly well with ill or ‘special needs’ children. As his genuine compassion, honesty and caring heart shine through, youngsters who may be socially isolated or emotionally vulnerable are able to relax, trusting in Frank’s sincerity and integrity. Frank’s wonderful ability to be amusing and entertaining while always remaining respectful makes him an exceptional person.

In addition to his work with children, Frank has performed at numerous aged care facilities throughout Victoria, using his special brand of cheeky humour to lift the spirits of, and bring joy to, many elderly folk.  Frank Bezzina selflessly dedicates himself to bringing joy and laughter to people of all ages – especially those who need it most.

Major Award – Young Citizen of the Year

Bayley Charalambous

Bayley is the 2012/2013 winner for Gippsland of ‘The Premier’s Spirit of ANZAC Prize’. In April this year Bayley spent his term one school holidays on a study tour exploring battlefields in Turkey, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Bayle’s entry for the prize was a quite gripping multimedia documentary portraying the experiences of three local Vietnam veterans.  By winning this perspicuous prize Bayley was ambassador for Gippsland on ten study tour.

Since his return Bayley was asked to be quest speaker on ANZAC Day for the Boolarra and Yinnar services which touched the hearts of all in attendance.  He has also spoken at various schools about his experiences including St Paul’s Anglican Grammar which Minister Hugh Delahunty had asked Bayley to join him in promoting the prize.

Bayley has had for many years an interest in war history and a deep respect for our veterans so by continuing to promote the prize through events such as these Bayley hopes to inspire the younger generation of Gippsland to keep the ANZAC spirit alive.  Especially as the ANZAC Centenary is coming up he has taken it as a personal goal to promote the awareness of such an important anniversary.

Major Award – Community Event of the Year

Gippsland Motorcycle Toy Run

The 2012 Toy Run was the 13th since the event commenced. Its sole purpose is to support local families in need at Christmas time through the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul. This year (and for the past 3 years) this event has ensured that no family who sought help from the charities for help missed out on a decent Christmas. Total proceeds from donations and sponsorships exceeded $55 000 this year.

This event brings three local bike clubs together with Police, Latrobe City, Primary Schools and many local businesses to work towards a very heart-warming  goal. It also goes a long way improving community awareness of motorcyclists in general and fosters good relations with Police. Support for this event includes eight primary schools, many local businesses including all power companies, Rotary, Lions, RSL clubs, social and sporting Clubs as well as Latrobe City, Victoria Police and Old Gippstown.

The Gippsland Motorcyclists Toy Run is one of the biggest regional events of its kind in Australia and has an unblemished safety record. It was started by the following local bike clubs – Eastern Riders Gippsland, Ulysses Gippsland Central Branch and the Us and Them Tourers.

Major Award – Community Service of the Year

Morwell State Emergency Services

The Morwell SES unit has been servicing the community of the old Morwell City, Morwell Shire and Traralgon Shire for more than 35 years before the amalgamation to the Latrobe City Council.

The Morwell SES unit consists of entirely volunteers ranging from men and women from 18 -70 years of age. The volunteers work tireless in helping members and visitors to the Latrobe City in areas of flood, storm and rescues. The Morwell SES volunteers on numerous Latrobe City Community and Reference Groups.

Last year the Morwell SES responded to over 400 calls for assistance within the Latrobe City area.

Latrobe City Award – Citizen of the Year

John Harris

John Harris came to the Latrobe Valley straight from University to teach chemistry at the Yallourn Technical College Senior School. When the school became Monash University Churchill, John became Director of Distance Education. During this time he was a mentor for a great number of students and young adults.

During that time, he was an active member of Apex, serving over 10 years as secretary president and zone President where his motto was “The hand of friendship”.

