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Passion for community rewarded at Australia Day awards

Published on 26 January 2018


New citizens will be officially welcomed and more than 150 years of community service will be recognised in Council’s annual Australia Day Awards.

The awards ceremony will take place at the Montrose Town Centre on Friday, 26 January, following a citizenship ceremony at 10.30am.

Yarra Ranges Mayor, Len Cox, said the awards were a chance for Council to recognise the people and groups across the municipality who give their time to help others.

Award Winners:

Citizen of the Year - Bob Anderson
Young Citizen of the Year – Hannah Mahoney
Mayor’s Lifetime Achievement Award – Bev McAlister, OAM
Ian De La Rue Award for Community Leadership – Don Bigham
Ken McIntosh Memorial Award – Young Environmental Achiever – Brock and Ben
Environmentalist of the Year – Peter Hannaford
Community Group of the Year – Mooroolbark Umbrella Group (MUG)
Certificate of Recognition – Geoff Brown, Mount Evelyn
Certificate of Recognition – Maureen Halit, Millgrove
Certificate of Recognition – Lynn Hannam, Warburton
Certificate of Recognition – Iain Townsley, Mooroolbark

“Through these awards, we get to celebrate the people who improve our daily lives and our communities, and thank them for generously giving their time and skills,” Cr Cox said.

“These inspirational people come from many different backgrounds and have different lifestyles, but are driven by the same goal – to make the Yarra Ranges an even better place to live.

“Every person on the award list has succeeded in that, whether it’s lending a hand to neighbours or people in need, providing their skills to their local community group or emergency service, or protecting and enhancing our beautiful natural environment.

“Between them, our recipients have given their communities more than 150 years of service.

“Congratulations to all of our award recipients for this well-deserved recognition.”


Council's Australia Day Award recipients

Ten people from England, the United States of America, India, South Africa and Zambia will become Australian citizens before the Australia Day awards ceremony begins.

“Making the pledge and becoming an Australian citizen is a big step in someone’s life, and we’re proud that these people, that all of our residents, choose to call the Yarra Ranges home,” Cr Cox said.

“We have a vibrant, diverse and caring community around us and we’re lucky to be formally introducing these 10 people as new citizens.”

The 2018 Yarra Ranges Australia Day award winners are as follows:


Citizen of the Year – Bob Anderson

Bob is a life member of the Friends of Helmeted Honeyeater, a group formed to protect existing habitat for the critically endangered bird and plan for its future.

He started with the group 28 years ago, spending more than 20 years as president and supporting FoHH members in their work across the Yellingbo area.

After the group’s first year of operation, it had more than 350 financial members; in its second year, then-Premier Joan Kirner launched an education kit for schools, developed by FoHH members and teachers.

Bob has been a driving force for the group, overseeing hundreds of volunteers donating thousands of hours to the cause of improving habitat for the Honeyeaters and in raising the community awareness of the birds’ plight.

This work has been recognised numerous times, such as in 2015, when the group received Zoos Victoria’s Hall of Fame Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award.

As a result of this work and Healesville Sanctuary’s captive breeding program, the population of the Helmeted Honeyeater has increased significantly over the group’s lifetime.

Following a generous donation, FoHH recently purchased more than 40 hectares of land to add to the Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve.

Bob recently stood down as president, but remains an active and engaged Life Member of FoHH, known for his enthusiasm, conscientious and hardworking nature.


Young Citizen of the Year – Hannah Mahoney

Hannah, 17, is a volunteer passionate about her community and social causes. She has volunteered at Koha Community Café in Yarra Junction for almost eight years, welcoming people at the door and supporting new volunteers at the organisation. She recently stepped up and joined the Koha committee to become more involved.

Hannah has mentored at the Redwood Community Centre, volunteering after school twice a week with primary school children. In 2015, she was awarded the Warburton and Yarra Junction Community Bank’s Youth Initiative Award for her passionate work.

