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Australia Day Award Winners 2024

Citizen of the Year 

Alf and Stella Vella 

Al and Stella Vella

Alf and Stella are an inseparable pair, renowned in their community for their dedication and trustworthiness. For many years, they have become highly valued members, leaving a lasting impact on those around them. 

For many years, Alf and Stella have volunteered at their local fire brigade, earning life membership, and founding the Eastern Riders. To this day, they hold office of Secretary and News Editor. 

As avid motorcycle enthusiasts, Alf and Stella initiated ‘The Toy Run’ 23 years ago, evolving into a major annual event. Starting the campaign in May and ending in December, they passionately gather toy donations to support less fortunate families during Christmas. Their efforts bring the community together, generating substantial donations that benefit numerous families and children. 

Beyond their outstanding community work, Alf and Stella are also proud parents of three children and have lived in Latrobe City their whole lives. Their enduring commitment and contributions exemplify the spirit of community service, leaving a lasting mark on the lives they touch. 

Senior Citizen of the Year 

John O’Bryan 

John O'Bryan

John’s commitment to the Morwell Fire Brigade spans an impressive 55 years, beginning as a junior member in 1967 and continuing as an active member today. 

John has played a crucial role in the brigade’s development by holding leadership positions like 3rd and 4th lieutenant. He has also served as a Junior Leader, contributed to training sessions, and represented the brigade at Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria meetings. 

John has volunteered countless hours through many incidents such as the Church Street Explosion, Mine Fire, and Black Saturday Fires. He has supported the maintenance of fire equipment for local businesses, ensuring they are ready in case of a fire. Most notably, John facilitated the purchase and upgrade of the brigade’s 650-fire truck – which is used for events like funerals and Santa runs. 

John is recognised for his exceptional service – Life Member CFA, National Medal in 1989 and 1st Clasp in 2005. John also received the Emergency Services Award for his response and dedication during the Black Saturday Fires. He continues to show this dedication through mentoring junior members, attending regular Brigade meetings and maintaining equipment.

Young Citizen of the Year 

Harlequin Goodes 

Harlequin Goodes

Harley shows unwavering commitment to representing and advocating for young people throughout Latrobe City. As an outspoken and passionate advocate for youth equality, access and equity, Harley tirelessly volunteers her time on various community and business advisory committees. 

Harley’s contributions extend to Gippsland Youth Spaces, particularly in prioritising disadvantaged youth at Latrobe Youth Space, and ensuring young people are at the forefront when programs are designed and delivered. 

Her efforts go beyond Latrobe Youth Space, having actively participated in several projects, programs, and initiatives like the Latrobe Health Assembly and BawBaw LLEN project and the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) program. Harley also lends her expertise to numerous committees, addressing crucial matters for regional youth, especially for new energy in Latrobe City. 

Harley’s commitment to the wellbeing and empowerment of young people is evident in her diverse contributions. Her inspiring efforts have a lasting positive impact on countless individuals – she stands as a shining example of a passionate advocate dedicated to creating a brighter future for Gippsland’s youth. 

Community Event of the Year 

Gippsland Motorcyclists Toy Run 

Gippsland Motorcyclist toy run

Led by Alf and Stella Vella, the Gippsland Motorcyclists Toy Run has supported families in need at Christmas for 23 years. Working in partnership with other motorcycle groups and a host of volunteers, Alf and Stella gather toys, food, and money donations to give to the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul to distribute. 

Last year, the Toy Run generated a massive value of $64,796 – $10,000 more than the previous year. 

Originally held in Kay Street outside the Council Offices, the Toy Run event has expanded to Nefertiti Court, Traralgon, and continues to grow in numbers every year. 

Promotional days leading up to the event offer opportunities for others in the community to donate toys, food, gifts, and money, supporting Alf and Stella in making a substantial impact on the community. 

Community Service of the Year 

Knitted Knockers Australia, Traralgon Branch 

Knitted Knockers Australia, Traralgon Branch

Knitted Knockers Australia, Traralgon branch is a community-driven initiative that offers free, 100% cotton, hand-knitted prosthesis for women who have had a mastectomy due to breast cancer or prosthesis breast surgery. 

Volunteers craft the light-weight machine-washable prostheses so they are not heavy and can be worn every day – and even while swimming! 

Beginning as a Burwood Neighbourhood House Community Project, Knitted Knockers Australia, Traralgon became the 21st branch when it opened in August 2022. With 39 volunteer knitters, one stitcher, and two quality control volunteers, Jann Wright leads the Traralgon branch to distribute two free packs to each woman in need. 

Knitted Knockers Traralgon has 10 Committee members who volunteer their time to make sure the Traralgon Branch is a success. Each committee member helps with fundraising efforts to purchase the special fibre filling, cotton, and packaging. 

To raise funds and awareness, the group conducts raffles along with a stall at local shopping centres. Many local businesses have also donated much needed funds to help pay for the material. 

Since opening, Knitted Knockers Traralgon has distributed 63 packs, including hospital packs. 

Read about all the nominees for the 2024 Australia Day Awards here.

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