By Bev Jordan
Chris Cleary who runs the StreetMed charity working with the homeless and James Brice, the musical director and conductor of Castle Hill RSL Youth Wind Orchestra and North West Wind Ensemble, were both named the 2021 Hills Citizen of the Year yesterday.
The winners of this year’s Hills Shire Australia Day Awards were formally announced during a COVID-19 safe ceremony at the Pioneer Theatre yesterday (Wednesday, January 20).
Hills Shire Mayor Dr Michelle Byrne, said the special occasion provided the opportunity to honour the commitment and achievements of outstanding individuals in The Hills ahead of Australia Day on Tuesday, January 26.
“Our Australia Day Awards are about acknowledging our local residents who have gone above and beyond the call of duty, and have made a positive contribution to the lives of others without asking for anything in return.
“Their meaningful and generous work helps make our region even more vibrant, connected and inclusive.”
Chris ramped up her services with StreetMed – a not-for-profit that provides first aid, medical check-ups and mental health support for those living rough – to ensure the most vulnerable and their pets could access food and services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Adding to this, she also volunteers with the Sister- 2Sister program, Camp Quality and Feel the Magic.
James was recognised for his efforts that ensured his musicians remained connected when lockdown measures were first implemented. In fact, he made sure that each of his band members kept playing and carried out 73 weekly online rehearsals.
Former Hills Shire Youth Ambassador Tian Yi Wong See was awarded Young Citizen of the Year. The teenager is committed to breaking down the stigma surrounding poor mental health and has written about his own struggles in a book called One In Five to None in Five, which is available from the Castle Hill Library. Tian is also the current President of the Coco Youth Group, which focuses on health and wellbeing of young people.
Dedicated volunteer Janice Sanders was awarded the Senior Citizen of the Year Award for her efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic her commitment to helping others. Each month, Ms Sanders packs care packages which are given to people in need.
Sue Martin, the Chair of the Cattai Hills Environment Network, was named Environmental Citizen of the Year.
Hills Community Aid (HCA) was named Community Group of the Year.
The finalists honoured as part of the Australia Day Awards are:
Citizen of the Year:
Fiona Griffith: During the devastating 2019-2020 bushfires, Fiona spent endless hours supporting emergency services as they continued their lifesaving work. She did all of the shopping and prepped and delivered thousands of meals to those working on the fire front.
Elesa Hills: When the COVID-19 pandemic impacted business trade, Elesa voluntarily set up a Facebook page COVID 19 Hills District Takeaway for the Hills community to support and promote local hospitality businesses which has amassed close to 6000 followers.
Tamara Griffith: Tamara has served nine years in the RFS with this last year being the most draining. She spent a lot of her time making sure her community and crews were safe, all whilst in later stages of pregnancy and also enduring personal loss.
Daniel Gerzanics: Daniel is an RFS Captain and during this last fire season he managed his station, crews and their safety – making sure every one of his crew members returned home safely.
Manjula Viswanath: Manjula is the founder of Rasika Dance Academy, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the promotion and protection of Indian classical arts. Manjula also commits her time to various fundraising activities and events.
Young Citizen of the Year
Melissa Sullivan: Melissa holds a black belt in two different styles of karate and has represented Australia at an international level. She is currently the head instructor at her dojo, where she transformed her classes for an online audience during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sagarika Venkat: Sagarika is a talented Indian classical dancer who started dancing professionally at the age of five.
Senior Citizen of the Year
Noel Reilly: Noel has been a gardening volunteer with Hills Community Care since 2012. During this time, Noel has made a significant impact to the community by maintaining the gardens for clients who are unable to do so themselves.
Ron Parnell: Ron is an inspiring and compassionate individual who is working to establish an Older Men’s Network Group in the Hills to ensure local men have a safe space to connect, to socialise and be themselves.
Pamela Wilson: Pamela has been a tireless volunteer for the Hills District Historical Society since 1992 and has held the role of Secretary of the Society since 1993. She is the Society’s representative on the Castle Hill Heritage Park Committee and the Convict Trail Committee, and has co-authored several Society publications.
Dennis Croker: Dennis has been an active volunteer at Hills District Little Athletics for 32 years. Dennis also acts as an official for NSW Athletics at school, state and national carnivals and has also acted as an official for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. When Dennis is not giving his time to athletics, he is an active RFS volunteer.
Community Group of the Year
Care One Care All Group: Care One Care All Group (COCAG) is a Hills based charity that supports those in need. In January 2020, Team COCAG delivered essential items, including bottled water, groceries, hygiene products and tools to families displaced by the 2019-2020 fires.
The Women’s Shed Hills Shire: The Women’s Shed Hills Shire is a local progressive organisation proactively working to address women’s health and wellbeing. It has positively impacted over 500 women and their extended networks across 2020 alone through workshops.
RuffTRACK: RuffTRACK runs a transformational youth re-engagement program based around working with animals and aimed at guiding young people to make better life choices. RuffTRACK works with local Police liaisons, schools and other referring agencies who have identified young people who are at risk.
Dads of the Hills: Dads of the Hills is a dedicated social media page for fathers in The Hills Shire. The group has more than 6,000 members, and focuses on support, mateship and assisting local businesses.