Your 2023 Australia Day Award Winners announced: Ballina Shire

Today the Ballina Shire community came together to reflect, respect and celebrate what Australia Day means to them.

Ballina Shire Council hosted the official ceremony at the Lennox Head Cultural Centre, which featured a Welcome to Country from Aunty Nancy Walke, musical performances from singer Katie Rutledge and young Alstonville singer and songwriter Levi Maxwell, citizenship ceremony and the announcement of the highly anticipated Ballina Shire Australia Day Awards.

Over fifty nominations were recognised across the award categories of Senior Citizen, Young Citizen, Volunteer of the Year, Community Event, Sports, Arts/Cultural and Environmental. The awards celebrate the achievements and contributions individuals, and organisations make to our community.

Mayor Sharon Cadwallader with Master of Ceremonies Liz Ellis, Australia’s most successful netballer and Ballina Shire local, Sandra Jackson, presented the awards. Maria Matthes, 2022 Citizen of the Year, passed the baton and announced the 2023 Citizen of the Year.

The morning concluded with a special musical performance from Levi Maxwell to acknowledge and thank the community for their resilience and recovery efforts following the devastating 2022 Northern Rivers floods.

Congratulations to the following award winners and nominees:


CITIZEN OF THE YEAR (WINNERS)

Rex and Di Farrell – Captain and Crew Member of the Wardell Rural Fire Service

Rex and Di Farrell showed outstanding commitment to the Wardell community during the February 2022 floods.

When it became apparent that the Wardell district was going to be severely impacted by flooding last year, Rex – Captain of the Wardell Rural Fire Service – jumped into action.

Two days before the floods hit, Rex organised a team to fill sandbags, and he set to work making sure the emergency evacuation centre at the Wardell Sport and Recreation Club was operational the night before the floods. Then, as water rose and houses became inundated, Rex accompanied local fisherman to perform dangerous boat rescues on a rapidly flowing river full of debris.

Di, a trained nurse and valued crew member of the Wardell RFS, was also hard at work at the evacuation centre. Di organised donations of food, clothing, bedding, and medicines to be transported from the sports club to the Catholic church hall and pre-school so that donations could be easily sorted and accessed by those in need.

She found residential accommodation for elderly and the unwell who wouldn’t be comfortable at the evacuation centre. She tended various wounds, cuddled babies, wiped tears, and held traumatised residents.

In the days and weeks following the floods Rex and Di continued to assist the community in many ways. Di conducted welfare checks, coordinated volunteers, and organised the distribution of essential items while Rex organised a team of 15 fire engines and Rural Fire Service personnel from across NSW to hose out houses, a task which continued for about four weeks.

The list of Rex and Di’s achievements is countless; the sum of their actions cannot be measured.

In the months following the floods they have continued to support their community while also attending to regular duties with the RFS including bush and house fires, and first responders to motor vehicle accidents.

Our community is forever grateful for their selflessness. Through their outstanding contributions, Rex and Di play a big role in making Ballina Shire a wonderful place to live.


YOUNG CITIZEN OF THE YEAR

Chai Healy (joint winner)

During the 2022 flood event Chai Healy jumped into action to help fellow West Ballina residents. He spent a day delivering sandbags in a tinny to flooded residents on Burns Point Ferry Road.

The next day, as his own home was inundated, he ran a tinny up and down the streets of West Ballina rescuing stranded residents and bringing them to safety at the Bunnings carpark.

That night he slept (barely) with his boat in the Bunnings carpark to answer urgent calls throughout the night, as he continued to receive requests for help via social media and his marine radio.

In the months following the floods Chai was heavily involved with recovery efforts, helping to deliver furniture to locals and travelling to Broadwater twice a week to support its residents.

Illarrah Roberts (joint winner)

Illarrah Roberts is from the Bundjalung, Gamilaroi and Euahlayi Nations and is a granddaughter of Michael Ghillar Anderson, a founder of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra.

Illarrah is a member of the Jali Local Aboriginal Land Council and North Coast representative for the NSW Aboriginal Land Council’s Youth Advisory Committee.

