Suicide support volunteer Diane Russell has been named the 2023 Hawkesbury Citizen of the Year at today’s Hawkesbury Australia Day Awards at Don’t Worry Oval in Windsor.
The awards are an integral part of Australia Day to recognise and honour the outstanding achievements of everyday Australians in the Hawkesbury.
As part of the ceremony, a Welcome to Country was given by Erin Wilkins, a Boorooberongal woman of the Darug Nation followed by a special performance by Jannawi Dancers. Council acknowledged the traditional custodians of the land and showed respect for elders past, present and future and extended that respect to all First Nations people.
The Mayor of Hawkesbury, Councillor Sarah McMahon congratulated all award recipients, including the 2023 Citizen of the Year – Diane Russell, the 2023 Young Citizen of the Year – 21-year-old Emily Lowe and the Community Organisation of the Year – The Hawkesbury District Agricultural Association.
“Congratulations and thank you for the many wonderful contributions you have made to our Hawkesbury community,” the Mayor said.
The 2023 Hawkesbury Australia Day Ambassador, Greg Donovan, talked about the importance of charity and being involved in the community.
Mr Donovan has dedicated himself to raising funds to help find a cure for Type 1 diabetes, and in 2012 he founded the Born to Run Foundation to inspire others to do more to help find a cure for Type 1 diabetes.
He also founded Big Red Run, Australia’s only desert running race and he founded Australia’s most remote music festival, the Birdsville Big Red Bash, which generates millions of dollars in tourism benefits for the many small outback towns.
Federal Member for Macquarie Ms Susan Templeman, State Member for Hawkesbury Ms Robyn Preston, Hawkesbury Police Area Commander Superintendent Michael Gardner, RAAF Base Richmond Air Commodore Bradley Clarke, CSC, OAM and Hawkesbury City Councillors attended the event along with the nominators, nominees, family members and friends of the award winners.
The ceremony was hosted by Hawkesbury City Council at the Don’t Worry Oval in Windsor, NSW with assistance from the Australian Government through the National Australia Day Council.
2023 Hawkesbury Australia Day Award Recipients
Diane Russell – Citizen of the Year
Emily Lowe – Young Citizen of the Year
Phillip Giles – Volunteer of the Year
Mitchell Brennan – Local Hero Award
The Hawkesbury District Agricultural Association – Community Organisation of the Year
Michael Payne – Special Achievement Award
Noah Kemp – Junior Sportsperson of the Year
The Hawkesbury City Eisteddfod Society – Community Arts Award
2023 Commemorative Plaque: Detective Inspector Bryson Anderson
Citizen of the Year: Diane Russell
This Award is given to a person in the community who goes above and beyond.
As a volunteer for over six years, Diane provides free support to community members of loved ones who have been lost due to suicide. Diane provides free counselling, workshops, community support events, free BBQs and events such as the Hope Walk. Diane has lost two sons to suicide; she gives back to her community by volunteering all her free time to ensure community members have emotional and mental health support. Her support for the Hawkesbury community is outstanding.
Diane has always pushed on and she has now created a foundation in support of other families and friends. She still works as a registered nurse, and she puts all her free time and money into community events and supporting our community.
2023 Young Citizen of the Year: Emily Lowe
Young Citizen of the Year is awarded to a young person, 25 years of age and under, who has contributed significantly to the Hawkesbury and has demonstrated selflessness, commitment and involvement in activities in the Hawkesbury.
Emily commenced her journey as a volunteer when she joined Tennyson Rural Fire Station as a Junior Volunteer in August 2013 at Tennyson Rural Fire Station. During this time, Emily has been involved in community education and preparedness initiatives through the Rural Fire Service where she has also been an active firefighter responding to incidents around the Hawkesbury.
She has been deeply involved in the response to multiple disasters that have directly impacted the Hawkesbury community including 2019/2020 Gospers Mountain Fire and the multiple floods the Hawkesbury has seen during 2020 to 2022.
