2016 - Australia Day Winners

Major Award – Citizen of the Year

Don Di Fabrizio

Gippsland Immigration Park Inc, with Don Di Fabrizio instrumental as Chairman, was responsible for the completion of the Gippsland Immigration Wall of Recognition in 2007. Whilst not being responsible for initiating the project – this was done by the Italian Australian Co-ordinating Committee for Gippsland – Committee members did bring the project to completion.

The park has provided a place to recognise the immigrant contribution to the development of Gippsland and, just as importantly, provided a venue for celebrations of a multicultural nature. There are now over 2000 names on the wall.

Don has been Chairman since May 2008.

In 2012 the Committee published a book ‘Stories from the Wall’, laying the histories of 28 immigrants whose names are listed on the wall out in print. The print run of 300 sold out.

In 2015, with the assistance of the Multicultural Commission and Latrobe City Council, a covered area was constructed. This was named the Piazza and was formally opened by the Minister for Multicultural Affairs on September 12, 2015.

Over the last four years the committee, with Don as Chairman, has worked on the Gippsland Heritage Walk, a series of 72 panels on the history of Gippsland erected around the lake at Kernot Hall.

This has been a major undertaking and was launched in early November by the Minister for Regional Development.

The support and co-operation from the Gippsland community is testament to the skills, drive and positive attitude that Don brings to his community work.

Major Award – Young Citizen of the Year

Maneesha Nambirajan

Maneesha is recognised by her peers as an inspiration to young people in Latrobe City and the wider Gippsland region. She is a role model for those around her and she is passionate about making a change and helping Latrobe City to be the best place it can be.

Maneesha has just finished Year 11 at the GEP in Churchill where she was Vice Captain and is a member of the Latrobe City Youth Council. She is a member of Soroptomist International as well as being a Youth Ambassador for the Global Volunteer Network.

She volunteers overseas and is going to Vietnam to work in an orphanage and then to Thailand to volunteer at an elephant village.

She has created a Facebook page to interview other young people to share their stories and is very community-minded, encouraging and deserving of recognition for her positive attitude.

Major Award – Community Event of the Year

Remembering Gallipoli

2015 represented 100 years since the Gallipoli landings.  Jenny Poon of the Traralgon Neighbourhood Learning House (TNLH) was inspired to commemorate the anniversary with poppies and in turn she inspired a group of diligent citizens to knit, crochet, paint, cut and glue to create 8873 poppies. 

The initial team included Charlie, an 81 year old WW2 veteran who was able to make nearly 900 poppies using his magic daisy wheel.  Not only did people donate time and talent but also material. From Metung to Melbourne individuals, groups and primary schools made poppies including a little girl from a Morwell primary school who became so enthusiastic about her poppies that she cut up her brothers’ red school T-shirt because she had run out of material!  Another community member who heard about the project but was unable to leave their home worked alone and sent in the finished poppies a few at a time.

The beautiful creations were then incorporated into a wonderful display that hundreds of people from all over Gippsland came to see and enjoy over the ANZAC Day weekend. Since then they have been used by the Traralgon City Band and are currently on display in the Traralgon Library.

Major Award – Community Service of the Year

Gippsland Immigration Park Inc.

Gippsland Immigration Park Inc was responsible for the completion of the Gippsland Immigration Wall of Recognition in 2007. Whilst it did not initiate the project, (it was initiated by the Italian Australian Coordinating Committee for Gippsland) the members brought the project to completion.

The project provided a place for the recognition of the immigrant contribution to the development of Gippsland and, just as importantly, provided a venue for celebrations of a multicultural nature. It has also provided a more general park environment for the pleasure of the community with a community deck, barbecue facilities and children’s playground.

In 2015, with the assistance of the Multicultural Commission and Latrobe City Council, a covered area was constructed. Called the Piazza project, it was formally opened by the Minister for Multicultural Affairs on 12 September 2015.

Over the last four years the committee has worked on the Gippsland Heritage Walk, a series of 72 panels on the history of Gippsland around the lake at Kernot Hall. This has been a major undertaking and will be formally launched on 8 November 2015 by the Minister for Regional Development.

After the completion of the Gippsland Immigration Wall of Recognition in 2007 the project won the 2008 sustainable Communities - Tidy Towns Victorian competition in the Heritage and Culture category.

Latrobe City Award – Adult Citizen of the Year

Dr Michele (Michael) Paolo Spisto

Dr. Michael Spisto has been a Latrobe City resident for well over a decade. Although he is a full-time senior lecturer in law at Victoria University, Melbourne, he has dedicated his personal time to contribute to the Latrobe City community. He is a volunteer radio presenter for the ethnic radio program, “Kuier Saam met Suid-Afrika” or “Catching up with South Africa” on the community radio station, Gippsland FM. The program, broadcast in English and Afrikaans, took him two years to set up and won the Gippsland FM award for “best new program for excellence in planning and delivery”.

He actively promotes this program (together with the benefits of living in Latrobe City) locally, in Melbourne and internationally. He also volunteers with “Read to you”, in support of the visually impaired service at Gippsland FM. He has provided pro-bono legal advice to community groups and individuals.

His past volunteering included Vision Australia Radio, Scouts Victoria and the Latrobe City Brass Band. He continues to use his professional skills, knowledge and expertise to benefit the community and encourages others, especially those who are in employment, to engage in volunteering.