As well as his involvement with Apex, John has also worked for 8 years with the Yinnar and District Lions Club as treasurer and projects committee member, has had 6 years involvement as secretary of the Yinnar and District Community Association, as well as 3 years as a Director and Chairman of the Board with the Strzelecki Ranges Community Enterprise Ltd Franchise Division of the Mirboo North Bendigo Community Bank. All these positions have been voluntary.

John was also instrumental in coordinating with the Boolarra and Yinnar townships in developing a local Emergency Action Plan after the 2009 fires. He has also coordinated the distribution of the plans to all households in these districts.

Latrobe City Award – Citizen of the Year

Judy Lipman

Judy has been a resident in the Latrobe valley for approximately forty years, during which she has been a devoted family member and a passionate community worker, continually active in her association with many organisations, at times in a face of challenge and personal loss.

Prominent amongst her community contributions has been her support of Yallourn North organisations, events and activities.  She has manage to juggles dates and efforts to do justice to each worthy cause, at the same time being able to remember birthdays and give encouragement to individuals operating below par.

In Yallourn North she formed the Spinners and Weavers group, she was a Lioness, she has been a volunteer and member of the Historical Society & Museum and a member of YNAG of which she is currently president.  She has coordinated the Australia Day Breakfast for some years, lead YNAG projects groups, helped to hang art shows, baked hundreds of cakes and made thousands of sandwiches delivered newsletters, sold daffodils in aid of cancer research, she judged garden competitions and been a wonderfully cheerful encourager of many.

Judy Lipman should definitely be considered as Latrobe City Citizen of the Year in view of past and present caring community contributions.

Latrobe City Award – Citizen of the Year

Bill O’Donnell

Bill has undertaken and correlated significant community works over many years voluntarily, in the orchestration of the redevelopment and improvement of the Yallourn North Recreation Reserve and Hall Facility in the Town of Yallourn North. As well as other assistance with Neighbourhood watch and the Yallourn North Action Group.

Bill has spent much time as Treasurer of the Yallourn North Action Group and is now looking at orchestrating further community works to the Recreation Reserve and Hall which will include re-surfacing of Tennis Courts and new floor for the older section of the Hall.  Bill is a retired carpenter, who has resided in the township of Yallourn North for all of his adult life.

Latrobe City Award – Citizen of the Year

Jean Tops

Jean Tops founded the Gippsland Carers Association in 1997, and has spent many years selflessly helping people who provide unpaid care for loved ones with disabilities, mental or chronic illness, or aged frailty. These carers, mostly women, are among the most disadvantaged members of society and often forego things others take for granted – like jobs, education, and social activities. Too many people who find themselves in the position of Carer express feeling alone and isolated, especially those unable to leave home due to their Caring responsibilities (these feeling are compounded when living in remote areas). It is also extremely difficult for those who became Carers suddenly, as in when a child or partner suffers a serious injury resulting from an accident (such as spinal cord injury, or brain damage).

Jean saw too many Carers withering under the stress of caring 24/7, and was, and remains, driven to help reduce the higher-than-normal rates of illness, depression, and suicide, among carers. Her enthusiasm for “a better deal for Carers” has inspired others to offer support to make life better for those who give so much to others, at such a high cost to themselves.

Latrobe City Award – Citizen of the Year

Warren Xerri

Warren has been an active member of the Yallourn North Action Group (YNAG) for some time. In the past three years Warren has been the editor of the monthly YNAG Community Newsletter.  This role includes gathering editorial; following up on copy for the advertising section; taking photographs, preparing the layout of the newsletter; arranging for it to be printed; and organising residents in the distribution process.

Warren has been required to be a central contact person for the whole community, which he manages very well in a calm and understated manner.  Sometimes residents are late with editorial or disagree with the content of the Newsletter, however Warren continues to remain polite with everyone.  He also works hard to continually improve the Newsletter, which includes actively seeking feedback/new ideas and opportunities to improve his ‘editorial’ skills.