In 2021 and 2022, Emily also participated in the Starlight Foundation Super Swim Fundraising Challenge. Through this challenge over two years, she achieved and exceeded her fundraising goals, raising hundreds of dollars by swimming over forty kilometres. Emily has excelled in an organisation with an under-representation of young women. She is an inspiration for many women and young people to join the Rural Fire Service and to volunteer in the Hawkesbury community.
2023 Volunteer of the Year: Phillip Giles
Phillip has made a significant contribution to the Hawkesbury as President of Bligh Park Football Club over the past 12 years. He has supported the football club through Covid and floods.
Phillip is passionate about offering the youth of the Hawkesbury every chance to play football. He offered the Bligh Park facilities and grounds to all Hawkesbury clubs when other clubs lost their fields due to flooding. When he is not working, he is down at the grounds all weekend talking to the kids and members to find out what can be improved. He also ensures that the facilities are clean and professional. Phillip is a highly respected member of the local football community.
2023 Community Organisation of the Year: The Hawkesbury District Agricultural Association
This award is presented to a voluntary service or community group for their outstanding contribution to the wellbeing of the Hawkesbury community.
The Hawkesbury District Agricultural Association has fostered and grown the annual agricultural show within the Hawkesbury for 135 Shows. 100 Shows were held at the Hawkesbury Racecourse with subsequent shows held at the current Hawkesbury Showground site in Clarendon.
This site was secured through the hard work of volunteers within the Association from the Hawkesbury Agricultural College. The facility provides a venue for a multitude of activities, sporting events and trade expos, attracting visitors from across Australia. The Show events bring millions of dollars into the Hawkesbury economy and local infrastructure work on the Showground supports local jobs.
The 2023 Hawkesbury Show will be the 136th Show. It has grown to become the largest and best regional agricultural show in NSW attracting over 60,000 visitors each year. Tens of thousands of volunteer hours are contributed to maintaining the grounds and running the Show. This Award recognises the tireless and hard work performed by so many volunteers for over 100 years.
Our Local Hero: Mitchell Brennan
The Local Hero Award acknowledges the recipient’s outstanding dedication and contribution to the Hawkesbury through voluntary services, expertise or community leadership that has improved the lives of others.
In 2019, Mitchell Brennan fought the fires in Wisemans Ferry as a Rural Fire Service volunteer. He fought the fire for weeks on end and received an award from the Rural Fire Service Commissioner for this work. During the first flood in 2020, he helped deliver goods to residents over many weeks and assisted with the flood clean up.
In the floods of March 2022 and July 2022, Mitch was yet again delivering goods to our community and cleaning up again. He was one of the few people who knew the river well and was also truly aware of the needs of the community. Mitch lost his own accommodation and belongings on his property in the July 2022 flood.
Despite losing so much himself, he worked alongside the Army, cleaning up Walmsley Road and St Albans. Macdonald Valley all Hawkesbury community members are very thankful for Mitchell’s selfless assistance.
Special Achievement Award: Michael Payne
Michael was announced as the Sports Person of the Year at the 2022 Australia Day Awards Ceremony. Always looking for another challenge, Michael made a formal application to swim the English Channel in 2022. Swimming the English Channel is considered one of the ultimate challenges for long-distance swimmers. It is a test of physical and mental endurance. The cold water, strong currents, and waves make it an incredibly difficult swim.
Michael undertook this harrowing 32km swim in very cold temperatures in July, reaching France in 12 hours and 48 minutes. At 17 years old, Michael became the youngest swimmer to complete a solo crossing of the English Channel in 2022. All this was done while studying the HSC at Colo High School.
Junior Sports Person of the Year: Noah Kemp
Awarded to a person aged under 18 years of age who has demonstrated success or achievement as a player of sport in the Hawkesbury.
From age seven, Noah has kindled a passion for sport at Hawkesbury City Little Athletics Club and Windsor Swimming Club with plenty of loving support from his family.
