Council announces its Australia Day Award winners

(L+R) Daniel McGovern from Hills SES, Ryan Barton, Mayor Gangemi, Rajiv Chaudhri, Paul Rapp and Elaine White .jpg

Caption: Left to right - Daniel McGovern from Hills SES, Ryan Barton, Mayor Gangemi, Rajiv Chaudhri, Paul Rapp and Elaine White

Unsung local heroes have been acknowledged for their extraordinary efforts at The Hills Shire Council's Australia Day Awards.

Awards across five categories – including Young Citizen of the Year, Community Group of the Year, Senior Citizen of the Year, Environmental Citizen of the Year and Citizen of the Year – were handed out to individuals, community groups and organisations that have made a positive contribution to The Hills Shire and its people during a special ceremony at Castle Hill RSL on Wednesday, January 18.

Mayor of The Hills Shire, Dr Peter Gangemi, congratulated the award winners and finalists on their exemplary work which has contributed greatly to the growth and prosperity of the region.

"Our award winners and finalists have made significant contributions to our region, and as part of our Australia Day activities, it's wonderful that we can recognise and thank these unsung people, groups and organisations for everything that they do," Mayor Gangemi said.

"Our community is better off thanks to these people and groups who donate their time and efforts mainly in a volunteer capacity.

"I am so thankful for the work that each of these people do and I hope today's awards go some way to showing how much The Hills community appreciates them," Mayor Gangemi added.

The Young Citizen of the Year Award winner was SES volunteer Ryan Barton. Ryan is one of the youngest volunteers in The Hills SES to hold the rank of Leading Senior Operator and he has put in nearly 1400 volunteering hours responding to community calls since joining the organisation less than four years ago. In addition to this, Ryan is also the Hills SES Duty Officer and this requires him to be on call, and responding to some of the toughest emergency situations in the Shire.

Highly Commended Awards were presented in this category to Mia Macklin for services to premature babies and Ziyan Tejani for services to mental health and human rights.

The Community Group of the Year Award was presented to Hills SES. The volunteer-based emergency response organisation has contributed more than 17,000 hours of work during 2022, with crews working through three significant flooding disasters in The Hills and along the Hawkesbury River. In addition to this, crews also responded 1483 requests for assistance, which ranged from missing persons to emergency repairs and support.

Highly Commended Awards were presented in this category to Positive Vibes Foundation for services to mental health and Fit Kidz Foundation for services to children with autism and developmental disabilities.

Local resident Elaine White was awarded Environmental Citizen of the Year for her environmental work, which includes her volunteering efforts at the Annangrove Community Environment Centre and with the Cattai Hills Environment Network (CHEN) as part of their platypus DNA project in the Cattai Creek Catchment. Elaine is also passionate about local history and protecting Castle Hill Heritage Park so that future generations can continue to enjoy the historic community facility, which was the original site of the 1804 convict uprising.

A Highly Commended Award was presented in this category to Claude Corrente for services to the environment and permaculture.

The Senior Citizen of the Year Award went to Rotary Club of Kenthurst Services Director, Paul Rapp. In his 16 years of service with the local Rotary Club, Paul has helped to plan and drive a number of local community events, including ANZAC Day ceremonies, Australia Day flag raising events and the much-loved Kenthurst Fair. He has also contributed his time to helping local schools, the Men's Shed and sporting groups, as well as taken over the responsibility of maintaining John Benyon Rotary Park, located in Kenthurst.

Highly Commended Awards were presented in this category to Patricia Lee for services to midwifery and Shubha Kumar for services to multiculturalism.

Rajiv Chaudhri won the Citizen of the Year award for his philanthropy work. Rajiv is the President of the Community Foundation of North Western Sydney, a Director of the Lisa Harnum Foundation and a former Chairperson of the Cumberland Community Radio (Alive 90.5 FM). Through his work, he has raised significant funds for community organisations and charities, and continues to help and support victims of domestic violence.

Two special Mayoral Recognition Awards were also handed out on the day to long-time volunteers who have both shown tremendous dedication to supporting Council, its residents and its many community groups.

One of the award recipients - Connie Keith, has spent decades improving outcomes at the Balcombe Heights Estate and has served as the volunteer chairperson of the Balcombe Heights S355 since 2017. Connie's achievements include promoting the history of the Estate, holding the yearly Remembrance Day ceremonies, as well as opening a war memorial, planting trees as part of the Queen's Jubilee celebrations and much more.

"Connie is such a wonderful person, and we are very lucky to have her helping Council to maintain, promote and enhance Balcombe Heights Estate which is enjoyed by many people and groups for its vast range of facilities, rooms and history," Mayor Gangemi said of Connie.

The other award was presented to Pratibha Bhanushali who is the Founder and President of the Powerful Empowered Women organisation, which aims to inspire and uplift women through its fundraising initiatives and projects. Pratibha is also the Vice President of the Baulkham Hills Lion's Club, and she is greatly involved in fundraising activities and initiatives in The Hills including the Hills Domestic Violence Prevention Network.

"Pratibha is a woman of great strength, and who only thinks of others – and I believe it is important that Pratibha's wonderful dedication to the Shire is recognised," Mayor Gangemi added.

Australia Day Award finalists, highly commended and award recipients

Australia Day Award Category


Highly Commended

Award winner

Young Citizen of the Year

  • Alessandra Campagna
  • Anannya Bandaru
  • Marcus Campagna
  • Mia Macklan
  • Ziyan Tejani
  • Ryan Barton

Community Group of the Year Award

  • Blackout Theatre Company
  • Riding for theDisabled– Tall Timbers
  • The Hills Women's Shed
  • Norwest Sunrise Rotary Club
  • Positive Vibes Foundation
  • Fit Kidz Foundation
  • TheHills SES

Environmental Citizen of The Year

  • Claude Corrente
  • Elaine White

Senior Citizen of the Year

  • John Hill
  • Pastor Kim Brinsden
  • Nicola Hill
  • Brian McCombe
  • Patricia Lee
  • Shubha Kumar
  • Paul Rapp

Citizen of the Year

  • Michelle Walker
  • Ming Lau
  • Rory O'Connor
  • Mercedes Durante
  • Rajiv Chaudhri
Mayoral Commendation Winners Connie Keith and Pratibha Bhanushali.png

Above: Mayoral Commendation Winners Connie Keith and Pratibha Bhanushali

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