Volunteers make a significant contribution to community life in Latrobe City and Mayor Cr Sharon Gibson is proud of them.
She praises their achievements and dedication to Latrobe City in her celebratory series, Mayor’s Community Champion.
The Mayor's Community Champion Stories feature in Council’s Noticeboard in The Express every second week , as well as here.
Country music fans are doing what they do best: rallying around people in need.
For several months, the members of the country music not-for-profit organisation at Morwell, Our Kinda Country Club Inc, have been collecting donations and transporting these to the Sarsfield area in East Gippsland, razed by bushfire in the summer of 2019-2020.
The club members deliver the goods to Sarsfield woman, Amy Fisher, who distributes them to locals in need.
Club president Dawn O’Connell said the donation drive began when the group heard Blazeaid, a charity that assists communities affected by bushfire, was struggling for warm items.
“We collected goods and donated money from our club to purchase other goods. It was during this process that we heard about the plight of so many who had been forgotten in that area. This was when we met Amy Fisher at Sarsfield,” she said.
“We collect the donated goods and transport them to her, and she lets people know they are there for them to collect.
“We have donated truck hire to take large loads, and several times we have been with four-wheel-drives, trailers and cars.”
Among the goods donated have been furniture, clothing, linen, garden implements, tools, electrical items, toys, Christmas decorations, cutlery, crockery, manchester, appliances, bikes and footwear.
Dawn is assisted by club vice president Maisie Bulmer, and committee and life member Bill Rowley, who loads and drives trucks for the delivery run. Maisie cleans and stores the donated goods. All three live in Traralgon.
“We do not have physical connections to Sarsfield but I do know we have made lifelong connections with folk we have met,” Dawn said.
“We are community-minded people who help where we can because we can. Maisie, Bill and I are lucky to have the support of wonderful people to help make things easier for fellow Gippslanders.”
Latrobe City Council Mayor, Cr Sharon Gibson thanked the group for their kindness and dedication.
“Dawn and Maisie saw a need, with people living under canvas and with nothing to their name, so these ladies rolled their sleeves up and set about trying to change that,” she said.
“They collected donations from far and wide; clothing, household goods, anything that people were happy to donate and they transported that to Sarsfield.
“They made sure the goods were something that anyone of us would be happy to receive.
It gave pride back to the people.”
The Latrobe community is proud to be part of Australia every day of the year and even more so on Australia Day.
Celebrations are held in some towns across the City on this day, commemorating the many reasons why Australia is an ideal place to call home.
“Behind these events are dedicated groups of volunteers who share such a passion for their communities,” Latrobe City Council Mayor, Cr Sharon Gibson said.
“With community events being held in Boolarra, Churchill, Morwell, Toongabbie and Yinnar, there are plenty of events for the community to take part in.”
Unfortunately events at Moe, Traralgon and Yallourn North have been cancelled this year, as it was difficult for the community volunteers to manage the COVIDSafe requirements set out by the State Government.
The Toongabbie event will be run by the Wellington Latrobe Lions Club (pictured) and club member Christina Gardner is looking forward to this occasion.
“This is a very important day on our town’s event calendar and where we will announce our Toongabbie citizen of the year, presented by a special guest from Latrobe City Council,” she said.
“We could have up to 150 people attending and they will celebrate how wonderful it is to live in Toongabbie and our great country Australia.
“There will also be a special breakfast, damper will be made and scouts will raise the Australian flag.”
For the full list of Australia Day events across Latrobe City, go to Council’s website:
View more information at www.latrobe.vic.gov.au/AustraliaDay
A passionate group of volunteers are promoting beauty in the heart of Moe.
They are the members of the Edward Hunter Heritage Bush Reserve Committee of Management. The reserve is 58ha of tranquil bushland with an abundance of native flora and fauna.
The committee held a calendar competition to encourage Moe and Newborough children to explore the reserve.
Children were invited to enter photographs taken at the reserve and artworks depicting reserve scenes. Forty photos and 12 artworks feature in the calendar.
“Many people do not realise what a treasure we have in our own backyard,” Latrobe City Council Mayor Cr Sharon Gibson said.
“Edward Hunter Heritage Bush Reserve is one of the largest patches of native remnant vegetation in the foothills of the Strzelecki Ranges in the Latrobe Valley.
“To see what our youth have photographed and drawn is amazing.”
