Bega Valley Shire Council has invited the shire’s residents to its COVID Safe Australia Day celebrations on Wednesday 26 January with a free breakfast to be provided at 7.30am in Bega’s Littleton Gardens.
At 8.30am, Council will recognise and celebrate the achievements and community contributions of our 2022 Citizens of the Year and Australia Day Award winners.
“It gives me great pleasure to announce that our 2022 Citizen of the Year is John Cullen, our Senior Citizen of the Year is Clare McMahon and our Young Citizen of the Year is Jessica Duthie,” Bega Valley Shire Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick said.
“This year we are also awarding Bega Valley Medallions to 14 outstanding individuals who have served the community over a number of years: David Allen, Robin Wykes, Amanda Shane, Donna Flood, Ruth Gilmour, Bill Foxwell, Mark Smith, John Stylianou, Bill Mead, Greg Holland, Ron Cole, Christine Welsh, Carolyn McColl and Robert Smith.
“Following our awards, we will welcome our latest new Australians at an official Australian Citizenship Ceremony and entertainment throughout the morning will feature Felicity Dowd.”
Mayor Fitzpatrick said Australia Day was the time to reflect on our history, respect the stories of others and celebrate our nation, its achievements and most of all, its people.
“Two years on from the Black Summer bushfires and amid the pandemic, we can reflect on how far we have come and know, as a united and resilient community, we will continue to rebuild, grow and enrich this unique part of the world we call home,” he said.
“It’s time to look to the future and build on our business recovery, tourism opportunities, environmental advancement, cultural respect and social connections.
“In line with the Australia Day theme of respect, reflect and celebrate, we’re all part of the story and we all have a role to play in the successful development of the shire.”
As this is a COVIDSafe event, Service NSW QR check-in is required and COVID Marshalls will be on hand to assist people. Please do not attend if you feel unwell.
2022 Citizen of the Year Award
John Cullen from Bemboka had a stellar 44-year career in the rural fire service, was a sportsman and athlete who dedicated many years coaching and umpiring junior sport, and his passion for agricultural shows involves exhibiting, stewarding and judging at local shows.
John started his fire service career in 1977. He was Deputy Fire Control Officer in the Department of Bushfire Services, Fire Control Officer for the Bega Valley and NSW Rural Fire Service Manager, Far South Coast team before retiring in 2021.
John has given a lifetime working alongside Rural Fire Service volunteers and agency staff to protect communities in our district and adjoining states. His leadership during the Tathra, Yankees Gap and Black Summer bushfires demonstrated his commitment to community and was a standout of his career. John’s devoted service was recognised in 2017 when he was awarded the Australian Fire Service Medal as part of the Australia Day Honours. He received a Commissioner’s Commendation in 2000 for his efforts in bushfire and emergency crises and a National Emergency Medal in 2021 recognising his management of the Black Summer bushfires.
John’s sporting prowess began in high school. He was a talented and determined cricketer who represented several local teams. He held records for high jumping and athletics at Bega High School and played rugby league for Bega High School, Candelo Bemboka Football Club and South Woden in the ACT.
Another of John’s passions is to exhibit, judge and steward in the cattle, fruit and vegetable sections of local shows. He was Secretary of Bemboka Showground Trust for 22 years, working as a volunteer to gain improved showground facilities for the community. John can grow almost anything and generously provides expert support on-site to the Royal Easter Show team’s vegetable section. He gives sound advice to young farmers, teaching them the intricacies of livestock production and has worked with high schools in the preparation of their calves for carcass competitions. John and his family are familiar faces at hook and hoof competitions, often taking out most successful exhibitor.
John is an unassuming, quiet person who resolves difficult situations with remarkable patience and admirable tact.
2022 Senior Citizen of the Year Award
Clare McMahon from Kiah has been described as a living icon and at 81 years of age, she is an inspiration to all, having made an outstanding contribution to her local community over many years as a fundraiser, volunteer, advocate, facilitator and mobiliser.
Clare could have easily rested on the laurels of her career success in Austrade and as a Trade Commissioner in several countries and Trade Commissioner and Consulate General in Mumbai, India before retiring in 1999. However, her dream was to run the family farm in Kiah and become a primary beef producer.
Clare has made her mark in the heart of her local community. She is a sincere giver; keeping an eye out for her neighbours, lending a hand as needed, connecting people and sharing information to ensure people can access the support they need.
Despite losing sheds, outbuildings and fences (thankfully not her home) during the Black Summer bushfires, Clare has worked tirelessly to support the local recovery process. She is a lead representative of the Friends of Kiah Hall Committee and is passionate about the rebuild of the new Kiah hall.