At the 2022 School Sport Australia Championship in Brisbane, Noah was entered in seven events, he won seven gold medals and was named Male Swimmer of the Meet. He set four NSW records at this event. Noah currently holds 26 NSW and NSW All Comers records, 3 Queensland All Comer records, 4 NSW Metropolitan records, numerous Metro North West records, numerous Windsor Swimming Club records and several Hawkesbury District records. Noah has been awarded Hawkesbury District Swimming Champion for the past three years as well as the Hawkesbury District Athletics Champion for the same period.
At the 2022 Swimming NSW Championships, Noah won six gold medals and set two NSW records. After this event, Noah was ranked 1st in Australia for the 100m Freestyle, 100m Butterfly, 100m Backstroke, 50m Freestyle, 50m Butterfly and 50m Backstroke. At the 2022 Swimming NSW Short Course Championships, Noah won eight medals, six gold and two silver.
Noah is the fastest 11 year old in Australia, if not the world in a number of events. Some of the records he has set are 2 seconds faster than the previous record. This is an incredible feat. Some of the records he has broken were 26 years old and 24 years old. He is the first 11-year-old to go under 30 seconds in both the 50 metre Butterfly and 50 metre Backstroke. Noah is incredibly humble about his achievements and always goes out of his way to help and encourage his competitors. Noah is determined to go all the way to the 2032 Olympics in Queensland. Noah’s achievements are an inspiration to his peers and our community.
2023 Commemorative Plaque: Detective Inspector Bryson Anderson
A posthumous award that is displayed in perpetuity at the entrance of the Council Administration Building in Windsor. It is awarded in recognition of a resident or group who contributed significantly to the Hawkesbury community.
As a police officer who came from a policing family, Bryson dedicated his life to protecting the communities he worked in. In December 2012, Bryson was killed in the line of duty while protecting the Hawkesbury community. Bryson was a Detective Inspector for Hawkesbury Police Area Command and was highly regarded by his colleagues. He was passionate about his role on the Hawkesbury Local Traffic Committee, and he always had a presence at our community events, either in uniform or as a community member with his family.
He contributed time to his local fire brigade as a volunteer firefighter and he also organised a Special Olympics Event in Windsor. As a father of three children, Bryson volunteered as a coach to several junior soccer teams and fundraised for the school Parents and Citizens committee. Bryson was a mentor to many and a caring and generous leader of our community.
Bryson was a decorated police officer who was awarded the National Pride of Australia Medal for heroism, National Medal – granted 22 July 1993 (Senior Constable), NSW Police Medal together with 1st & 2nd Clasps, Commissioner’s Unit Citation – 2003 for Highly professional investigations, 1st Clasp to the National Medal – posthumously and 3rd Clasp to the NSW Police Medal – posthumously, Valour Award – posthumously. This is an outstanding achievement for one individual, and it demonstrates that Bryson has been an outstanding member of not only the Police Force, but also of his community of the Hawkesbury where he lived and worked.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of Bryson’s death and it is the time for us to acknowledge his dedication and the ultimate sacrifice he made to protect our Hawkesbury community. Bryson continues to have a presence in our community, and he will never be forgotten.
Hawkesbury Community Arts Award: The Hawkesbury City Eisteddfod Society
This award recognises members of the community who have significantly contributed to the development of the arts in the Hawkesbury.
The Hawkesbury City Eisteddfod is one of the oldest competitions in Australia and a rich part of the Hawkesbury’s heritage. Over 7000 performers cross the stage over the approximately 18-day annual event including solos, 110 school groups and 135 dance groups. For over 70 years, the Hawkesbury City Eisteddfod Society has provided a forum in which performers can build their confidence and skill. Many performers have moved into professional careers within their chosen field including elite international ballet and dance companies, acting, teaching, law and more.
The Eisteddfod Society helps the Hawkesbury community by bringing together families, teachers, and performers and boosting tourism. Adjudicators are sourced from all over Australia, with teachers and students coming from across NSW.