She plans to use her experience on the Youth Advisory Committee to encourage young Aboriginal people to join their Local Aboriginal Land Councils, and to have a positive impact among her peers on issues such as intergenerational trauma, mental health, and unhealthy lifestyles.

She is also an avid sportswoman, having competed in the First Nations Rugby Sevens, NSW’s Athletics Junior Championships, and under 18’s Sydney Roosters Tarsha Gale Cup for Rugby League.

Illarah has been accepted into the pre-law program at the University of NSW and is determined to get her Law Degree with hopes to specialise in human rights.

Illarrah was also integral to the rescue efforts during the 2022 floods, assisting the Cabbage Tree Island community to evacuate and ensure they all had a safe, warm place to sleep.

The other nominees for the Young Citizen of the Year Award were: Jackson Connellan and Lachlan Jones


SENIOR CITIZEN OF THE YEAR

Kerrie Gray (WINNER)

During Kerrie’s 40-year service to Red Cross she has exemplified the fundamental principles of Humanity and Voluntary Service.

Originally heading up Emergency Services in the Northern Rivers, she developed The Pillowcase Project, a school-based program that helps young people prepare for a disaster.

She also works with the Rural Health Services for the mentally ill to assist individuals following a disaster. During her career with Red Cross, Kerrie has been awarded Honorary Life Membership, The Distinguished Service Award, and a Forty Year Service Award.

Following last year’s floods Kerri worked tirelessly to assist flood affected in the Northern Rivers, which included coordinating a gift program.

Kerrie also continues to help those affected by fire in 2019. Long after the event she continues to provide care and goods.

Her service to Red Cross has spanned 40 years of altruist devotion to help anyone in need, exemplifying the Australian spirit of courage and generosity.

The other nominees for the Senior Citizen of the Year Award were: Anna Dicker, Brian Alston and Joyce Emmett.


VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR AWARD

Mark Ross (WINNER)

Mark has selflessly helped the Ballina community for many years. He was the heart and soul of Ballina in the aftermath of the 2022 floods.

His generosity and dedication to the community was endless. He checked on the welfare of individuals and families to ensure that they were okay and had the necessities they needed.

Mark called for people to donate their Stay NSW vouchers so that he could organise accommodation for flood-impacted residents. He fundraised and collected donations of mattresses, beds, and many other essential items. He worked non-stop giving his time and free labour, helping to organise goods and services for people in need. Even now as our community continues to recover Mark is still helping people.

Mark also supported the community during COVID by providing free meals to people in need. Many people in our community are forever grateful for Mark’s outstanding and continuous generosity.

The other nominees for the Volunteer of the Year: Ballina State Emergency Service, Douglas Townsend, Emma Tiatia, Flood Recovery Distribution Hub Volunteers, Garry, John and Joshua Joblin, Helga Hawkes, Jackson Connellan, Joan Gibson

Kelli-Ann Potts, Lennox Lions Club, Michele Robertson, Rex and Di Farrell, Robyn Hargrave, Ruth Henderson, Sue Chapman, Terry Hodgetts.


COMMUNITY EVENT OF THE YEAR AWARD

Lennox Head Lions Club – 2022 Flood Relief and Recovery (WINNER)

The Lennox Head Lions Club has played an instrumental role in our community’s recovery from the 2022 floods.

Since March last year the club has delivered more than $200,000 in flood recovery and relief to our community. Members have supported flood-affected and displaced people across Ballina Shire as well as residents in towns and villages in the Mid-Richmond area.

They provided immediate and practical assistance at the Lennox Evacuation Centre during the floods, assisting with cooking and cleaning.

They delivered groceries to flood-impacted residents, set up food vans to feed mud armies and workers, and provided residents with vouchers for food, fuel, and hardware.

The club worked closely with recovery hubs and those on the ground to ensure support was targeted and needed.

Now in the recovery phase, the club continues to assist the community through a variety of projects including mould treatment for hundreds of homes, bedding packs for flood-impacted residents, and repairing rooms to enable residents to move back into their homes.

The club is always focused on meeting the community’s needs and making sure no-one falls through the cracks. Far from finished, their flood recovery work continues in 2023.

