Twelve exceptional Coasties have received Australia Day honours, including long-serving Meals on Wheels volunteer Paula Hardwick who was named ‘Citizen of the Year’ at yesterday’s 2021 Australia Day Awards on the Central Coast.
Central Coast Council Director Connected Communities, Julie Vaughan said that the annual Australia Day Awards were an opportunity to recognise Central Coast locals who had contributed positively to many facets of community life.
“Each of our nine winners and three highly commended recipients have enriched our community through their unique achievements and contributions and I am thrilled to congratulate them on this honour,” Ms Vaughan said.
“Our Citizen of the Year for 2021, Paula Hardwick epitomises what it means to be an Australian, having committed her time as a volunteer with Meals on Wheels Central Coast for more than 20 years.
“When COVID-19 restrictions came into effect last year and Paula’s role as a flight attendant ceased, she increased her commitment to Meals on Wheels and started volunteering several days a week to ensure her clients received nutritional meals and valuable social interaction during a difficult time.
“Paula is passionate about bringing happiness and smiles through every delivery, so much so that she made it her mission to arrive dressed in a different costume for each delivery!
“It’s this commitment to going the extra mile to support some of the most vulnerable members of our community that makes Paula a worthy recipient of our 2021 Citizen of the Year Award.”
Council Administrator, Dick Persson said Australia Day honours were a celebration of the diverse and remarkable contributions of extraordinary Australians.
“I would like to congratulate each of the winners across the eight categories, as well as all of the nominees,” Mr Persson said.
“To be recognised for your outstanding contributions to community life is an exceptional honour of which you should all be very proud.
“Australia Day provides an opportunity to reflect on our history, to celebrate rich tapestry of cultures which make up our community and to look to the future.
“In doing so, I would like to pay special acknowledgement to the Coast’s Indigenous community, the Darkinjung people, who play a vital role in shaping the future of our region.”
A brief biography of each of the Australia Day 2021 award winners for the Central Coast is included below.
Citizen of the Year (Winner) – Paula Hardwick
Paula has been volunteering with Meals on Wheels on the Central Coast for the past 21 years. While she normally volunteers every Friday, when COVID-19 restrictions came into effect last year and her role as a flight attendant was ceased, Paula began volunteering several times a week. Paula committed to volunteering on extra days to not only ensure nutritious meals were provided to vulnerable people within the community, but also provide important social interaction to her clients during an uncertain time. Paula is very passionate about bringing happiness and cheer through every delivery, so much so that she made it her mission to arrive dressed in a different costume for every delivery. Her clients have been greeted by Paula dressed up as The Queen, a teddy bear, a pirate, a clown and a nurse – just to name a few!
Youth of the Year (Winner) – Elyssia Gasparotto
Elyssia is a former Australian Sporting Representative and champion who has recently completed her academic studies, with a double degree in Aboriginal Professional Practice and Law. Elyssia has also successfully fulfilled numerous appointments as an Australian youth representative to the United Nations, including Humanitarian Affairs Peace Ambassador. At just twenty-five years old, Elyssia has made a significant contribution to her local community through countless hours as a professional beach and pool lifeguard. As one of two female seasonal lifeguards, she is a great role model for equality and diversity. In October 2020, Elyssia was invited to speak as part of a webinar series on youth leadership and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which she shared with her Central Coast community and peers.
Volunteer of the Year (Joint Winner) – Mervyn Lane
After retiring from the NSW Police Force following forty years of service, Mervyn became a member of the Terrigal Fifty Plus Leisure and Learning Centre in 2010. Soon after joining Mervyn became Vice President and was then appointed President, a position he still holds today. Mervyn’s dedication to the Fifty Plus Leisure and Learning Centre goes above and beyond the normal requirements of a volunteer – he manages over forty other volunteers, as well as the daily running of the centre and the upkeep and maintenance of the building. Mervyn commits in excess of twelve hundred hours every year through his work at the Centre, a huge achievement that adds significant value to the community.
Volunteer of the Year (Joint Winner) – Pamela Price
Pam is the founding member of the Doyalson Squadron of the NSW Australian Air League, which was established about thirty-three years ago. The purpose of the Doyalson Squadron was to establish a female group on the Central Coast and provide equal opportunities and experiences for females through the Australian Air League. Her dedication to the Squadron has gone above and beyond, organising camps, excursions, flying experiences and fun and educational activities which have all been extremely valuable to cadets. Throughout 2020, Pam ensured the connection and education did not stop, organising meetings and sessions over zoom with all cadets.