Warren has grown into this role from being a reluctant volunteer, to someone with confidence in his ability to manage a key task for the group. And the Community has a quality local Newspaper.
Warren’s personal growth, the quality of the newsletter and the marvellous service he brings to his community through the newsletter are compelling factors in nominating him as citizen of the year.

Latrobe City Award – Young Citizen of the Year

Olivia Blackwood

Olivia has demonstrated leadership skills and is a role model for the community and it s members.

Olivia has shown ongoing commitment to improving the welfare of others not just locally but now internationally through her ongoing sponsorship and volunteering in Uganda, encouraging children and family to support education.

Olivia volunteers in Uganda and started to put girls through school via foreign sponsorship.

Latrobe City Award – Community Event of the Year

Coalies Weekend

Coalies weekend has become a very valuable annual event arranged with excellent attention to organisational detail and hospitality contributed by the Yallourn North & District Historical Society.  It is held at the Old Brown Coal Mine Museum in Yallourn North.

Its value lies in a number of fields.  It enhances social connection by enabling Yallourn North residents/workers past and present to renew friendships and talk about the old times and to hear about new developments in Yallourn North and the surrounding area.  Through these discussions history is help alive and up to date.  The event highlight the excellence of the museum’s unique historical collection through special displays that provide a nostalgic look back into the rich coal miming heritage of Yallourn North and district.

The celebration acknowledges the men and women who pioneered the small township of Yallourn North formerly known as Brown Coal Mine.  Coalies Weekend, with its additional value of continuity over many years, is an event that for many is the event of the year.

Latrobe City Award – Community Event of the Year

GECC 3 Day Multicultural Festival

The Gippsland Multicultural Festival is a unique annual festival occurring in Cultural Diversity Week - within the Harmony month of March.

The 2013 festival began on Friday with the Multicultural Youth Festival: “Bridging the Multicultural Generation Gap”. This showcased youth talent from across Gippsland and stimulated students to research our diverse multicultural heritage and its impact on community, society and education. Through researching their heritage, school-children may become attracted to learning foreign languages and other cultures.

On the Saturday, the Long Table Lunch, also part of the Gippsland Food and Wine Festival, served ethnic cuisine using produce from the region.

On the third day, colourful multicultural performances from diverse cultural groups occurred in Immigration Park. The crowd enjoyed the diversity of ethnic performers in their cultural costumes. Ethnic food stalls, provided for a range of culinary tastes. Displays and cultural activities provided additional interest. The Grand Parade with flags and banners waving and the unveiling of names on the Immigration Wall of Recognition were special attractions.

This community celebration of multiculturalism was possible through the work of the Gippsland Ethnic Communities’ Council (GECC) in partnership and cooperation with local organisations and schools – all together making the celebration a great success.

Latrobe City Award – Community Event of the Year

Moe Schools Superstars 2013

Following on from the success of the 2012 Moe Schools Superstar event, the 2013 event was planned to keep the positive momentum in the town that this event generates.

he event includes local primary schools, community services and most community groups.  It give children the chance to showcase this wonderful singing talents in a community friendly environment, provides a place for community groups to hold displays, and the general public a place to come, relax and enjoy a day of free entertainment.

The event features students from 8 schools an opportunity to perform in public with the finalists allowed to sign at the Moe Music Festival held at Old Gippstown.  The event has become an important part of the traders program to invigorate not only the CBD but also provide the Moe Community a fun free event.  The community groups also have a place to showcase the wonderful things that they do, in a fun environment.

Latrobe City Award – Community Event of the Year

Strzelecki Showtime

Strzelecki Showtime should be nominated for Community Event of the Year as it involves a large group of people within Latrobe City.

Writing for the show commences in January and then auditions start in May/June. Rehearsals commence in July and run for 3 months prior to the six shows in October.  It involves children from the ages of 10 years to adults.

A lot of time and effort goes into the rehearsals which are held on weekends.  There is also a lot of work by the backstage crew who make all the new props and costume ladies make new costumes every year. It also involves a lot of time from parents in taking their children to rehearsals which are in Morwell, then Traralgon for the shows.

