Shane Vicary is Colac Otway’s 2021 Citizen of Year

Shane Vicary and Mayor Kate Hanson.jpg

Shane Vicary is Colac Otway’s 2021 Citizen of the Year

Outstanding local role model, Shane Vicary is Colac Otway Shire Council’s 2021 Citizen of the Year.

A business leader in the Colac Otway community, Shane showed great foresight and initiative by gathering together influential people of the Colac Otway community to establish Colac’s Community Leadership Group.

The Community Leadership Group was integral in preparing Colac Otway for the coronavirus pandemic and, after a local COVID outbreak, uniting the community with a campaign to ‘Keep Colac Safe’ and look out for one another.

Shane was one of five award recipients who received a Colac Otway Community Award at the ceremony at Colac. The other recipients were Harold Cockerell who was recognised for his Community Service, Harry Salmon for Services to Sports, members of The Colac Makers’ Space who were recognised for their service to Arts and Bonni McLaren who is Colac Otway’s Young Person of the Year.

Mayor Kate Hanson congratulated all who had received Colac Otway Community Awards, and thanked them for their dedication to their community.

“The past year has given us cause to reflect and be grateful for the community we are a part of. Today’s awards were a fitting acknowledgement to the great contributions of an inspiring group of local people.”

Cr Hanson also welcomed those who became Australian citizens at the event.

“We welcomed four residents who became Australian citizens. It was also a great pleasure to make a presentation in person to some of the people whose citizenship ceremonies were conducted online in 2020.

“The annual event is a great opportunity for us to reflect on all layers of our history and heritage and welcome our newest citizens to the vibrant multicultural country we’re lucky to share.

“It’s also an important day to acknowledge and celebrate the recipients of the Community Awards, to show how proud we are to have such extraordinary people call Colac Otway Shire home.

This year’s Australia Day event at Colac was held under COVID restriction guidelines and featured live music performances by the ‘Red Violets’, including a performance of ‘I Am Australian’ with a choir of local children. Colac Otway Shire Council would like to thank the local Scouts, OCR FM and the Colac RSL for their support in delivering the 2021 Australia Day event.

The event was supported by the Australian Government through the National Australia Day Council.

Citizen of the Year Award – Shane Vicary

2020 provided us with challenges never before faced by Colac Otway, the year also provided an opportunity for members of our community to step-up, lead and support others in the shire. Shane Vicary is described as one of the key people to lead Colac Otway to prepare the community for COVID.

Regional communities like Colac Otway are known to be practical, hard-working – people in smaller rural communities get in and do what needs to be done, look after one another and support each other during the good and the bad. Shane is said to exemplify all of these qualities and in doing so, has generated, and continues to generate, an immense sense of community pride.

Faced with the emerging pandemic, Shane recognised a need for his own business to prepare for an outbreak and realised that other local businesses would be in the same boat. Showing foresight and initiative, Shane began gathering together leaders from all facets of the Colac community and was integral in establishing Colac’s Community Leadership Group.

The Community Leadership Group brought together people from all parts of the Colac community – business, health, government, education, media – and together the group developed the “Keep Colac Safe” campaign.

The campaign, and Shane as a key figure, has garnered national media attention – in an interview with The Age, the goal was spelled out by Shane himself “the community needs to be ready to look after the community.”

The campaign championed people of Colac Otway – local nurses, businesspeople, students, teachers and sportspeople with a simple message: the virus is the enemy – not those who contract it. Be Kind, protect the people we care about, protect your community. Keep Colac Safe.

Support from the community was over-whelming and through a locally-led response, the number of infections in Colac Otway shire began to reduce.

Shane’s involvement in establishing the Community Leadership Group and the development of the “Keep Colac Safe” campaign encouraged collaboration and established important relationships through our community.

As a business leader in the Colac Otway community, Shane has advocated and supported the region through industry and employment.

Shane is the CEO of AKD Softwoods, one of Colac’s largest employers, and a company that has become Australia’s second largest softwood timber producer under Shane’s leadership.

He has transformed AKD through innovation and a focus on changing the culture, with great career opportunities offered to people of all ages.

In addition to his role in the local business community, Shane and his business are also actively involved in local cricket clubs along with supporting community organisations and events.

