Australia Day celebrations including the Bega Valley Shire Citizen Awards will take place this Sunday at Littleton Gardens, Bega from 7.30am.
The day is being promoted as an opportunity for the community to come together and support each other following the devastating bushfires of the past couple of months.
It will also see the celebration of several of the shire's most worthy residents.
Citizen of the Year - Michele Bootes
The Same Wave program, which provides an opportunity for disabled children and adults to experience the thrill of the ocean, is the brainchild of Pambula local Michele Bootes and her husband Peter.
Michele has been at the forefront of the development of disability programs, both in and outside of Surf Life Saving, for over 20 years, and has continued relentlessly to lobby for funding and resources to grow and expand the programs.
Over the past 20 years Michele and Peter have assisted many clubs around Australia to commence their own programs and there are now more than 60 clubs Australia-wide running programs for people with disability.
Michele has trained most of the Pambula Surf Life Saving Club's current patrol captains and has trained, mentored and coached many more young cadets through their Surf Rescue Certificate, to Bronze Medallion and on to Silver Medallion. In addition to this training, Michele has also put in over more than 1000 patrol hours since joining the Pambula Surf Life Saving Club in 1996.
Australia Day Local Award (joint winner) - Clair Mudaliar
Eden businesswoman Clair Mudaliar has a zest for her community that is infectious and translates into festive events that bring businesses together with local customers. For years she has dedicated her time, passion and resources to local causes and events that celebrate all Eden has to offer.
Clair's work with the Eden Chamber of Commerce has seen successful events such as the popular family day out, Christmas on Imlay, and the Eden Excellence in Business Awards showcase the best of Eden.
Recognising that winter is a tough time for many businesses in the hospitality industry, Clair organised the monthly Food Truck Friday, an event that brought street food and hungry customers together for a warm and convivial night out. These events stopped by Merimbula, Eden and Bega.
In 2018 Clair showed just how dedicated she was to raising money for the local community by agreeing to be part of Cancer Council NSW's Stars of Bega Valley Dance for Cancer. Weeks of training and fundraising saw Clair push herself far beyond her comfort zone to learn swing dancing. In the process she also managed to raise more than $4000 for the charity. All this while raising two daughters and running two businesses.
Australia Day Local Award (joint winner) - Jennie Keioskie
Jennie Keioskie has been a true champion for mental health in Bega Valley and surrounding communities, making sure that people feel safe to speak out if they need to and facilitating numerous opportunities for this to happen.
Jennie's tireless work supporting the rural community and associated mental health organisations throughout the region is undertaken in both a professional and volunteer capacity, which is an indication of her passion for the field of mental health.
Her coordinator role for Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) allows her to provide invaluable support to all facets of the mental health community. She was instrumental in the initial set up of the Bega Suicide Prevention Action Network and a major factor in the success of the group over the years.
Jennie has also been an ongoing supporter of the dairy industry groups and associations in the region, including consultant roles with Far South Coast Dairy Development Group, Far South Coast Farmer's Network and RAMHP's involvement with Bale Up, NSW Cricket's Baggy Blues Cricket Tour, promoting mental health issues in sport.
In 2019, Jennie worked closely with two groups, The Rainbow Waves Festival and the Fling Physical Theatre as a mental health consultant. Both of these groups were recognised in the 2019 Mental Health Matters Awards.
Senior Citizen of the Year - Colin Dunn
There are many great reasons to volunteer and Colin, 75, will be able to tell you all of them.
He has been a longstanding member of the Rotary Club of Pambula, serving as president in 2011 and 2017, vice-president, secretary and head of the catering committee. Each week he presents a show on Sapphire FM 97.5 Community Radio, during which he speaks to guests, shares information about what is happening in the local community and promotes Rotary to listeners.
His desire to help build and promote the local community has seen him co-found the popular Pambula Men's Shed, get involved with the construction of the Sapphire Aquatic Centre, serving as chair in 2011, and serve on the Pambula Hospital Community Engagement Committee and Southern Area Health Community Consultative Committee.
Colin was treasurer of the Pambula and District Community Bank Branch of Bendigo Bank from 2009 to 2017 and has been chair since 2017. In these roles he works hard to ensure that community groups receive funding for their projects, while promoting and managing this community asset.
Access and inclusivity are two more passions that have seen Colin volunteer as the executive officer of the Bureau of Accessible Tourism and continues to be an active member of Bega Valley Shire Council's Access and Inclusion Committee.
Colin was awarded a Bega Valley Shire Community Service Medallion in 2019 and has received a District Award for Excellence in Community Service from Rotary.
Sportsperson of the Year - Kiarna Woolley-Blain
Merimbula athlete Kiarna Woolley-Blain is a junior athletics star whose performance and skills in javelin, shot put and discus have placed her on the podium in many championships. Kiarna has won three national medals in javelin. In 2019 she represented Australia and won the bronze medal at the Oceania Athletics Championships in the under 18s javelin.
Kiarna has competed at the national level since she was 12 years of age and has set state records in NSW and the ACT in javelin. Athletics is not her only passion. Kiarna has scored goals on and off the field in Aussie rules, soccer and basketball.
Perhaps more impressive than Kiarna's sporting results is her passion and dedication to both training and schoolwork. She manages her time extremely well and has maintained great grades while training six times a week, travelling hours on end for training and competition and, when required, holds down a casual job.
Young Citizen of the Year - Kate Lewis
Kate Lewis has been a busy young woman and she has no plans to stop. She has worked as a volunteer birth attendant in Uganda, India, Nepal, and Cambodia, assisting women during labour and recovery.
She has experienced working in government hospitals, community clinics and outreaches in remote villages. In this role she has witnessed both the best and the worst that life has to offer, which has only served to bolster her desire and intent to keep working in developing countries.
Kate has also spent time in Darwin, living with and mentoring a group of Indigenous women from remote communities. She volunteers her time at both Sapphire Life Church and Pambula Baptist Church, assisting with Kids Ministry and the Worship Team.
Kate recently moved to Perth and is working with vulnerable women who are pregnant. She has a trip to India in her immediate future and is determined to continue supporting underprivileged women and families in developing nations for a long time to come.