Bega Valley Shire Council invites the shire’s residents to its Australia Day celebrations on Thursday 26 January with a free breakfast at 7.30am in Bega’s Littleton Gardens.
At 8.30am, we will recognise and celebrate the achievements and community contributions of our 2023 Citizens of the Year and Australia Day Award winners.
“It gives me great pleasure to announce that our 2023 Citizen of the Year is Philippa Street, our Senior Citizen of the Year is Daphne Sweeney and we have two Young Citizen of the Year awardees this year, Daytona Porter and Zoe Pentin,” Bega Valley Shire Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick said.
“This year we are also awarding Bega Valley Medallions to 13 outstanding individuals who have served the community over a number of years: Bev Walker, Cherie White, Christine Mcdowell, Doug and Robyn Blair, Maureen Volentras, Michael Pryke, Nicholas Sticotti, Patricia Jones, Cherie Mercado, Michael Palmer, Nigel Ayling and Damien Tilley,” he continued.
“Following our awards, we will welcome our latest new Australians at an official Australian Citizenship Ceremony with Member for Eden-Monaro, Kristy McBain reading the national citizenship message.
“Our new citizens are from Italy, Fiji, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Thailand, India and the Philippines, joining thousands of other Australians who are celebrating their citizenship.
“They will contribute their skills and cultural diversity to our local community and enrich it through their work and participation in community life.”
Cr 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.
“I encourage everyone to not only enjoy Australia Day festivities, but to take time and reflect on what it means to be an Australian citizen: our shared values, our national history, our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and our commitment to reconciliation.
“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.”
Cr Fitzpatrick said this year we welcome Australia Day Ambassador, Jay Allen (OAM) to our celebrations.
“Jay is a cancer survivor, patient advocate and founder and board member of not-for-profit charity, Australian Skin Cancer Foundation. He has organised, promoted and led fundraisers, raising millions for cancer research.
“Entertainment on the day will be provided by local musician and former Australia’s Got Talent contestant Sam Stevenson and the event will be broadcast live on the Bega District News Facebook page.”
Citizen of the Year – Philippa Street
Philippa Street from Candelo has dedicated two decades to the rehabilitation of Candelo Creek and other projects focused on Candelo village and its parklands. She fell in love with Candelo, its history and the way the streetscape connects to the nearby parklands.
In 2003, when Philippa joined Candelo and District Landcare Group, Candelo Creek was separated from the village’s parklands and the rest of the village by a wall of willow and blackberry. One aim of the Candelo Creek project was to reunite the village with the creek and create a place where people and nature could thrive.
It took six years to remove the bulk of the willow, using funding from grants procured by Philippa and Candelo Landcare. This involved thousands of hours of volunteer work from Landcare and the wider Candelo community, including the Candelo Rural Fire Service and Candelo Public School.
The result has been improved biodiversity, enhanced geomorphology and better water quality. The creek project contributed to the aesthetic value of Candelo’s townscape with walking trails, swimming holes and sandy beaches.
Keeping the community engaged in the project was the next challenge. Philippa has produced an interpretive sign, a bird watching brochure and a tourist walking map. She also successfully worked to get the footbridge to Candelo Swimming Pool built.
Instrumental in supporting volunteers to care for the creek, Philippa also brings diverse parts of the community together, including the Far South Coast Landcare Association, Indigenous representatives of local country, Candelo Public School and Candelo Meet-a-Mate. Her latest challenge was planting trees for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Philippa has been the driving force for the Candelo Creek project, demonstrating foresight, determination, tolerance, inclusiveness and respect.
The whole community and those who visit the area all benefit from these values. She hopes that by helping build strong connected communities and showing that we care, we can face future problems together with confidence and optimism.
Senior Citizen of the Year – Daphne Sweeney
Daphne Sweeney from Bega has supported people and organisations in her community most of her life because it’s just who she is and what she was brought up to do in a family of eight children. She helps people because they need her help – as simple as that.
Daphne’s volunteer work extends decades, with Candelo and Bega Red Cross, the Bega Country Women’s Association (CWA), the Candelo Show Society, the Bega Show Society, the Anglican Church’s Friends of Court and Ricky’s Place and Bega Seniors Social Group.