Clare is working with the charity groups to install a bathroom at the site for people using the BBQ and community tennis courts, has secured funding for sporting equipment and new nets at the courts and been involved in organising family fun days at the site.
A key connection point for Rotary, BlazeAid, Connecting Communities Australia and Habitat for Humanity, Clare has driven support for water and septic tanks, nesting boxes, the Bega Valley Water and Sanitation Project, bushfire debris clearing and fence-building.
2022 Young Citizen of the Year Award
Jessica Duthie from Brown Mountain is a focused and determined young woman studying to become a childcare worker. What many of us might see as unmanageable barriers to achieving her career goals, Jessica takes in her stride.
Jessica is a young carer who looks after her two younger siblings when her mother is unwell, which has made her schooling and studying particularly challenging.
Jessica has completed her Certificate III Pathway to Further Study at the Bega campus of TAFE Illawarra. She was a successful applicant for Bega Valley Shire Council’s 2021 Further Education Scholarship and bought herself a laptop.
The course has given Jessica the study skills necessary to succeed in the next stage of her education, a Certificate IV in Community Services. With this qualification, Jessica will be able to gain work experience in childcare centres.
Looking after her siblings over the years has given Jessica solid practical experience and is something she really enjoys. Jessica’s long-term goal is to run her own after-school care business.
2022 Bega Valley Medallions
Bega Valley Medallions are awarded to people who have served within the Bega Valley community for an extended period of time. This year we have 14 outstanding members of the community awarded medallions.
John Stylianou of Bega for his volunteer support to a range of local sporting and community groups, including continued sponsorship of squash teams and tournaments, and growing the shire’s reputation as a major national and international squash tournament destination. He is also actively involved with the Tathra Mountain Bike Club, Bega Bowling Club, Tulgeen, the Bega Chamber of Commerce, recovery efforts following the Black Summer bushfires, and supports AFL, rugby union, cricket, swimming, surf lifesaving (George Bass) and university scholarships.
David Allen of Cobargo for his leadership during and after the Black Summer bushfires, particularly his actions and support in the community recovery process since the bushfires.
Robin Wykes of Eden for her tireless and selfless volunteer work in the canteen for a range of sporting clubs, including Eden Tigers Rugby League, and for organising numerous community events over many years.
Amanda Shane of Bega for her volunteer efforts with the Tathra Rural Fire Service and Marine Rescue Merimbula.
Robert Smith of Wallaga Lake for his volunteer and mentoring services to BlazeAid since 2011, which includes assisting communities in and around Cobargo following the Black Summer bushfires and assisting disaster-affected communities in eight other areas across Queensland, NSW and Victoria.
Donna Flood of Bega for her volunteer service following the Black Summer bushfires, particularly in managing the Bega Showground Evacuation Centre kitchen and coordinating the feeding of thousands of bushfire-affected residents, visitors and emergency service workers.
Ruth Gilmore, formerly of Bermagui, for her dedicated and selfless volunteer and church work in the communities of Bermagui, Cobargo and Quaama, over the 20 years she lived in Bermagui, including the building and management the OK Shed at the All Saints Anglican Church and the revival of the Bermagui Playschool.
Bill Foxwell of Eden for his generous volunteer plumbing work and donation of equipment at Jigamy Farm, towards the Bega Valley Water and Sanitation Project and other shelter and water projects, and the Social Justice Advocates of the Sapphire Coast’s Life Raft project to provide refurbished caravans to bushfire-affected residents.
Mark Smith of Merimbula for his volunteer painting and plumbing draining services to local communities and communities in Timor-Leste, Cambodia and Vietnam, through his association with the Rotary Club of Pambula, Bega Valley Advocates for Timor-Leste and the Social Justice Advocates of the Sapphire Coast’s Jigamy Farm, Life Raft project and Water and Sanitation Project.
Greg Holland, Ron Cole and Will Mead, all of Cobargo, for their dedicated volunteer work to improve the facilities at the Cobargo Showground, including the near completion of the Showground’s new dining room and kitchen facilities and forthcoming secretary’s office, storeroom and first-aid room. The affectionately named Three Stooges have been members of the Cobargo Agricultural Pastoral and Horticultural Society for more than 20 years.
Christine Welsh of Bega for establishing a charity and team to manage the social enterprise, Sapphire Community Projects, including operating a community pantry, small coffee shop and offering computer training for over 55s.
Carolyn McColl of Pambula Beach for her more than 20 years of volunteer service as Board Director/Chair of Bega Valley Meals-on-Wheels and various senior volunteer positions with NSW Meals-on-Wheels.
Image Credit: Bega Valley Shire Council