2017 Brimbank Australia Day Award Winners

Citizen of the Year: John Puli

This award is presented to a member of the community who has made a noteworthy contribution during the current year/or has given outstanding service to the local community over a number of years.

John Puli is a tireless advocate for disability rights within the community. As an artist he is particularly interested in the right of all people to be able to express themselves freely. He also uses the art-making process as a tool for community engagement and raising understanding in the general population.

Arguably, his self-developed 27% project was his most noteworthy contribution to Brimbank. It is also a good indication of the manner in which John approached working with the community.

John is a great role model as he cares for others, is very generous and giving of his time and he does not feel that his disability limits him.

These qualities make him an inspiring person. He self-initiates projects that are well grounded in social responsibility and give people the opportunity to engage and benefit from their association with Brimbank through his work.

Young Citizen of the Year: Selina Tsang

This award is presented to a young person who has made a noteworthy contribution during the current year and/or has given outstanding service to the local community over a number of years.

During her time as a student at Marian College, Selina strived to achieve in her own education, while also caring for others in her community.

Selina has worked with Sunshine Lions Club at numerous sausage sizzles outside Harvey Norman and Bunnings, raising funds that are then donated to charities locally and nationally.

Under her guidance the group raised more than $8,000 (eight thousand dollars) for charity which was distributed to the Leukemia Foundation, RSPCA, Fred Hollows Foundation, Beyond Blue, Summer Foundation, Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project, Cystic Fibrosis Australia, Salvation Army, Australian Red Cross Australia and the Make a Wish Foundation.

In recent years, Selina has volunteered at St Vinnies Op Shop in Sunshine, visited the Woornack Nursing Home to give out Christmas presents and volunteered at Brimbank Leos Community Basketball Tournament.

Selina also represented the community of Brimbank while on a service trip to Vietnam that involved building houses within a village community and has principally contributed through her role as Co President of the Marian Leo Club in 2016.

Community Wellbeing Award: Bharat (Barry) Palta

This award recognises an individual or group that has created a sustainable, connected, supported and welcoming community.

Bharat Palta, or Barry, is passionate about the issues facing his local community. He formed the Derrimut Residents Welfare Association so that collectively, as a group, the residents can address the most pressing issues facing them.

Barry worked with Council to bring about improvements to Balmoral Park in Derrimut – resulting in better lighting, benches with back supports, and proper dog signage. This has made going to the park a more enjoyable, safe, and happy experience for all.

Barry organises numerous events for the local community to reduce social isolation, and create a sense of community. He is also involved in the Brimbank Safety Working Group.

In recent years, Barry has actively contributed to the Derrimut Primary School Council, YMCA, Derrimut Community Centre Advisory Committee and Hindi Niketan Executive Committee.

Environmental Achievement Award: Hayden O'Doherty

This award recognises an individual or group that demonstrates passion for the environment and has strived to improve it through conservation, preservation, protection, replenishment and education.

Hayden is a teacher at St Albans Catholic Regional College where he is an active leader in Environmental Education and a role model for members of the community.

Hayden is interested in the local community and in people and truly lives out what he believes. He has been a leader in:

  • the environmental education program, Kids Teaching Kids,
  • permaculture work and the incredible edible landscape he is creating
  • as well as the donation of food grown to the Freedom from Hunger community involvement program.

Hayden was also instrumental in his school being awarded the ResourceSmart Schools Award for Community Leadership - Secondary School of the Year. Hayden involved students, staff and community members in creating and working in three different types of garden/garden plots: on site at his school, at Padley Park and at a local market garden in Keilor.

Hayden continuously works with teachers to incorporate learning in and through the garden with the broader curriculum. This has helped to make learning about sustainability a very real experience for students.

Cultural Achievement Award: Thuy Dang

This award recognises the work or contribution by individuals or groups involved in the city’s rich cultural and arts communities.