Shane is an outstanding role model for the Colac Otway community. His commitment to the shire, his respect for others and his drive to work and collaborate for the very best outcome for his community, is second to none.

Young Citizen of the Year – Bonni McLaren

At her young age, Bonni has already achieved what hundreds of artists aspire toward – to have her work exhibited in the National Gallery of Victoria.

Bonni’s watercolour piece, ‘Where did you go?’ was selected as the hero image of the 2020 VCE Top Arts Exhibition, an extraordinary achievement.

The Top Arts exhibition has been featured at the NGV for over 25 years – an annual and popular exhibition which is a significant part of the arts calendar, the exhibition presents works selected from exceptional students from the previous VCE school year.

On her website, Bonni describes the featured piece as depicting a lone rowboat from a birds-eye view and using a colour pattern to build meaning in the piece. She says, on first look the viewer can easily miss the whale silhouette and the questions evoked by the floating life preserver. Upon close study of the painting, the empty boat causes viewers to question “Where did they go?” and to search for the occupant of the boat. Bonni says through the work, she has tried to explore the feelings of isolation and loneliness in this open ocean environment and to create unity between the colour, boat, whale and water.

Those who know Bonni describe her as having a mature approach – a person who sets herself goals which she is determined to achieve.

In addition to progressing her practice and refining her skills, Bonni is a great advocate for arts in Colac Otway and has extended her creative talents to teach those in her community, working with the Birregurra Community Arts Group and the Birregurra Community Health Centre to run various arts workshops.

Bonni runs the workshops for a wide range of age groups, helping her students to develop their own skills and experiment with different mediums.

Bonni has also represented the Birregurra Community Arts Group in the Colac Otway Arts Trail member showcase – offering works for sale to discerning art lovers.

In describing her art, Bonni says, “Art is a story, each piece is a story, and you get to read it the way you want. I try to be obscure about the meaning of my work because I want you to find the meaning within yourself, as silly as it may sound, viewing my work is a personal experience for each individual. And the best part for me is finding out what that is – so, what do you think?”

A local talent to watch, view Bonni’s work at her website

Community Service of the Year – Harold Cockerell

Described by members of the Apollo Bay community as a fine gentleman and community stalwart, Harold has served his community over many decades in any way he can – always in a quiet, self-effacing manner.

In undertaking committee and leadership roles in community groups, Harold is known to lead with fairness, inclusion and accuracy.

Harold has volunteered in leadership roles within the Apollo Bay community, but isn’t one who’s afraid to get his hands dirty. Described by a long-term member of the Apollo Bay Senior Citizens as, “the person who always turned up to open the doors, arrange the chairs and tables and welcome everyone as they arrived. He was always the last to leave – often seen putting the last chairs away or with a broom in hand.”

A generous and supportive community member, Harold was known to host Cemetery Trust meetings at his home, even providing supper, or collecting community members and providing the transport to meetings out of town.

With a strong commitment to agriculture in the local region, Harold organised and provided Aerial Super Spreading over a 50-year period to local farmers from the agricultural airstrip on his farm for aerial fertilizer spreading by airplanes.

Harold was Chief Steward at the Apollo Bay Agricultural Show in the sheep section, and has been a voluntary member and consultant in an advisory role to the Department of Agriculture on weed and pest control in the Otways for over 25 years.

Harold has also been the official rain gauge for Apollo Bay, measuring and recording the rain every-day at 9am, sending results to the Bureau of Meteorology for over 35 years.

Over the years, Harold’s community work has been tireless – he was an elder and Sunday school supervisor with the Apollo Bay Uniting Church for many decades. For more than twenty years, Harold has also been involved with the Apollo Bay Senior Citizens as both President and a committee member. Harold is also a life member of the Apollo Bay Cemetery Trust and in addition to playing a role supporting his community with these various local groups, Harold was an active sportsperson – holding committee positions in the Apollo Bay Small Bore Rifle Club and also the Apollo Bay Target Rifle Club for over 35 years and representing the region at the Victorian State level at Williamson Rifle Range for Queen’s Prize.