Forty children entered the competition, submitting 200 photos and 20 works of art.
“We were impressed by the number of the entries and the quality of the entries too,” calendar coordinator Jane Sultana said.
The artwork winner was Charli de van der Schueren, age 15, with her painting Lone Walks of the boardwalks and reservoir.
Runners-up were: Emily Liang, 17, for her sketch of a Golden Whistler bird and Kylah Richards, 10, for her painting of the reserve including a King Parrot.
The photography winner was Jake Keily, age 11, with a portrait titled Two Trees.
Runners-up were: Jackson Harding, 17, for his image of fungi and Izzy Eaton, 15, for her photograph of a camouflaged Fairy Wren.
The winners were announced by Cr Gibson during an online calendar launch on 29 November.
The calendar is free thanks to a $3500 grant from Energy Australia and is available at Moe Library and select Moe businesses.
The main car park to the Edward Hunter reserve is at Coalville Road, Moe.
The ladies of Querencia retirement village at Moe may be retired, but they’re not retiring from giving to their treasured community.
The caring women have posed for a fun-filled calendar for 2021 that is now being sold to raise money for projects to be overseen by the Moe Lions Club.
With 500 calendars for sale at $10 each – and all funds going to local projects – that’s a potential donation of $5000.
That’s an act that drew the admiration of Latrobe City Council Mayor, Cr Sharon Gibson.
“These ladies are showing that age is no barrier to helping the community,” she said.
“These ladies have a compassion that has not diminished over the years. They’re still thinking of others as this calendar is raising money for locals, such as the Lions club.
“I hope that at their age I’m still going strong and helping the community. This is an example as to why our older citizens should be treasured.”
In the calendar, the ladies appear in creative poses, costumes and settings around the village, some reflective of the month their photo illustrates.
There is a lady with Easter eggs for that holy event, a lady in army camouflage for ANZAC Day and four women wearing football gear for the AFL grand final in September.
Calendar buyers will also find a bathing beauty from 1918, Cinderella and even a cabaret lady - plus a few surprises.
“We just did it for a bit of a laugh and fun, and to raise money for charity because there are a lot of people out there who are struggling. Anything we can do to help is a good thing,” said Bev Lethborg, one of the ladies behind the calendar.
The calendars are available from Querencia retirement village at 6-8 Mena Street, Moe, and at The Coffee Pod in Moe.
Carols by Candlelight events will bring evenings of festive magic to Latrobe City via the internet and radio this weekend.
Instead of the usual live performances, due to restrictions on gathering sizes because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Moe and Traralgon carols will be broadcast.
“I thank these community groups for being able to still bring joy to our community,” Latrobe City Council Mayor, Cr Sharon Gibson said.
“Even though the carols can’t be held in person this year, COVID has seen groups get creative. They have risen to the challenge to ensure that we can still have carols and celebrate.”
The 2020 Moe Community Christmas Carols will be live streamed on YouTube and Facebook this Friday 18 December, 7pm-8.30pm.
To watch the carols, go to the ‘Moe Community Christmas Carols’ Facebook event page.
The concert will feature prominent local artists who will present an eclectic mix of well-known Christmas carols and songs.
Lauren Burns will feature with a beautiful Spanish Lullaby carol. Tamworth award-winning Destiny Band Oz will present a new Christmas song.
Kara Smith, Gavin Chatelier, Roberta Fox and young aspiring talent Lochlan Berryman Lambeth will bring joy, hope and relief through their music.
Father Daniel Szwec will offer a Christmas greeting and there will be opportunities for the audience to win prizes. Santa will help with prize-giving.
The program will be brought together under the direction of 3GG Radio presenter Andrew Deaks.
The Traralgon event will see traditional carols and entertainment live streamed and broadcasted via Facebook and radio stations TRFM and GOLD 1242.
The concert will be live at 7pm, Sunday 20 December.
Christmas songs will be performed by Annelise Answerth, Phoebe Trinidad, Liam Charleston, Ashlea Vanyai, Julianne Bremner, Tessa and Thomas Libreri, Sammie Grumley and Taylah Trew.
Carols co-ordinator Kevin Taylor, of the Traralgon Lions Club, said the club was proud to present the carols as part of a community organising group.
“Rather than cancelling the carols, we thought the community would be looking for something to cheer them up before Christmas and so we decided to broadcast the carols live,” he said.
