Citizen of the Year: Despina Havelas
Despina has made a significant contribution to the Brimbank Community over the past 10 years as a passionate advocate of the issues faced by families and carers of children living with Autism.
She is the founder of Autism Angels and has assisted in the development of numerous Autism services in Brimbank including early intervention workshops, cyber safety workshops, and a number of Autism awareness public events such as the Autism Angels Teddy Bears picnic and dinner dance.
Despina plays a key role in the Brimbank Disability Expo, is a Member of the Board of the Autism State Plan, and is Chairperson of the Brimbank Disability Network Group. Her efforts have assisted in raising over $85,000 over 10 years for families living with Autism, and over $50,000 in support from the government in the last six years for families in Brimbank.
Despina is also a full-time carer to her son Kon, who requires high support due to his Autism. She is a supreme example of a committed, passionate and generous member of the Brimbank community.
Young Citizen of the Year: Nyakeer Akoul
Nyakeer is an important role-model to young people in the community, particularly young South Sudanese-Australian women, and is a strong advocate for meaningful youth participation and its ability to enable empowerment.
She migrated to Australia from Sudan in 2004 and has gone from strength to strength, moving from a participant in community-based programs, to a young leader in the Brimbank community.
2015 was Nyakeer’s final year of secondary school, and during this time she attended community meetings every day after school that focused on supporting platforms for marginalised voices and taking action around race-based discrimination and family violence.
These meeting included the Brimbank Youth Events Committee, WYPIN (Western Young People Independent Network), New Change (Young Women’s Youth Leadership Group), Movement Maker Youth Arts Forum, and many more.
Nyakeer also received The Long Ton Award for Youth Development and Team Work, and a Principal Award for her involvement in school and the community.
She has been instrumental in providing community organisations with insights that improve meaningful youth engagement within the Brimbank area.
Community Wellbeing Award: The Sunshine Hospital Visitor Guide
The Sunshine Hospital Visitor Guide team plays a huge role in creating a positive experience for patients and visitors attending Sunshine Hospital.
Made up of 25 volunteers, the Program operates between 8am and 4pm Monday-Friday at the hospital, and focuses on making the visitors and patients feel welcome, safe and supported when trying to navigate their way around a large hospital.
The team plays a large part in assisting the smooth rollout of new processes and procedures within the hospital that can impact patients, and also assist those who don’t have English as a first language. For what may be a very stressful time for patients and visitors, the volunteers are able to reassure and assist with a warm, friendly and professional manner.
The team has become an integral part of the hospital experience, with the attitude and pride shown by the volunteers an example of their ongoing commitment to the improvement of their local health service and community.
Environmental Achievement Award: Linda Roberts
As President of the group Friends of Kororoit Creek from 2009 to 2015, Linda has worked tirelessly to make Brimbank a more healthy and beautiful place.
She has done this by writing funding applications, representing the group in Brimbank City Council planning meetings and developing relationships with community groups, corporate sponsors and stakeholders. She has been instrumental in the creation and implementation of the Kororoit Creek Strategy 2005-2030 and has brought her enthusiasm and commitment to promoting and improving the visibility of the group.
Linda has brought areas of Kororoit Creek alive that would have otherwise remained uncared for. Through community engagement, community plantings, clean-ups and working bees, the group has seen the creek thrive and grow for future Brimbank residents and visitors to enjoy.
The positive impact achieved by Linda can easily be experienced and enjoyed by the community whilst walking or cycling along the waterway and will continue for years to come.
Cultural Achievement Award: Debbie Qadri
Debbie has raised the profile of arts and culture in Brimbank through her outstanding commitment to giving the community a voice through creative works.
She has led many arts projects that work directly with different community groups to create public artworks, focusing on notions of place within the municipality of Brimbank.
Groups Debbie has worked with include local schools, teachers and community organisations in creating artwork and exhibitions and deepening connections to the Western suburbs -exploring their historical and environmental impacts.
Some of her recent projects include “Drawing the Library” at the Sunshine Library, part of Brimbank’s Writers and Readers Festival, the Wurundjeri Acknowledgement Mosaic, on the Kororoit Creek and “Exquisite Me”, an exhibition exploring the collective experiences, stories and representations of young people’s identities in Brimbank.
Debbie is currently working on her PhD in Arts and Culture.
Educator of the Year: Beatriz Castillo
Beatriz migrated to Australia from Argentina in 1991, and her first language is Spanish. She learnt English at the Sydenham Community Centre in 2000, and has remained a committed member of the community ever since. Since 2010 Beatriz has been a passionate and dedicated self-taught volunteer tutor at the same community centre.
Beatriz’s Spanish calligraphy and cooking classes attract large numbers at each workshop, and her skills, humour and encouraging nature ensure that new attendees feel safe and comfortable enough to attend other events and classes. She reaches out to people with disabilities and older people and assists in preventing possible social isolation for minority groups in her classes.
She is a positive role-model and lends her skills and knowledge to all members of the community as a volunteer, ensuring that classes remain accessible and attainable for all incomes. This “giving-back” to her community with a warm and welcoming attitude embodies the philosophy of Brimbank’s neighbourhood houses.
Beatriz exemplifies the generous, industrious and community-minded spirit of Brimbank’s diverse population.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Alan Dash
Alan has shown outstanding commitment and contribution to the Brimbank community over the past 45 years, having spent his entire career in the West, serving as a teacher, educational administrator and Principal.
Alan has served on numerous boards, committees, advisory panels and worked on many local projects – all of which focus on the betterment of the Brimbank community. He founded the Victoria Teachers Mutual Bank and served as Director and Chairman for 10 years, helped create The Education Excellence awards for Victoria, and was a judge of Primary Teacher of the Year for 10 years.
Alan is now Chair of YouthNow, a not for profit organisation specialising in career and transition services for young people. He is also Curator and Vice President for the Sunshine and District Historical Society, a Brimbank City Council Leadership Alumni member, Chair of the Brimbank Learning and Employment Steering Committee, a member of the City of Brimbank’s Social Justice Committee, Chair of the Western Suburbs Branch of Diabetes Australia Victoria, and a mentor for Masters of Education students.
Alan’s tireless work has benefited countless residents of Brimbank: he is committed to instilling community pride for Brimbank’s incredible history and bright future.
Essential Services Excellence: Margaret Wood and Malcolm Peacock
Margaret and Malcolm have provided exemplary volunteer services to the Red Cross for more than 12 years and 25 years respectively. The Red Cross provides volunteers’ assistance to the Brimbank community, including support and guidance in times of need.
In the last 12 months they have been called on to assist five families in Brimbank, who were given support when they were faced with leaving their homes without notice. This included providing temporary accommodation, clothing, bedding food and Psychological First Aid.
As volunteers, Margaret and Malcolm take time out of their personal free time to go out and help residents of Brimbank in a time of need. The dedication of these volunteers is tremendous, as without such help many areas of the community would not receive the support or assistance they require.