After identifying a need in her school community and in young people she knew, Hannah began lobbying her high school to adopt the Victorian Government’s Safe Schools program. In September last year, Hannah organised a fundraiser for a vet clinic rescuing and caring for animals in Cambodia – a country she visited in 2016 to volunteer in villages and schools - shaving off her waist-level hair and raising $5000 in the process.

Hannah is deeply engaged in her school work, took part in Council’s ROAR Youth Leadership Program in 2017 and has a keen interest in current issues and politics, challenging stereotypes around race and gender, and is a vibrant member of the Upper Yarra community.


Mayor’s Lifetime Achievement Award – Bev McAlister, OAM

Bev is the Community Music Coordinator of the Dandenong Ranges Music Council and an advocate for school and community-based music, working with children, adults and people with a disability on projects for decades.

Through the DRMC, Bev has established or been instrumental in the establishment of numerous choirs and orchestra, including the Yarra Valley Singers, Sweet Sassafras Community Choir and New Horizons Band. She is well-organised, task-oriented, helpful and is sensitive to the needs of others.

She has had a constant, passionate interest in building a volunteer base, lobbying the media, working with environmental groups, advocating for community participation in music and improving health and wellbeing, along with building partnerships between professional artists, musical educators and the community.

Bev’s work has been recognised in the community and beyond, resulting in several accolades including two awards from the Shire of Sherbrooke for her services to community music, an OAM through the 1994 Australia Day Honours and a Centenary Medal in 2003.


Ian De La Rue Award for Community Leadership – Don Bigham (posthumous award)

Don Bigham was a staple of the Gruyere community. He was a member and former-captain of the Gruyere CFA for more than 55 years, following in the footsteps of his father, who was a founding member, along with his mother and brothers who were also firefighters.

Don lived on his family farm for all of his life and served multiple community groups, from competing with the Coldstream Football Club through to being a member of the Gruyere Progress Association in the 1970s, president of the Gruyere Primary School Council and Lilydale High School Council and a member of the Seville Pony Club.

He started with the CFA at the age of 16, though spoke about attending call-outs with his father from the age of 12, helping to hold the pair of Clydesdale horses carrying a sled with a water drum. He was active in major bushfires including the Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983, the Sydney fires in 1994, fires in the Dandenongs in 1997 and the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009. The latter effort was rewarded with a National Medal and National Emergency Medal and a 55 year service award, along with life membership of the Gruyere Fire Brigade and Country Fire Authority.

Don’s wife of 49 years, Pat (pictured), coordinates the District 13 peer support program, a volunteer job she’s had since the Ash Wednesday fires.

He attended floods in the north of the country 2010 and always offered his practical skills for service, both in emergencies and to help people in his community with their day-today lives. A close friend said of Don that when he needed to buy a new tractor for his poultry business, he would purchase a larger machine than he needed, so he could help friends and neighbours who needed equipment stronger than what they had.

Don Bigham passed away suddenly in January, 2017, aged 71. More than 1500 family, friends and emergency services colleagues attended his farewell in Woori Yallock and shared stories about Don’s contribution to their lives and his community of Gruyere.


Ken McIntosh Memorial Award – Young Environmental Achiever – Brock and Ben

Ben and Brock (aged 9) are the sons of the educators running Environmental Education for Kids! (EEK!), a program that teaches primary school students around the Yarra Ranges about the importance of healthy waterways and environmental sustainability.

Primary school students themselves, Ben and Brock assist their mums at festivals and events across the municipality and help to educate the community about waterway health, macro-invertebrates and problems with litter.

The boys encourage schools to make positive, sustainable changes and collect litter for their local Clean Up Australia Day and in their school community.

The pair is passionate about making the community a cleaner, healthy place for residents and wildlife alike and will continue to advocate and spread the word about environmental issues.

Environmentalist of the Year – Peter Hannaford

Peter Hannaford is a dedicated environmentalist, using his position at the head of the Judith Eardley Save Wildlife Association and its charity shop in Healesville to raise funds for environment groups for more than 16 years.

Over his time with the JESWA, the shop has donated more than $3 million to different wildlife and environmental groups.

This includes recent funding that allowed the Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater to purchase three sites of land the group declared as important for the survival of the critically endangered animal. The land, totalling more than 40 hectares, has been added to the Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve.

