Nine Port Stephens residents have been honoured with Port Stephens Annual Awards at this year’s Australia Day celebrations across the region.
Acknowledged for their ongoing contribution to the community, nominees and Award recipients were recognised in a ceremony at Riverside Park, Raymond Terrace, as well as Fly Point, Nelson Bay.
This year, former Councillors Sally Dover and Geoff Dingle were awarded the prestigious title of Freeman of Port Stephens for their extensive dedication to the community and over ten years’ service on Council. Freeman of Port Stephens is an honour given to individuals who have distinguished themselves with the highest order of community service.
The Citizen of the Year award was taken out by Colleen Mulholland-Ruiz, who has been a passionate advocate for the Raymond Terrace community for the past two decades. Colleen has been an active patron of the Positive Behaviour for Learning framework, which aims to create safe teaching and learning environments for local schools.
Ten-year-old Mackenzie Bell was the deserving recipient of Young Citizen of the Year for her tireless fundraising efforts for multiple sclerosis. Mackenzie was just two years old when her mother Deanna was diagnosed with the condition, and Mackenzie raised a huge $1,860 by participating in the MS 24 hour Mega Swim at Sydney Olympic Pool.
Robyn Killen was the proud recipient of the inaugural Cultural Endeavour award for her dedication to the Port Stephens Community Arts Centre as secretary for the past 10 years. A new category in 2018, the Cultural Endeavour award is given to individuals who have exhibited outstanding service to the cultural community of Port Stephens, or who have attained a high level of achievement in the wider cultural community.
Rugby league stalwart Colin Machon was recognised as Sportsperson of the Year for his pivotal role in the expansion of the competition over the past 25 years. Newcastle and Hunter Rugby League is now the largest senior rugby competition in the world, growing from a “men’s only” competition with three divisions to now having five divisions in 2018, as well as two Ladies Tag divisions and a Ladies Tackles competition.
This year, three deserving community members have been awarded the Port Stephens Medal. Geoffrey Basser was awarded for his contributions to several community groups, including Nelson Bay Now, Tomaree Residents and Ratepayers Association (TRRA), Salamander Bay Rotary and COPSY Incorporated, where he has worked passionately towards better mental health services for youth in Port Stephens.
A true community leader, Leon Lindsay was honoured with a Port Stephens Medal for his dedication to the Probus Club of Port Stephens from 1989 to present as well as his many charitable initiatives.
Peter Clough was also a proud recipient of the Port Stephens Medal for bringing life to the Tomaree Peninsula through his tireless work on festivals and events and his work with Nelson Bay Town Management Group, the Nelson Bay Rotary Club, and now, the Tomaree Business Chamber.
Mayor of Port Stephens Ryan Palmer said the Annual Awards are a great opportunity to come together and thank those who do so much for our area.
“Australia Day is a time for us to come together and celebrate what’s great about our community and the people who positively contribute to it every day,” Mayor Palmer said.
“It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to acknowledge each of our nominees and winners, who have all showed passion for their communities and dedicated their time and effort to making Port Stephens a better place,” he added.
“It’s a pleasure to recognise Sally Dover and Geoff Dingle with the highest honour, Freeman of Port Stephens, for their dedication to and representation of the community, from parks and reserves and hall committees, to health, education and regional planning partnerships,” he said.
Port Stephens Annual Award winners
Freeman of Port Stephens: Sally Dover – served as an elected Councillor for 13 years from 2004-2017, and as Deputy Mayor for a total of 4 years.
• Deputy Mayor – 2007 (1yr)
• Deputy Mayor – 2010 (1yr)
• Deputy Mayor – 2012 (2yrs)
List of committee with 5+ years of service.
• Aboriginal Strategic Committee
• Ngioka Centre Advisory Panel
• Soldiers Point/Salamander Bay Tidy Towns and Landcare Committee
• Birubi Point Cultural Heritage Advisory Panel
• Tomaree Education Complex Multi-Purpose Centre Committee
• Port Stephens East Local Health Committee
• Worimi Conservation Lands Board of Management
• Tomaree Sports Council
• Boat Harbour Parks and Reserves Committee
• Port Stephens Australia Day Coordinating Committee
• Nelson Bay Community College
Freeman of Port Stephens: Geoff Dingle – served as an elected Councillor for a period of 13 years from 2004 to 2017.
List of committee with 5+ years of service.
• Fern Bay Hall, Reserves and Tidy Towns Committee
• Medowie Community Centre Committee
• Medowie Tidy Towns and Cycleway Committee
• Williamtown Public Hall Committee
• Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management Committee
• Medowie Floodplain Management Committee
• Port Stephens West Local Health Committee
• Medowie Sports Council
• Boat Harbour Parks and Reserves Committee
• Financial Assistance Community Grants Panel
• Hunter Water Corporation Consultative Committee
• Joint Regional Planning Panel.
Citizen of the Year: Colleen Mullholland-Ruiz
A member of the Raymond Terrace business community for over 20 years, Colleen is an active patron of the Raymond Terrace Community Positive
Behaviour for Learning Committee. The Positive Behaviour for Learning, or PBL, program is an evidence-based, whole school framework used by many schools in Raymond Terrace that aims to improve learning outcomes for students through creating safe, effective teaching and learning environments. PBL has now been extended into homes, businesses and the wider Raymond Terrace community, thanks to the initiative and determination of Colleen. In her capacity as the Centre Manager of Marketplace Raymond Terrace, Colleen has made this program sustainable by offering her full support and commitment, along with the entire Marketplace management team.