Latrobe City Award – Young Citizen of the Year

Bailey John Unthank

As a junior Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteer, Bailey has been active in promoting volunteers in in both the junior and senior CFA.  His support for his CFA Brigade, Toongabbie, has helped keep the junior program there alive and growing.  His efforts have not gone unnoticed.  The CFA Toongabbie Captain, along with the District 27 (Latrobe Valley) headquarters, endorsed Bailey to represent District 27 in the ‘Australian Cadet Firefighting Games’. Following that, CFA Headquarters approved Bailey to be one of 18 CFA members to represent Victoria CFA at the games held in Sydney for all Australian states and territories.

Bailey has boosted the local CFA profile as a result of representing CFA District 27.  Bailey has used all form of media to promote CFA District 27 including, WIN News, Star FM and Latrobe Valley Express and encouraging new volunteers for CFA.  His CFA team finished in 19th position out of all Australia.

Bailey is 14 years old.  He was Toongabbie Primary School Captain in 2013 and won a Tyler Tipping Woods scholarship in 2013. Bailey is currently studying at Lavalla College.  He was the only CFA member from the Latrobe Valley District to represent CFA at Fire Cadet Games.

Latrobe City Award – Community Event

Churchill’s 50th Anniversary Event

15 March 2015, marked the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of Churchill and the town celebrated this milestone with a community fun day. The event started with formal speeches and the unveiling of a commemorative plaque at the new Churchill Town Plaza.

The closure of Phillip Parade created a pedestrian safe community festival precinct which offered a range of free activities, displays and fund-raising stalls supporting local not-for-profit organizations. 

The festivities were preceded by a commemorative church service and plaque unveiling to mark 50 years of Churches in Churchill.  There was strong media coverage and a successful Facebook campaign resulted in former residents returning to Churchill and sharing old photos. 

A free barbecue was provided by Churchill Lions Club.  Attendance exceeded expectations with local police estimating a crowd of over 2000 people. Entertainment was provided by the choir from Churchill Primary School, the Kurnai College band and local musicians. Memorabilia from community groups provided a forum for reminiscing and the children enjoyed a jumping castle, face painting and sports activities.

The sunny day was ‘abuzz’ with greetings, reunions and chat as current and former residents caught up on Churchill’s development and all the local news.

Latrobe City Award – Community Service

50 Mile Farmers Market, Morwell

The need for a market in the Morwell CBD has been talked about for many years and several proposals have failed to be ached.  Mrs Sue Gill and Mrs Liz Young also saw this need, and decided to take action to achieve a market for Morwell. Together they put together the 50 Mile Farmers Market and set it up in Tarwin Street Morwell.

The 50 mile Market was planned as an event which would draw on local producers within a 50 mile radius of the Morwell CBD, and which would gather and maintain a local fresh food network.  The Market was planned to occur every 2nd Saturday in Tarwin Street Morwell.

The market commenced in April 2015 and has been held each month since.  The event has been very successful bringing life to a previously very quiet Saturday and attracting people from other areas of Latrobe City and beyond.

Gerard Traynor

Gerard Traynor has made a significant contribution to the local community through his longstanding membership of the Morwell Neighbourhood Watch – Safer Communities Group. He is heavily involved in the recording, reporting and removal of graffiti in Morwell and assists police in identifying the offenders through their tags.

He is also actively involved with community groups in setting up for outdoor events and making sure that the sites are free of safety hazards.  In recent times, Gerard has accepted a higher level of responsibility for the management of the Morwell Neighbourhood Watch group through his involvement in strategic planning, preparation of instructions for group activities and the conduct of events such as Operation Safe Plate.

He completed the Latrobe City traffic management course last year to enable him to extend the scope of his community service activities.  Gerard assists Morwell Lions in the running of the Australia Day breakfast at Kernot hall and regularly helps at Lions and Rotary barbeques. He was invited to take part in the traffic management arrangements for the 2015 Oktoberfest at Club Astoria.

Latrobe City Award – Community Service of the Year

Morwell Free Store

Reuse – Reduce – Recycle.  The Morwell Free Store – promote, by giving away free things, we are slowing down the tide of things going to landfill, slowing down the destruction of the environment and helping to make people happy.  It also helps those who least can afford it by aiming at the lower income members of our community.

They even encourage you to come along an help, we welcome any community involvement from volunteers.

Recognition has come from Centrelink as a group offering approved registered volunteer work to Newstart recipients. The program is auspiced by the neighbourhood House, for insurance and grant applications.

Valley to Valley Project

Last year the disastrous Morwell Mine Fire impacted on the residents of the Latrobe Valley, leaving a sense of abandonment and hopelessness throughout the community. The Morwell Neighbourhood House and Learning Centre has not only worked tirelessly to build and maintain resilience on a local level but has extended their support to another Valley facing an environmental disaster. When flooding struck the Hunter Valley region in April this year it soundly resonated with residents across the Latrobe City. The question most asked was, “How can we help?”

Initially the “Valley to Valley” project started as an idea to send messages of hope and support from the Latrobe Valley to the Hunter Valley. The idea was simple; Circulate message books throughout the community so people could pen their thoughts on resilience and strength. This was to be followed by a group photo so the completed messages could be sent interstate. Letters spelling out “Latrobe”, “Hunter” and Valley were arranged and held high by locals who were photographed from overhead using the bucket of the Country Fire Authority Ladder Platform. It was a terrific opportunity for people to get involved.

Then the project snowballed! Schools, community groups and local authorities took advantage of the lettering and were photographed spelling out different words such as “Hope”, “Mate-ship” and “Strength”. The final message book was produced and delivered to the Hunter Valley Community leaders by Trace Lund, the MNH&LC Coordinator. The message book is a beautiful patchwork of inspirational messages. It is an innovative part of an ongoing process in unifying people of the Latrobe municipality.

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