With more than four decades in the CWA, Daphne has held the positions of President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer, and is now the Patron.
Daphne has been a very active member from the get-go, attending many conferences across the state and as a Far South Coast Group councillor.
She is a valued CWA member whose knowledge of her local community helps direct where fundraising would be best used for the community.
Friends of Court was a particularly rewarding volunteering experience for Daphne, providing magazines, tea, coffee and biscuits for people going through the court system. Children were given drinks, biscuits, books and toys to keep them distracted. Those items and a chat helped calm their nerves, providing warmth and care in an often-difficult situation.
At Ricky’s Place, volunteers served nutritious meals, offered a free shower and a place to come and chat or just hang out for people who were homeless, disadvantaged or doing it tough in some way.
As a member of the Bega Seniors Social Group, Daphne meets up with others once a month and enjoys conversation, friendship, social activities and lunch.
Daphne has a son and daughter, three grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
Young Citizen of the Year – Daytona Porter
Daytona Porter from Tathra is a 17-year-old youth leader who stands out not only as a high achiever, but as an accomplished mentor and inspiration to young people in her community and more broadly across the state.
Daytona is a School Captain at Bega High School and a National Rugby League (NRL) accredited referee who also volunteers with the Far South Coast Police Citizens Youth Club (PCYC) after school as a junior mentor supporting life change in disadvantaged youth.
In December last year, Daytona was presented with an Australian Olympic Change-Maker award by the Australian Olympic Committee, recognising her sense of friendship, sportsmanship and striving for excellence – both on and off the playing field – through leadership and driving positive change in her school and local community.
Daytona is one of a few young female NRL referees in NSW. Given her age, Daytona is only permitted to be an on-field referee during the ladies’ league-tag games, but she also runs the sidelines every weekend for the first grade and reserves. Once she turns 18, she will get the opportunity to referee the men’s games.
The youngest Group 16 NRL grand final referee, Daytona was the first female to referee the Group 16 South Eastern NSW Women’s Rugby League Grand Final. She has also refereed regional NRL finals, including the Koori Knockout, Katrina Fanning Shield, League of Nations and Walgett Knockout.
Last year Daytona was awarded the Tathra Rugby League Junior Club Person of the Year, which was the first time it had been awarded to a female.
Daytona’s community spirit stretches beyond the sports fields. Lately she has been working with the Bega Valley Shire Council on a number of youth projects attached to the Youth Forum, including developing concepts for half-court basketball courts to bring young people together for positive change, especially in mental health and reducing crime.
Young Citizen of the Year – Zoe Pentin
Zoe Pentin from Pambula is a high achiever academically and in her community engagement activities. She has completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Wollongong (Bega Campus), receiving a distinction for her degree in sociology and Indigenous studies.
She is going to pursue her work in giving back to the community through studying a Masters in Secondary Education this year, with a prospect of teaching history and social science.
Dedicated and passionate about helping local young people to achieve their best, Zoe was a volunteer with the Far South Coast Police Citizens Youth Club (PCYC) in 2021 and 2022.
Zoe has supported community-centred young girls as a leader with the Merimbula District Girl Guides and is a member of Bega headspace’s Youth Reference Group, having undergone mental health first aid training to provide support to the young people she works with.
Her passion for the environment, permaculture and regenerative agriculture resulted in Zoe establishing the Youth Climate Action Group that works closely with the Social Justice Advocates of the Sapphire Coast. She was also a volunteer at the Bega Valley Youth Forum and the Wanderer Festival as a part of the Green Team.
Zoe also enjoys sports. She plays soccer with the Pambula United Football Club and won the Women’s Team Spirit Award in 2017.
Her softball team was runner-up in the 2021-22 Bega Valley softball competition and she was one of the winning crew in the Wallagoot Lake sailing regatta this year.
Other achievements include Pambula-Merimbula Lions Youth of the Year for 2018, Bega Valley Rotary Model United Nations representative in Canberra, Bournda Environmental Education Centre award recipient, Samaritan Appeal volunteer, school prefect, Further Education Scholarship winner and Mumbulla Community Foundation Scholarship winner.
Zoe is an enthusiastic and active member of the community and a shining example of what fabulous young people we have in the valley.
Images: Bega Valley Shire Council, Kristy McBain