Colleen is a tireless advocate, not only for PBL, but has a positive, passionate and ongoing involvement in many other community groups including sporting groups, Service Clubs and support groups such as Grandparents as Carers. She also instigates an array of fundraising activities generating incredible donations such as $5,000 to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter last year and recently contributing $7,000 to the Leukaemia Foundation raised from the annual Raymond Terrace Christmas Parade which is funded, organised and delivered by MarketPlace Raymond Terrace.
Young Citizen of the Year: Mackenzie Bell
In 2017, Mackenzie completed her second swim in the MS 24 hour Mega Swim at Sydney Olympic pool. Mackenzie was two years old when her mother Deanna was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and she participated in the recent MS 24 hour mega swim event as her mother, Deanna, was unable to do so at the time. Mackenzie raised a huge $1,860! All funds went towards the MS ‘Go for Gold’ Scholarship program and services that directly assist those living with multiple sclerosis while the search for a cure continues.
As well as raising money for MS, Mackenzie supports the RSPCA Million Paws Walk, to fight against animal cruelty, a cause that she is a passionate advocate for.
Sportsperson of the Year: Colin Machon
Colin has been involved with the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby League organisation for 25 years. He was the Chairman for many of those years, and is now the competition’s patron. Within the Chairman’s role, Colin drove growth and expansion of the competition, and the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby League is now the largest senior rugby league competition in the world.
Colin has overseen the growth from a “men’s only” competition of three divisions, to now having five divisions in 2018, as well as two Ladies Tag divisions and a Ladies Tackles competition. There were approximately 850 registered players in 2008, which as of 2017, rose to 1,721. That rise is astonishing considering that numbers across the game generally declined during that period. That rise can only have been achieved through diligent work over a long period of time, of which Colin demonstrated through and through.
Cultural Endeavour: Robyn Killen
Robyn is the Secretary of the Port Stephens Community Arts Centre looking after all legal aspects to with the centre’s building and conduct of members. The arts centre has around 400 members spending their time to make the centre a place worth visiting. Robyn, with her background in real estate and strata title, has a gift of keeping the arts centre a safe and harmonious space with a strongly upheld code of conduct.
Robyn had excelled in her position of secretary for the past 10 years and as secretary to the art centre’s board, she is well equipped to advise the board on a best course of action for any situation. Robyn also advises and helps on the biennial Port Stephens Art prize bringing her vast experience and wealth of knowledge to the table.
Port Stephens Medal: Geoffrey Basser
Since Geoffrey moved to Salamander Bay in 2003, he has been involved with Tomaree Business Chamber, Nelson Bay “Now”, the Tomaree Ratepayers and Residents Association and Geoffrey has had involvement with both Nelson Bay and Salamander Bay Rotary where he has championed, organised and developed a number of projects including ‘Project Neighbour’, a series of public forums for men’s health awareness’ and the ‘End Polio Now’ fundraiser, to name a few.
In 2013, Geoff encouraged a group of Rotarians to look at the significant lack of services in youth mental health. COPSY Incorporated was established out of this initiative and continues today to find the best possible mental health service for youth in Port Stephens.
Port Stephens Medal: Leon Lindsay
Leon is a true community leader and has been heavily involved with the Probus Club of Port Stephens from 1989 to present. Amongst his many contributions to the club and the community, he served a term as President. During Leon’s term as President, the club was a men’s only club and membership numbers were on the decline. Leon used his business acumen and forward thinking approach to actively support and encourage the change to a mixed gender club which enabled the club to grow into the strong organisation it is today. Leon founded the Volunteer Driver Pool Service which offers transport to Probus Club members who need to get to out of area medical appointments and hospital visits. Leon often took on this role himself looking after club members as well as his Fingal Haven neighbours.
Besides his contribution to the Probus Club, Leon together with his wife Cathy, have actively participated and contributed to many charitable initiatives for the Harbourside Group over the last 30 years. Leon is passionate about caring for the welfare of older members of the community and spends a considerable amount of his time paying home visits and cheering up those who feel cut off due to ill health or mobility issues.
Port Stephens Medal: Peter Clough
Peter has dedicated much of his time to bringing life and vibrancy to the Tomaree Peninsula through his tireless work on festivals and events. His involvement with the Nelson Bay Town Management Group, the Nelson Bay Rotary Club, and now, the Tomaree Business Chamber have all utilised Peter’s special talent for organising events, managing large teams of volunteers and bringing the community together to achieve common goals.
Peter initiated a program of events including the extremely popular Country Music Festival and Taste of the Bay to increase visitation to the Bay during quieter periods. Peter works extremely hard in his capacity in the Tomaree Business Chamber with strong support from his wife Kristine who puts in many volunteer hours. The events Peter organises bring extra income to Port Stephens and provide an array of benefits to local business, particularly hospitality and retail, enabling these businesses to remain viable and increasing employment opportunities in the region.