Showtime writes all their own songs, all of which the band has to learn.  Strzelecki Showtime haw been running for over 40 years and deserves to be recognised for all the effort that goes into staging a production every year.

Latrobe City Award – Community Service of the Year

Buddy Bear Swing Group – Creative House

he Buddy Bear Sewing Group is an inspiring group of dedicated, committed and passionate volunteers and clients, who meet regularly to sew, create and package handmade calico bears, which are then distributed free to community members who may have suffered a traumatic experience or simply need the support of a friend.

The ‘Buddy Bears Sewing Group’ creates opportunities for clients involved in mental health programs to learn new skills, engage in supported activities and assist their local community through a mentored volunteer role. The group meets regularly at Latrobe Community Health Service’s Creative House in Traralgon.

Creative House is psychiatric disability rehabilitation day stay program for adults aged 16-64. Buddy Bear is a very special teddy Bear constructed by LCHS volunteers and program participants, Buddy Bears have the capacity to offer comfort and companionship. Bears are made from calico and each bear comes with a birth certificate and nontoxic markers allowing the bear to be named and decorated.

During 2012/2013 over 400 Bears were created and distributed free thorough a variety of programs.

Latrobe City Award – Community Service of the Year

Forever Friends Animal Rescue – Latrobe

Forever Friends Animal Rescue (FFAR) Latrobe is a not-for –profit organisation dedicated to the rescue and re-homing of companion animals.  In partnership with the Latrobe City Pound, Forever Friends Animal Rescue Latrobe has been responsible for rescuing and rehoming over 630 animals that would have otherwise been euthanized.

Forever Friends Animal Rescue Latrobe  was a finalist in the Latrobe Business and Tourism Awarder under “Most Popular Community Service Organisation” category in 2013.

Forever Friends Animal Rescue was initially established by Melanie Palmer in February 2012.

Since that time the group has grown and now consists of 5 key members and a further 55 volunteers (including pet foster carers). In September 2013 Forever Friends Animal Rescue Latrobe separated from its parent organisation and was officially registered as an independent incorporated organisation.

Latrobe City Award – Community Service of the Year

Mrs Lyn McAlister

Lyn McAlister became Secretary of the Yallourn Gold Club in 2012, happily volunteering in the position after no nominations were received, and in the process becoming the club’s first ever female Secretary.  Lyn puts an erroneous amount of work in every week, late into the evening, on weekends, and travels far and wide for meetings and to represent the Club.

She has represented the Club through some difficult times, un-waving in her commitment, and the Club’s continues existence is not doubt contributed to her hard, volunteering work.

On top of her Executive Committee commitments, Lyn also volunteers regularly on the Sunday Bar Roster, and also volunteers in our kitchen at the Club during big events and for social golf groups, to ensure the Club can deliver these services to groups.

Lyn’s even found the time to win the Ladies Club Championships and I’m not sure how she does it.  Lyn has been a Member of the Yallourn golf Club for years, and on the Executive since 2010.

Latrobe City Award – Community Service of the Year

Morwell Neighbourhood House Program Volunteers

The Morwell Neighbourhood House’s vision is to be a welcoming place of community involvement and learning. Achieving excellence in leading our community towards greater independence and quality of life. This is only achieved because of the help of a band of dedicated and devoted volunteers, support staff and tutors that enable these programs to take place.

This group of people include; Vicky Osborn, Janet Swash, Isabel Temple and Josie Vecchio who are very much responsible for the success of the Morwell Neighbourhood House and its programs. The house offers a range of  classes including specialized literacy programs and acts more than a meeting place, but an educational hub for those in the community that need their assistance.

These special people go above and beyond to make sure that those attending the Morwell Neighbourhood House feel welcomed and their experience is rewarding. They are passionate, dedicated and the backbone of the Morwell Neighbourhood House and well worthy of recognition.

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