Blacktown City Council’s 2021 Australia Day Awards

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A dedicated volunteer who oversees the distribution of millions of kilos of food to those in need, a passionate youth mental health advocate, a grassroots environmental warrior, and an inclusive NAIDOC Week event created among COVID-19 restrictions, are the recipients of this year’s Blacktown City Australia Day Awards.

Blacktown City Mayor, Tony Bleasdale OAM, paid tribute to the commitment to the community shown by all the nominees for the 2021 Australia Day Awards, describing the calibre of submissions as outstanding.

Speaking at the Australia Day presentation of the awards, Mayor Bleasdale said, “Australia Day provides us with the opportunity to recognise some of the outstanding contributions from the people and organisations, who call Blacktown City home.

“Their dedication, achievement and community spirit is a true reflection of the great people we have living in our City. Without their tireless efforts Blacktown City would not be the great place it is, to live, work and play.”

The 2021 Blacktown City Australia Day Awards went to:

Citizen of the Year

Ron Kelly – Foodbank

Ron Kelly has volunteered at the Foodbank Distribution Centre for the last 6 years, making sure millions of kilograms of food is safely picked, packed, and sent out to tens of thousands of Australian families in need.

The Hebersham local has received outstanding recognition for his efforts recently, winning the Outer Western Sydney Senior Volunteer Award in 2020 through the Centre for Volunteering.

Mr Kelly is also part of the Outer Western Sydney Volunteer Team of the Year, which also won the NSW Volunteer Team of the Year in 2020.

“This award is a recognition for all the volunteers who put hundreds of hours of their own time at Foodbank packing and distributing much needed food and supplies to those in need in our community,” said Ron.

Young Citizen of the Year

Lea Simic – Headspace Western Sydney

Lea Simic, a resident of Blacktown, serves on the Youth Advisory Committee for both Blacktown City Council and the Western Sydney branch of the youth mental health organisation, Headspace.

In both these roles Ms Simic is a strong and active voice for young people, dedicated to improving youth mental health, access, and services across Blacktown City.

Ms Simic was awarded the Australian Defence Force 2020 Long Tan Leadership and Teamwork Award, was a finalist for Blacktown City Council’s Youth Ambassador Program for 2020/21, and has just completed the Scouts NSW’s Queen’s Scout Award.

“This award gives me the opportunity to shine the light on the needs of young people in Blacktown City. It is really important that youth have a voice in our City and I’m honoured that council has chosen me to be one of those voices,” Lea said.

Environmental Citizen of the Year

Dervis Teoman

Woodcroft resident Dervis Teoman is a grassroots environmental warrior who is passionate about recycling.

Mr Teoman takes great lengths to ensure sustainability starts in his own backyard, which is home to a worm farm, a fountain for wild birds, bee-friendly trees, solar hot water, and 2 large water tanks which he uses to water his extensive garden of fruit trees and a thriving vegetable patch.

A proud advocate of anything which will help the planet to flourish into the future, Mr Teoman even checks to make sure his adult children are recycling properly – and on occasion will look in their bins to ensure they are doing the right thing for generations to come.

Community Event of the Year

NAIDOC Week – Riverstone Neighbourhood Centre

The team at the Riverstone Neighbourhood Centre work tirelessly to maintain a sense of community in a suburb experiencing immense change and growth.

During the COVID-19 pandemic the Centre transformed their services to be available online, including two events which are very important to the community – ANZAC Day and NAIDOC Week.

The Centre’s NAIDOC Week event included online story time, cooking, crafts, and interviews. The Centre even put together NAIDOC Week packs which were able to be picked up from the centre to allow people to participate.

Even with COVID-19 restrictions in place, the dedicated team at the Riverstone Neighbourhood Centre created an event that engaged the whole community, one centred around connectivity and inclusion.

Photo from left: Lea Simic, Lisa Hamilton (Riverstone Neighbourhood Centre), Mayor Tony Bleasdale, Angela Van Dyke (Riverstone Neighbourhood Centre), Dervis and Gulay Teoman, Ron Kelly.

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