Indigenous activist Cheree Toka and the long-standing leader of Newtown Neighbourhood Centre, Liz Yeo, are Inner West Council’s 2022 Citizens of the Year.
The pair were announced as the Co-Citizens of the Year at a ceremony last night at Ashfield Town Hall.
Cheree Toka is a proud Kamilaroi woman, Dulwich Hill resident and activist who initiated and led the campaign for the Aboriginal Flag to fly permanently over the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Liz Yeo was until recently CEO of Newtown Neighbourhood Centre which throughout the pandemic carried out critical work with some of the most vulnerable members of the Inner West community.
As well, Liz’s dynamic and compassionate leadership came to the fore after the Newtown boarding house fire. She not only continued her advocacy work for those who live in boarding houses, sometimes under terrible conditions, but also fundraised and cared for the survivors.
Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne said Cheree Toka and Liz Yeo were exemplars for what is best about the Inner West community.
“Cheree Toka’s principled campaign to have the Aboriginal Flag fly permanently over Sydney’s most famous landmark has inspired our whole community. It’s uplifting to see a Dulwich Hill local making such a big impact and delivering real change.
“Thanks to Cheree’s leadership the Inner West has become the first Council in NSW to change protocol and prioritise flying the Aboriginal Flag over the State Flag.
“The recent reversal from the NSW Government and public commitment to fly the Aboriginal Flag over the Bridge is entirely because of Cheree’s unceasing advocacy over five years,” he said.
“Liz Yeo and the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre have been serving the most vulnerable people in Inner West for many, years.
“The inspiring way that the organisation mobilised to support victims in the wake of the Newtown boarding house fire was just the latest example of how this institution has stepped up to help.
“Liz has been a leading advocate for affordable housing, reducing homelessness and protecting the rights of low-income people.”
The 2022 Senior Citizen of the Year is Pui Kuen Li, honoured for her longstanding involvement in CASS Ashfield Environmental Group.
The group has volunteered to tidy the main streets of Ashfield for over 20 years as part of the annual Clean Up Australia Day.
Two young people have jointly been named Young Citizen of the Year, both for their climate activism.
Nabilah Chowdhury was awarded 2021 Young Conservationist of the Year and received a full scholarship to the National Youth Science Forum. She is a Youth Leader for the Taronga Zoo Conservation Society, a UN Youth delegate, is on the National Youth Leadership Council at the Jane Goodall Institute and has been a key contributor in the School Strike 4 Climate Movement.
Ruby Bron is a leader of School Strike 4 Climate Sydney, involved in events including ‘Fridays for our Futures’ and ‘School Strikes’ which thousands of school children and Sydneysiders have participated in. She is also an organiser for the ‘It Only Takes One Minute’ campaign, reaching out to the Federal Government to act on plastic waste and successfully campaigned for a more gender-inclusive uniform at her Inner West school.
The 2022 Citizens of the Year were honoured at a special reception at Ashfield Town Hall on Monday 4 July.