“People will be able to sit back, have a picnic in their backyard, and relax and watch the carols.”
Mr Taylor thanked Latrobe City Council for being one of the major sponsors of the event, along with AGL, TRFM and GOLD 1242.
The carols will be filmed behind closed doors at the Latrobe Performing Arts Centre.
To watch, go to the ‘Traralgon Carols by Candlelight’ Facebook page or listen to TRFM (99.5FM or 99.9FM) and GOLD 1242 (1242AM).
There’s only thing that these motorcyclists like better than riding across Gippsland – and that’s keeping fellow riders safe.
The members of the Gippsland Motorcycle Club have established a mentoring program for new and returning riders, and have featured in television commercials promoting safety.
To add to their community service, in February this year they staged the inaugural Latrobe Motorfest at Morwell, a street racing event that drew 7000 people to Mid Valley Shopping Centre.
Latrobe City Council Mayor Cr Sharon Gibson thanked the club members for their contribution to saving the lives of Latrobe City motorcyclists and other motorists.
“New motorcyclists are fortunate to have more experienced riders mentoring them in the skills of riding,” she said.
“Just as learner drivers have a mentor, the group saw a need similar for new motorcyclists to receive mentoring in real time - an experience that will save lives.
“By mentoring new riders, the club members have delivered 140 riding lessons. So far 35 new riders have benefited from four sessions each, with their mentor riding behind them to assist in providing tips and sharing their experience of riding.”
Club president Shannon Hamden said the mentoring program matches former and current motorcycle trainers with new riders and those who are returning to motorcycling.
The mentoring program arose after a high number of motorcycling deaths across in Victoria in 2019, and is funded by grants the club sources from VicRoads and the TAC.
Approximately 35 riders have been mentored in the past 18 months.
“Once you get your licence you are on your own, so there is a gap there,” Shannon said.
Club members have been involved in the iconic ‘Doug and Barry’ TV advertisements, with Shannon playing the role of Doug. They portray an experienced rider and a novice motorcyclist riding to their abilities on Gippsland roads.
Their ads have since been expanded to raising awareness of the benefit of regular practice, riding often and of wearing correct protective apparel.
The advertisements arose from the club’s involvement with the Gippsland Motorcycle Advisory Committee chaired by VicRoads.
Latrobe Motorfest drew visitors to Latrobe City from as far as Mildura and due to COVID-19, the next event is slated to run in late 2021.
Performers are singing the praises of the Latrobe Valley in an arousing music video now online.
The My Valley, My Home Virtual Choir Project is a partnership between Latrobe Health Assembly, Latrobe Valley Community Choir and inclusive arts organisation, Play It Forward.
The project saw 125 community singers take part in online singing workshops that culminated in the recording of the “My Valley, My Home” song, celebrating Latrobe City.
“This moving music video is a tribute to the Valley that we are proud to call our home,” Latrobe City Council Mayor, Cr Sharon Gibson said.
The song was written by Dr Jonathon Welch AM with the lyrics reflecting on the words of children and adults from throughout Latrobe City. It was performed by a virtual community choir created under the expert leadership of Dr Welch.
He is the founder and artistic director of Play it Forward, an organisation that enables arts leaders to pass on their skills to the community. Dr Welch was the founding artistic director of the award-winning Choir of Hard Knocks in 2006.
“This all began when Jonathon Welch was working with the Latrobe Valley Community Choir several years ago,” Cr Gibson said.
“He has been working with the choir since its inception and was so touched by the Valley that he wanted to show his love and appreciation for the Valley by writing this gift to us. That is why it is so special.
“It’s touching to note that the lyrics of the song were drawn from local primary school children’s own words.”
Project facilitator Tineke Westwood said the project brings together the Latrobe Valley community to learn and sing a song that represents the transition the Valley is experiencing, along with its trials and tribulations.
“The project aims to build physical and mental wellbeing within our community,” she said.
While the COVID-19 restrictions restricted physical gatherings, the choir members gathered online to develop their skills.
“Participants socialised virtually and made new friendships, placing them in a better position to deal with the COVID-19 situation, which will have a positive effect on living together within our community,” Tineke said.
The song advocates for the community to unite, love and be proud of Latrobe City.
The virtual choir involved participants from across the Valley, including schools, youth groups and clubs.