A 20 hectare piece of this land was named after the late Jeanne Wilcox, who managed the JESWA shop with Peter and passed away last year.

In addition to this generosity, Peter recently provided $200,000 for revegetation programs in the Yellingbo area to improve habitat for the Honeyeater and other native species.

He is well-known and respected in his community for his consistent advocacy and fundraising and is a deserving recipient of Environmentalist of the Year.

Community Group of the Year – Mooroolbark Umbrella Group (MUG)

The incorporated township group is made up of members from Mooroolbark organisations who advocate to Council and the State Government to meet the needs of the community.

MUG recently helped out the Mooroolbark Men’s Shed to write letters to the State Government asking for funding and to Yarra Ranges Council to secure a 12 month land lease.

The group was formed about 15 years ago when a need for a representative group was discussed to ensure community groups could flourish and operate sustainably.

MUG has formed a representative community voice, providing solutions and getting existing projects over the line to completion.

President Randall Bourchier said the group had got projects off the ground and completed including disability access to venues, a sculpture in a local park and an annual community forum where a high profile speaker works with school students and community groups.

MUG arranges a Quiet Achiever Award to be awarded to a community member each year to encourage grass roots initiatives. They also assist the Celebrate Mooroolbark organising committee every year.

In many ways, MUG is the quiet achiever of Mooroolbark. Their presence is not always known but they are influential and interwoven into the fabric of the town.

Its members are always looking for new ways to enhance member associations.


Maureen Halit, Lynn Hannam, Cr Len Cox, Geoff Brown and Iain Townsley

Certificate of Recognition – Geoff Brown, Mount Evelyn

Geoff is a volunteer with Mount Evelyn CFA and with community events such as the Mount Evelyn Street Party. He previously volunteered with a group repairing trains in Seymour. He was nominated for an award for his honesty, integrity and dedication to helping others in his different community activities. Geoff has been known to open up the CFA station and fire trucks for visiting school children and promote the CFA through displays at community events. A Life Member of the CFA, Geoff has been a volunteer firefighter for more than 45 years.

Certificate of Recognition – Maureen Halit, Millgrove

Maureen is a founding member of the Millgrove Resident’s Action Group and has been president since its inception in July, 2005. She is a long-term resident of the town and has been involved with the Upper Yarra community, being born in nearby Warburton. Maureen has been the newsagent in town for many years and is seen by many as someone they can go to for advice and friendly conversation. Town gardens, lawns, weekend markets, ANZAC and Remembrance Day events are all run in town with Maureen’s guidance and efforts. Nominator, Bob Lillie, said Maureen embodies the MRAG slogan: “Millgrove, a place we are proud to call home.”

Certificate of Recognition – Lynn Hannam, Warburton

Lynn is the owner and distributor of Yarra Valley Care Bags, a service that creates care bags for people in the Yarra Valley who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or in need of assistance. Residents from around the valley donate items, including toothpaste, soap, towels and nail clippers, among others. Lynn collects these items, creates the care bags and distributes them three-to-four days a week at her own expense. Her efforts, in conjunction with Lilydale charity Holy Fools, represent a high level of care and compassion for those in her community.

Certificate of Recognition – Iain Townsley, Mooroolbark

Iain is a talented bagpipe player, who has volunteered his services for his local RSL in Mount Evelyn and numerous other RSL and veteran organisations for more than 30 years. He performs annually at dawn services and Remembrance Day services and has performed at Commando Association events in Tidal River, Williamstown and Queenscliff, for the SAS Association at the Shrine of Remembrance and in Long Tan in Vietnam and other veteran services. Iain undertakes a yearly demonstration and talk for local primary schools, about playing and the ceremonial importance of the bagpipes. He organises walking groups and supports fellow veterans and in 2014 undertook the Wandering Warriors Mega Challenge – a 1300 kilometre walk from Brisbane to Canberra to raise funds and awareness for wounded, injured and ill ADF soldiers.

He is always prepared to use his talents and skills to assist and volunteer in the community. 



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