Nillumbik’s Australia Day Awards

Published on 26 January 2019

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Four community members and a dedicated group of volunteers were recognised at Nillumbik’s 2019 Australia Day Awards at the Eltham Community and Reception Centre on Saturday 26 January.

Eltham’s Leon Higgins is Citizen of the Year. Leon is a member and/or supporter of many community groups including the Eltham Men’s Shed; Eltham Older Men, New Ideas (OM:NI); Hurstbridge OM:NI; Council on the Ageing (COTA) Victoria; the Judge Book Residents’ Association of the Eltham Retirement Centre (now SVCS Eltham); Montmorency/Eltham RSL, and the Rotary Club of Eltham. He also spent a number of years as a senior referee with Eltham Wildcats Basketball.

 Wattle Glen’s Glen Ferrarotto is Volunteer of the Year. A veteran who was twice deployed to Afghanistan, Glen is senior vice-president of Montmorency/Eltham RSL and founded veteran and ex-service personnel employment agency Ironside Recruitment. He speaks at Nillumbik Remembrance services and ANZAC Day events, as well as schools and community gatherings.

Young Citizen of the Year is Diamond Creek’s Cameron Sibeijn. The 27-year-old Yarrambat CFA captain has been a member of the brigade for 13 years and in this time has trained new members and helped educate the community about fire safety. He has received a 10-year CFA service medal and National Emergency Medal for his efforts during the 2009 Black Saturday fires.

Barry Backman is Senior Citizen of the Year. The 75-year-old was instrumental in forming the Diamond Creek Men’s Shed and organised the Diamond Creek Twilight Market for 22 years, only stepping down from the role in 2018. His 31-year commitment to the Diamond Valley Lions Club has seen him involved in Clean Up Australia Day, Arbour Day, ANZAC Day, selling Lions Club Christmas cakes, coordinating catering, Bunnings sausage sizzles, clean-ups of the Diamond Creek cemetery, fundraising, membership promotion, and working bees.

Diamond Creek Op Shop is the Community Group of the Year. Run by a team of volunteers, the shop opened in 1981 and has raised approximately $3 million for equipment upgrades at Austin Health sites.

Mayor Karen Egan said all of the winners reflected the Shire’s community spirit.

“We are fortunate in Nillumbik to have so many groups and individuals who devote themselves tirelessly and selflessly to a broad range of organisations and causes,” Cr Egan said.

“The commitment to volunteerism is the thread that knits the fabric of our community together. We are grateful to everyone who commits their time and efforts towards making Nillumbik the most liveable Shire in Australia.

“Council thanks each of our deserving winners, all of our nominees, and everyone who took the time to nominate someone for an award,” she said.

Following the presentation of the awards, 43 new citizens were welcomed in the Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony.

Guest speakers on the day included Wurundjeri Elder Aunty Jacqui Wandin, Nillumbik Reconciliation Group president Jan Aitken, and Eltham resident Gillian Essex, who is president of Welcome to Eltham and an active member of the Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children.