Play it Forward choirs, the Latrobe Valley Community Choir and Yes I Can Gippsland Choir welcome singers of all abilities to come together to share a love of singing.
The My Valley, My Home video can be viewed at https://youtu.be/NpgcON4hhfk
The Morwell Neighbourhood House is a hub of the community, offering training, volunteering opportunities, assistance with food security and more.
Behind the success of the house, managed by Latrobe City Councillor Tracie Lund, is a team of volunteers dedicated to the people of Morwell.
Among them are Vicky Osborn and Brooke Mawson, whose efforts are appreciated by Latrobe City Council Mayor, Cr Sharon Gibson.
“Many people were in need during COVID. These two ladies realised that and went out of their way to provide food and comfort for those who were doing it tougher than others,” Cr Gibson said.
“They realised that not only did people lack companionship, they were also lacking in food, with COVID only making this need worse.
“They spent many, many hours setting out how to feed and deliver the food to those in need.”
Vicky Osborn has been a member of the Morwell Neighbourhood House Board of Governance for 18 years and is currently treasurer.
She’s also a volunteer with the House’s Foodbank, supplying food to people in need. Demand increased by nearly 80 per cent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We do not judge anyone who comes in and wants food. Everyone finds themselves in that situation at some time,” Vicky said.
She is also a member of the Morwell CFA where is she is a non-operational member and helps with catering. Vicky is also secretary of Neighbourhood Watch Latrobe City and a tour guide at the Powerworks museum in Morwell.
“I like getting out and meeting different people, and contributing to the community,” she said.
Vicky’s service extends to the community of Moe. She has been treasurer and vice chair of Make Moe Glow for 12 years, a group of people who clean-up around the railway station.
Brooke Mawson has volunteered at the House for 18 months, assisting with the Foodbank, even cooking meals for bank patrons, and helping with such events as community lunches.
“I volunteer because there is a great team of people who work there and I enjoy working with the community,” she said.
“I love the atmosphere at the House, and that it is a safe and relaxing place for people to come to.”
Brooke is also secretary at Morwell East Football Netball Club.
Every member of the Royal Exchange Hotel Cork Club has their own reason for being passionate about the Royal Children’s Hospital’s Good Friday Appeal.
Some have a connection to the hospital while others want to give back to their community.
“Since 1973, the members of this club have raised money for the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, a hospital that has provided care for young residents of Latrobe City, giving them a better quality of life and no doubt, in some cases, a chance of life,” Latrobe City Council Mayor, Cr Sharon Gibson, said.
“The Royal Exchange Hotel Cork Club does a tremendous job of fundraising for the hospital towards the provision of services and facilities, and for that everyone at Council is grateful.”
The Cork Club maybe based in Traralgon, but the members fundraise in many ways: rattling tins on roadsides, raffles at Christmas and Easter, placing donation tins at businesses, and raising funds with the Latrobe Valley Street Machiners at the StrEATcars and Food Trucks event.
The club collects funds from a country music event held at Flanagan’s Irish Bar with Our Kinda Country Club, and also from casual dress days at local primary schools.
In the past, the Cork Club has held a Family Fun Day at the Royal Exchange Hotel on Good Fridays and also craft markets, but both events are on hold due to COVID restrictions.
“Many past and present members, as well as members of the street machiners and Our Kinda Country, have connections with the hospital,” the Cork Club’s Roy Arnold said.
“Some have been patients themselves or have a child, sibling or family member who was a patient. The Cork Club’s Vice President Kat Horton spent time at the hospital as a teenager and as such, wanted to be involved in giving back to the hospital.”
The Cork Club has 12 members and up to 40 others volunteer. The hotel does not run the club but is the club’s base.
“The club was formed in 1973 when three regulars who drank at the hotel decided to raise money for the Children’s Hospital, initially as a one-off,” Roy said.
“They then decided to form a club and raise funds ongoing, with the hotel being their base. The hotel has always been, and continues to be, a fantastic supporter of the club in many ways including facilities, volunteers and sponsorship.”
There’s even a story behind why the group is called a cork club.
“There were many cork clubs around Victoria years ago, mostly related to hotels. Members usually had a cork – often a ‘port’ style cork with a plastic top – that had a number attached and that was their membership card,” Roy said.
“If you were caught without it, you would cop a ‘fine’ - 20 cents in those days. I believe we are one of the last, if not the last, cork club in existence.”