Hobsons Bay citizens of year announced

Mia Boonen and Nasz Khan2.jpg

Two passionate and inspiring community members have been awarded Hobsons Bay’s highest civic honours.

Naserah ‘Nasz’ Khan has been named the 2023 Citizen of the Year for her years of dedication to improving her beloved Seabrook, while Altona educator, theatre maker, writer and advocate Mia Boonen is the Young Citizen of the Year.

About Nasz Khan

Described as “the heart of Seabrook,” Nasz has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make Seabrook a better place to live.

Since moving to Hobsons Bay in 2005, she has been involved in nearly every part of the Seabrook community, from establishing the Seabrook Community Gardens to working with Council to develop the Homestead Run Park.

The new eye-catching mural at the Seabrook shopping centre was Nasz’s idea and came to life through Council’s Pitch Your Project program.

Working together with Council and members of the community, Nasz also organised the Dawn Service in Seabrook for the past two years, enabling Seabrook residents to pay respects to veterans locally.

During the COVID pandemic, Nasz delivered meals to people in isolation, and lifted spirits through competitions and positive messaging around the park.

Nasz also works locally as an autism teacher at the Western Autistic School in Laverton.

About Mia Boonen

At 22, Mia is the chief executive of Altona theatre group Dramawerkz, is an engaging public speaker and a published author. She is passionate about building community with a focus on youth engagement, access, and inclusion.

A proud disabled woman and activist, she co-hosted the YDAS COVID-19 podcast and has worked in the youth sector across many Melbourne organisations.

Inspiring members of the community

Mayor of Hobsons Bay, Cr Tony Briffa, said Nasz and Mia were worthy winners of these awards.

“Nasz and Mia are perfect examples of people who selflessly go above and beyond for their communities. We are so fortunate to have them in Hobsons Bay with their commitment to making the lives of everyone around them better,” Cr Briffa said.

“Nasz embodies community spirit and is a shining example of altruism and positive energy. Her passion for Seabrook has inspired her community to become more involved in making it a welcoming and connected place.

“Mia has made an incredibly positive impact in her community. Her dedication to advocating for equality, particularly for young people with disability, is helping improve the lives of people in Hobsons Bay and beyond.

“I congratulate Nasz and Mia on their deserved awards and thank them for the amazing work they have done for our community.”

‘Seabrook is now so connected’

Nasz said it was great to see the growth of community in Seabrook in her time there.

“It’s an incredible honour to be named Citizen of the Year, particularly to be recognised for doing something you are so passionate about,” Nasz said.

“I’ve seen Seabrook change tremendously since I first moved here. It is just heart-warming to see how Seabrook is now so connected and how everyone comes together.

“Granted, I may have been the instigator, but as a community we all chip in to work together with Council to improve Seabrook, putting in submissions for upgrades. As a community we are proactive in using Snap Send Solve to rectify a problem so it is quickly dealt with.

“It is also just so lovely to see more members of the community coming together and happily volunteering to organise activities and events such as the Tai Chi group, Halloween, Holi and Diwali festivals, and Christmas celebrations with our very own Inflatable Santa of Seabrook, Mrs Claus, Frosty the Snowman and the elves. I am truly blessed to live in a community like this.”

‘Shining a light on the community’

Mia said being named Young Citizen of the Year was a great opportunity to create a discussion about areas of the community she’s passionate about.

“I’m thankful to receive this wonderful honour, and I do so while acknowledging this is a difficult day for First Nations people right across Australia,” Mia said.

“But by accepting this award I hope it helps shine a light on the areas of our community that need it. The pandemic made life so tough, but it also showed us different ways of living and working, and some of those were quite beneficial.

“Many young disabled people have found that access to online classes, flexible hours and blended learning models have been incredibly helpful. If we ensure the considerations and adjustments that were made during the pandemic are continued into recovery and beyond, we can re-emerge from it a more inclusive society.”

Photo: 2023 Hobsons Bay Young Citizen of the Year Mia Boonen and Citizen of the Year Nasz Khan.

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