The other nominees for Community Event of the Year: Ballina Shire Meals on Wheels Social Activities Program, Community Mental Health Symposium – Rotary Club of Ballina on Richmond, Dementia Inclusive Ballina Alliance Advisory Group Weekly Activities, Quota Alstonville Inc 2022 Craft and Garden Fair, Resonator Music School Showcase 2022


SPORTING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Alexander Crimmins – Athletics (WINNER)

Alexander Crimmins is a 16-year-old boy from Lennox Head who has had a passion for athletics since the young age of eight.

Alexander’s individual motivation, innate drive, and commitment to excel has led to his immense success.

Living regionally comes with its challenges, such as extensive travel, financial costs and solo athletic training, which Alexander has committed to with incredible enthusiasm. Despite this, Alexander has taken every opportunity to train and compete within the school environment and through extracurricular activities.

Alexander’s dedication and drive for his sport has proved successful and over the past few years he’s achieved personal bests competing at both a state and national level. In 2022, Alexander’s triple jump talent landed him 7th place at the Australian National Championships and 2nd place at the NSW State All Schools event.

He is set to continue this success in 2023 having qualified to head back to Sydney Olympic Park to compete once again in the Australian National Championships.

The other nominees for the Sporting Achievement Award were: All Girls Surfriders Lennox Head, Alstonville Water Polo, Briony Leonard, Emma Tiatia, Julie Davies, Kim Pickering, Mary Davis, Lennox Beach Line Dancers, Team Butcher Off Road Racing Team and Tyler Dogan


ARTS/CULTURAL AWARD

Tania Marlowe and Debra Cole – Jugan Dandii Weaving Collective (WINNER)

In the past 12 months Tania and Debra – weaving collective Jugan Dandii – have delivered a series of meaningful and profound weaving workshops for the Ballina community, through the Northern Rivers Community Gallery’s Public Program.

They bring people together in a relaxed, friendly, welcoming environment to learn the art of weaving with natural fibres. Tania and Debra delivered multiple free workshops for the community as part of the flood recovery response.

In a year where our community has suffered multiple traumatic events, these quiet, peaceful weaving circles have provided a space for connection, healing, learning and creative expression.

The Ballina community is extremely lucky to benefit not only from Debra and Tania’s weaving skills, knowledge, and experience, but also their warmth, inclusivity, and open hearts.

The other nominees for the Arts/Cultural Award were: Marcus Ferguson (Nyangbal Cultural Knowledge Holder and Teacher) and Daniel Roberts, Marcus Ferguson and Tania Marlowe also received a nomination for their work on the Ballina Airport Public Artwork project.


ENVIRONMENTAL AWARD

Marlon Denning (WINNER)

Marlon Denning is a 15-year-old, budding naturalist with a passion to inspire people to love and respect the environment and the creatures within it.

The Lennox Head teen created a short film about his COVID lockdown experience, called ‘The Rock Pool Waltz’. The film explores his life-long connection with nature and friendship with a cheeky Octopus, which was inspired by his daily visits to the local rock pool during lockdown.

The film has been screened all around the world in international film festivals and has won a staggering 15 awards – and counting! Some of the most prestigious include Best High School Film at the International Short Film Festival, Flickerfest. At the Cannes Short Film Festival, Marlon won both the Festival Directors Award for Best Student Film and the Audience Award. London was another stop on his global awards tour, where he accepted two emerging talent awards at the Discover Film Awards.

His exceptional filmmaking talents have taken him across the world where he has showcased and promoted the beautiful Ballina Shire and our unique environment. During these opportunities he’s spoken graciously and confidently sharing his inspiring environmental message.

Marlon’s short film and his passion continues to inspire audiences across the world to better appreciate and care for their environment and its creatures. His humility, passion, and love of nature is infectious.

The other nominees for the Environmental Award were: Empire Vale Public School – Senior Class, Rotary Satellite Club of Ballina Lifestyle, The Wildlife Twins – Bridget and Sophie Thomson.


As part of the ceremony 15 new Australian Citizens from Brazil, Germany, India, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Philippines, United Kingdom and United States warmly welcomed.

A full-recording of the livestreamed event can be viewed on Ballina Shire Council’s website ballina.nsw.gov.au/AustraliaDay

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