Thuy Dang is a valued member of the Brimbank community who has been a very active participant and organiser of countless community fundraising events.

Thuy has shown that she is passionate and caring for the community she has embraced since coming to Australia as a refugee. Thuy's active community involvement reaches across many areas and is greeted with enthusiasm.

Thuy is currently involved as a volunteer in many groups, including as:

  • founding director of the Australian Vietnamese Arts Incorporate in St Albans
  • Chair of Cairnlea Hub Advisory group
  • a member of Women and Mentoring in the Western Suburbs
  • as well as Program Director for Vietnamese TNT radio, just to name a few.

Thuy has actively volunteered, championed and celebrated the community in recent years and is a role model and a valuable asset in our community.

Educator of the Year: Tim Blunt

This award is presented to an individual in recognition of inspiring contributions to learning and education within Brimbank.

Sunshine College Head Principal Tim Blunt has driven positive change in combating low levels of literacy and numeracy in the Brimbank area. He has introduced many proactive educational strategies that have had great impact on the Brimbank community.

As well as building a strong foundation in literacy and providing quality time for students to learn, Tim has also strengthened the school community, by bringing students, families and teachers together – to achieve better learning outcomes for young people.

Tim’s contribution to the Brimbank community has been an educational triumph for the local area – boosting young people’s confidence and leading to increased numbers of students completing their education.

Tim has developed respectful and caring environments for young people’s wellbeing and learning across the college’s four campuses within Brimbank. He has demonstrated a positive approach, engaging young people from vulnerable backgrounds and providing an inclusive model for learning and support.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Mary Vella

This award recognises an exceptional organisation (or individual in exceptional cases) that have made a contribution to the Brimbank community in any field, including community service, conservation, culture, education, environment, cultural diversity, visual and/or performing arts and may also take into account acts of compassion, generosity or bravery.

In the past 35 years Mary has made a huge contribution to Brimbank’s proud multicultural community. Mary the founder (and active member) of the Maltese Senior Citizens group in Sunshine West and has a lifetime of volunteer commitment and community service.

Mary has reached out to multicultural communities across Brimbank, working with Greek, Italian, Turkish and Spanish communities to form what is now the West Sunshine Multicultural Senior Citizens Centre Incorporated.

Mary not only works hard for members at the centre, she takes time to visit the sick in hospitals and nursing homes.

Essential Services Excellence: Greg Hitch

This award category recognises an individual or group for their outstanding contribution to the community in the field of community or emergency services. This award may also take into account acts of compassion, generosity or bravery.

Greg Hitch works exceptionally hard for the community and is always there to lend a helping hand to others. Greg has been working in the Western suburbs for nearly 30 years in his role as Ranger in Charge, Fire and Emergency for Parks Victoria – as well as serving on various committees.

In this time he has provided services to Brimbank as well as broader communities across the state, interstate and internationally in Canada.

Greg has outstanding attributes and is highly regarded in the community.  His experience and expertise is sought after by numerous committees and he is a source of knowledge and leadership for fire fighters, local communities and Brimbank City Council.

Community Sport Achievement: Henry McFerran

This award category recognises an individual or group for their outstanding achievements in the field of community sport.

Henry has been on the Umpires Association Committee for 30 years, 18 of these as President and 10 as Secretary/Treasurer. As President of the association, Henry is an advocate for younger umpires, both male and female, running sessions in theory and practice while always looking for ways to keep these young (and not so young) umpires interested in this often unloved area of Australian Rules Football.

Henry has been an umpire for the Western Region Football League, his involvement starting when the league was known as the Footscray District Football League. 

He has been a field umpire at all levels from under 9’s, right through to Division 1 Seniors.

He sacrificed umpiring at this highest level over the past 18-20 years in order to concentrate on assisting the new umpires in the under 18s competition, to ensure that they have an experienced umpire to learn from.

On Sundays, Henry also mentors new and inexperienced umpires when they first start to umpire in the lower grades of the junior competition.