Sportsperson of the Year (Winner) – Paul Lemmon
Paul is an outstanding sportsperson, continuing to perform as an outstanding masters athlete in the ocean and the pool. Paul is also a coach and mentor within the Terrigal Surf Life Saving Club. In the 2019/2020 season, Paul successfully achieved twenty-one gold medals across numerous masters and pool rescue championships.
Environmental Award (Winner) – Sue Booth
Sue initiates programs and processes to protect native wildlife and is the wildlife champion of the valleys west of Wyong. Sue’s passion for animal welfare motivates her practical measures to protect, treat, rescue and rehabilitate native animals in the areas bordering the Watagan Mountains. Sue has been active in the Dooralong and Yarramalong Valleys for the past five years working actively to, among other things, eliminate mange within the wombat population. This is a labour intensive and time-consuming process that Sue not only takes on but searches out. Her aim is to eliminate this disease in the valleys.
Community Service and Activity (Winner) – Lynn Axford
For the past thirty-three years, Lynn has been a member of the Chain Valley Bay Progress Association and 355 Hall Committee, often as both the Chairperson and Secretary of these committees. Lynn has organised numerous activities and services within local halls, such as playgroups and events that raise money for local volunteer bush fire brigade relief. Under the current restrictions, Lynn has organised Jazz in the Park to maintain connection in the community. In recent years, Lynn has also been instrumental in achieving new playground equipment suitable for people with a disability, as well as shelters over tables and BBQ areas to encourage sun safe get togethers in local parks in the Chain Valley Bay community.
Community Service and Activity (Highly Commended) – Patonga Beach RFS Brigade
The Patonga Beach RFS Brigade is an integral part of the local community, providing peace of mind to surrounding isolated communities. The Brigade provides a high level of community-based fire and emergency services to protect the community and the environment, as well as minimise the impact of fire through the highest standards of training, community education, prevention and operational capability. Patonga Beach RFS Brigade fought alongside many other volunteer firefighters in last summer’s devastating bush fires. Members spent countless hours of their own time to keep the community safe.
Community Service and Activity (Highly Commended) – Berkeley Vale RFS Brigade
Berkeley Vale RFS Brigade has been protecting and serving the community for over 65 years in three main ways; emergency response, hazard reduction and community education and engagement. In 2020 alone, they responded to over 242 incidents, providing over 70,000 operational man hours. During the most challenging bush fire season on record in New South Wales, Berkeley Vale RFS Brigade was a part of numerous strike teams assisting throughout NSW. During this time the Brigade continued to attend all local incidents and support and educate local residents.
Community Service and Activity (Highly Commended) – Spencer RFS Brigade
The Spencer RFS Brigade is an integral part of the Spencer community, providing peace of mind to isolated communities. The brigade provides a high level of community-based fire and emergency services to protect the community and the environment, as well as minimise the impact of fire through the highest standards of training, community education, prevention and operational capability. The Brigade is made up of volunteers who have given so much of themselves to keep the community safe. There is no greater service than preserving life and property from destruction, and that is the act that hundreds of local RFS volunteers so diligently and unquestioningly undertook last summer when our region and the state called for help.
Business Connecting Communities (Winner) – Kaylene Conway
Kaylene’s not for profit what’s on website CC365 promotes local events and businesses across the Central Coast and has become the primary destination for events listings in the region. Kaylene provides support and advice to business owners and event operators to ensure they maximise their potential, especially now more than ever with an increase in online activities. In 2020 when restrictions meant events were being postponed and cancelled, Kaylene shifted her focus to assist families at home with fun and interactive online avenues. Kaylene also created a comprehensive list of local businesses that remained open and promoted them at no cost to encourage residents to support local where possible. In 2020, Kaylene also started a podcast interviewing local business owners.
Arts, Culture and Entertainment (Winner) – Sharon Aldrick
Sharon is a well-known local photographer and community arts worker. In 2020 Sharon was commissioned to take historically important photographs of the Central Coast during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her exceptional photographs are part of a collection of images that will be exhibited on the Central Coast in 2021. Sharon has also dedicated herself to improving arts and culture opportunities on the Central Coast for the community, as well as mentoring emerging artists and artists with disabilities. Sharon has also been working with Central Coast indigenous dance company NAISDA to photographically document the experiences of NAISDA’s talented dancers.