Parramatta’s unsung heroes honoured at Australia Day Local Awards

Frontline staff at Westmead Hospital’s COVID-19 clinic and the team behind one of Western Sydney’s busiest meal services for vulnerable people have been honoured at City of Parramatta’s 2021 Australia Day Local Awards.

They were among several local heroes recognised for their service to the community at a special ceremony at Rosehill Gardens on Thursday 21 January.

“Through the darkness of 2020, there were plenty of bright stars – and it is with great honour that we celebrate those people and their commitment to making our community a better place,” City of Parramatta Lord Mayor Cr Bob Dwyer said.

“The City of Parramatta is grateful for the generosity and hard work that each and every nominee has shown – not just over the past 12 months, but on a daily basis. On behalf of the entire community, I thank you for your time and valuable support.”

Westmead Hospital’s COVID-19 Clinic Team has been at the forefront of screening patients for Coronavirus since January 2020 and received the Leadership Award for their vision to create a safe, quick and accessible testing service for the City of Parramatta community and beyond during the pandemic.

The impact of COVID-19 led to an increase in demand and shift to takeaway for Parramatta Mission’s Meals Plus, which has been providing food and essential items to the vulnerable and disadvantaged in the Parramatta area for more than 45 years. The program was the recipient of the Community Group Award, while its dedicated coordinator, Paul Moussa, received the Community Service Award.

Ian Carter – a Major in the Australian Army – was named Adult Citizen of the Year, for his passionate work as an advocate for suicide prevention and positive mental health support in the local community.

Dundas local and youth worker Elise Kellett won the Young Citizen of the Year award, thanks to her volunteer work with Meals on Wheels, the Starlight Foundation, and as a youth outreach and inclusion coordinator at the Y NSW, while 93-year-old Heather Gillam earned 2021’s Senior Citizen of the Year for her long-time support to Epping’s war widows and veteran community.

Lord Mayor with Australia Day Award winners

2021 Australia Day Local Award winners

Junior Citizen of the Year – Antonio Rajaratnam

In 2020, Antonio was an HSC student at Redeemer Baptist School. While studying, he participated in a number of his school’s Drama Club productions, helped build a community shelter for local Aboriginal families and young people in Kempsey, and continued to serve his local parish. Recently, Antonio was awarded the 2020 Young Scientist of the Year Award by the Science Teachers Association of NSW, recognising his research into the Sand Fairy cicada. Antonio rediscovered this rare, threatened species in Sydney for the first time in 100 years and became the first person to document a number of its behaviours.

Young Adult Citizen of the Year – Elise Kellett

Elise makes a valuable contribution to our local community through volunteer roles with Meals on Wheels and the Starlight Foundation, as well as through her work as a youth outreach and inclusion coordinator at the Y NSW. Elise leads local youth programs, including outreach for young people dealing with homelessness, mental health issues or those who have come to the attention of the police. Elise’s passion for and involvement in a variety of programs enables her to empower, inspire and support young people, contributing to a safe and inclusive environment regardless of sexuality, gender and expression. This leads to skill development, leadership and active participation in our community and brings long-term benefits to the individuals involved and our community as a whole.

Adult Citizen of the Year – Ian Carter

Major Ian Carter is a passionate advocate for suicide prevention and mental health support for our local community. In addition to a number of other activities, Ian shares his experiences and actively contributes to the development of initiatives that aim to reduce the stigma around mental health and improve treatment and awareness. Ian, a Major in the Australian Army, has been awarded the Commendation for Brave Conduct and has presented the ADF Long Tan Youth and Leadership Award at more than 30 local schools. Following the COVID-19 restrictions, Ian adapted and overcame to deliver four back-to-back presentations for ADF Officer Cadets, demonstrating resilience and tenacity to the future leaders and defenders of our nation.

Senior Citizen of the Year – Heather Gillam

Heather is the coordinator of the Epping Branch of the War Widows Guild of Australia and has been an affiliate member of Epping RSL sub-Branch for a number of years. At age 93, Heather makes weekly visits to members of the veteran community in Epping and beyond, often by public transport, to check on their wellbeing. Heather is also active in the welfare programs of the sub-Branch, and enthusiastically participates in Commemorative Services throughout the year and is said to truly epitomise the ideals comprised in the spirit of ANZAC – service above self.

Community Group Award – Meals Plus

For more than 45 years, Meals Plus has been a valuable and inclusive service for those in Parramatta who are vulnerable or disadvantaged. Operating with three full-time staff and a group of volunteers, Meals Plus provides a number of services, including more than 46,000 meals last financial year, as well as essential items, welfare service referrals, and laundry and shower facilities. During the pandemic, Meals Plus adapted with takeaway and delivered meals, along with a telephone welfare service.

Humanity Award – Diane Lear

Diane has been a registered nurse for more than 40 years. In addition to her position as clinical nurse consultant neurosciences at Westmead Hospital and numerous representative roles, Diane has voluntarily dedicated her spare time to assisting patients with counselling and welfare services. Diane is the co-founder and facilitator of Neuro Oncology Information Network (NOgIN), which provides education and support for patients and their families to help reduce the physical and emotional impact associated with the diagnosis of brain cancer and improve quality of life. Diane’s dedication to this important initiative demonstrates her passion for caring for others in the community.

Community Service Award – Paul Moussa

Paul is the coordinator of Parramatta Mission’s Meals Plus program and regularly goes above and beyond to ensure everyone in the community is cared for with dignity and respect. Among other supporting activities, Paul connects our local community to a number of services, meals and facilities at all hours of the day and night. At the beginning of the pandemic, Paul worked quickly to ensure necessary procedures were in place, converting sit-down meals to takeaway, and ensuring that more than 150 people each day continued to access what they required. Paul also provides great support and leadership to the program’s volunteers, encouraging them in their service.

Leadership Award – Westmead Hospital Covid-19 Clinic Team

Since January 2020, the Westmead Hospital Clinic Team’s commitment to our community has meant that hundreds of thousands of patients have been, and continue to be, tested and assessed quickly and safely during the global pandemic. Westmead Hospital has been at the forefront of screening patients and, although presented with a new disease, the staff at Westmead demonstrated vision and leadership to quickly create a new service to manage COVID-19 using well-exercised principals of infection control and prevention. The team has gone out of their way to ensure all visitors are treated with care and dignity with minimum distress and discomfort.

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