Harold has also competed in the Great Ocean Road Marathon, completing the 14 km Paradise Run several times – and at 87, completing the run alongside his son, grandson and great-grandson – to promote ageing well, keeping active and supporting the Health Foundation.

Sporting Service of the Year – Henry “Harry’ Salmon

Inspiring, passionate, encouraging – these are the words used to describe Henry “Harry” Salmon, and his involvement and commitment to sporting clubs in the Colac Otway Shire.

A keen sportsperson his whole life, Harry has encouraged and supported his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren along with young people of the Colac Otway community in all manner of sporting endeavours over the years.

For Harry himself, the greatest commitment was to the sports of cycling, football and lawn bowls.

Harry’s earliest memory of cycling is his father taking Harry and his brothers in the horse and gig from the farm at Beeac to the highway, on what we now know as the Victree corner, to see the famous Melbourne to Warrnambool bike race; from there, Harry’s love of cycling began.

Harry’s first cycling race was at the age of 11 on a bike borrowed from the Gainger family. The race was about 5 miles starting in Beeac, out to the Creamery corner, and back. Victory was Harry’s – and the prize, a teaspoon which Harry still has to this day.

The Beeac Cycling Club started in 1936 and Harry and his brothers attended many sports days in the district, riding on rough grass tracks around ovals.

A number of towns in the region had these sporting events including Birregurra, Beeac and Deans Marsh. There was even racing at the Colac Showgrounds as part of the Show, where competitors had to race after the trotting horses.

The Beeac Club joined forces with Colac in 1947 and it’s this cycling club that has very much benefited from Harry’s passion and involvement in all aspects of the sport. With a long-list of impressive cycling results to his name, Harry was awarded a life membership of the Colac Cycling Club in 2003.

In latter years, Harry has given his time to run bike clinics and bike education at schools in the shire. Today his support and encouragement of young cyclists comes in the donation of the ‘Salmon’ trophy to talented junior riders.

In addition to cycling, Harry played football with Beeac from the early 1940s and was a part of the premiership team in 1956. Involved in football committees at Beeac and Simpson, Harry was always happy to help out the club and support junior players.

A member of the Colac Central Bowling Club since 1976, Harry continues to be a member today, enjoying a game of bowls when he can and attending the club for a meal or a Friday night raffle.

It is across the sports of cycling, lawn bowls and football that Harry has shared his love and interest, particularly to interested junior members – he’s taken on administrative roles and done any jobs at local sports clubs required to ensure things keep running.

Generous with sharing skills and knowledge, it’s clear sport and the Colac Otway community are a lifetime passion of Harry’s.

Arts Service of the Year – The Colac Makers’ Space

Famous artist Salvador Dali once said, ‘A true artist is not one who is inspired, but one who inspires others’ – this quote certainly applies to the inspiring group of people who saw the need for a space that allowed the Colac Otway community to come together to create, make, share and learn. It was from this idea that The Colac Makers’ Space became established with the centre officially opening in 2019

Securing a dedicated home for The Makers’ Space was achieved through the work of the members, a group of talented and dedicated people who joined together to collaborate with Colac Otway Shire Council, the Colac Otway community and various other local organisations to seek grants funding and support to secure a space for artists and creatives in our community.

The Makers’ Space brings the former library annexe within the Council precinct back to life, with a smart renovation that has created a light-filled, practical workspace for the Colac Otway arts community.

The Colac Otway community has embraced the arts hub with The Makers’ Space attracting 1,184 visitors through 2019 – 2020. Visitors included workshop participants, artists and makers.

The Makers’ Space offers a great calendar of arts events, providing everyone in the Colac Otway community with the opportunity to plan and participate while also supporting local artists and makers – there are workshops, special events, talks from artists, youth programs and exhibitions.

The Makers’ Space weren’t deterred by the challenges faced in COVID lockdown – supporting their community through online arts classes which provided participants with the opportunity to explore their creative side and importantly, have contact (albeit virtually) with others.

Already a much-loved resource of Colac Otway, a community member described The Makers’ Space as promoting inclusion for artistic people, giving the community the opportunity to exhibit and hone their talent.

Another said “the hard work and dedication of a small group of people has resulted in a big win for Colac Otway Shire as another avenue for participation, promotion and inclusion.”

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