Past Brimbank Citizens of the Year

Young Citizen of the Year Kayla Parker and Citizen of the Year 2023 Poonam Singh

Citizen of the Year and Young Citizen of the Year celebrations were announced on 26 January each year until 2023.

From 2024 the Citizen and Young Citizen of the Year awards are part of the We Are Brimbank Awards and Volunteer Week.

Previous recipients


Citizen of the Year Winner: Poonam Singh

Poonam is dedicated to supporting and empowering the community particularly local migrant women and vulnerable people experiencing domestic violence.

Poonam is the founder and director of ‘Women of Brimbank’, a non-profit women’s organisation providing programs and events for the community. As a respected community leader, she also lends support to numerous other organisations in Brimbank, including Kororoit Creek, SCATS, and Polish clubs, and is known as an inspiring leader and pillar of strength for the local Indian community.

Despite her busy schedule, Poonam continues to operate a driving school business opening pathways for women to secure employment and independence while breaking down gender barriers as a bus driver. Poonam provides safe spaces, taught skills to women from third-world nations, and assisted people experiencing domestic violence.

With a drive and determination to see community thrive, Poonam has planned numerous occasions for women, including dancing events, Diwali, Holi, and Christmas. She also arranged events during the COVID-19 pandemic to help and inspire people to feel better.

Her passion and determination to assist, motivate and support others demonstrates why she is held in high regard in the community and the 2023 Brimbank Australia Day Citizen of the Year.

Young Citizen of the Year: Kayla Parker

At only seventeen-years-old, Kayla has been volunteering with St John Ambulance for the past three years and is involved in various activities that benefit the community.

Kayla is confident, compassionate, and always willing to stand up for the underdog. She is determined to make the world a better place and is willing to put herself out there to help others.

After completing her 200 voluntary service hours with St John Ambulance, Kayla was recently promoted to senior leader. She also teaches younger cadets all about their role and first aid.

Kayla has been involved with the Western Bulldog’s leadership program for two years, which has led to her involvement in the Bark for Youth program.

Kayla has also been part of the student voice program at her high school since she was in year 7, and was awarded the ADF Long Tan Youth Leadership & Teamwork Award.

She has helped set up many programs aimed at the local youth community to promote student wellbeing, equality and provide a safe platform for students to raise issues with the school staff.

Kayla has also been involved in the Brimbank Council Youth Leadership program over the past few years.

In the past, she has been an ambassador for the YMCA swimathon open doors program raising money for swimming lessons for underprivileged and disabled youth.

Kayla suffers from a rare form of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and has spent many years raising awareness about the disorder through EDSAUS (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Support in Australia), which supports people who suffer from connective tissues disorders.

Kayla goes above and beyond to achieve her goals. She is a true role model who will go on to do great things.


Citizen of the Year Joint Winner: Marlon DeLeon

Migrating to Victoria in 2008, Marlon is an outstanding community leader who works to lead transformational services for the Filipino-Australian and wider community.

His vision is to build a strong Filipino-Australian community in Victoria.

As president of the Filipino Community Council of Victoria, Marlon led the organisation to provide essential support for the Filipino-Australian community. This included social, wellbeing, economic and cultural support for the community, which is especially important during the ongoing pandemic situation.

Marlon also volunteers his time generously with a number of organisations and for a variety of projects that benefit the community.

He is involved in a volunteer capacity with the Filipino Australian Mentors Educators Association.

He also serves as a Digital Mentor, and is also one of the leaders in a multicultural emergency response team organised by the Victorian Council of Social Services.

Marlon's achievements in the area of community services have secured $114 million worth of grants, for a range of projects to benefit the community. This includes funding for emergency food relief, for support to international students, for training and capacity building programs and to support digital learning for people aged 50 and above.

Marlon has been recognised for his community work, being awarded the national 2021 Filipino Australian Achievement Award.

Through his work, Marlon demonstrates an extraordinary skill, passion and energy for community uplift.

Citizen of the Year Joint Winner: Tara Tran

Trang Tran or Tara, as she is known, is the founder of Vietlove Inc., which is one of the biggest non-profit community organisations in Brimbank.

Through her work with VietLove, Tara is making a real difference to the community.

Tara set up the group with a small number of friends in March 2020 when Melbourne started to experience COVID. The group grew quickly - today Tara leads the 20,000 strong group in supporting local organisations and events in Brimbank and providing valuable input and help for community projects.

The VietLove not-for-profit community group has been supporting more than three thousand community members. The work involves providing English classes, mental support for the vulnerable especially victims of domestic violence, and legal support including for domestic violence victims, and interpreting and online administrative assistance during the COVID pandemic.

Tara has also worked closely with Brimbank’s Neighbourhood Houses on to support survivors of domestic violence and single mothers and their children.

Many of the victims of domestic violence Tara has helped have gone on to volunteer at VietLove Inc, and make their own contribution to the community.

Tara has received a WorkSafe Certificate of Appreciation for her support to a community member that incurred a workplace injury, and she is authorised to work with WorkSafe to support community members needing help with work rights.

She is also authorised to work directly with a Vietnamese Senior Constable for community legal support.

Tara is a strong voice for the Vietnamese-Australian community, often speaking about community matters on SBS Vietnamese radio.

Young Citizen of the Year Joint Winner: Devika Chaudhary

Devika loves to volunteer and is involved in activities that benefit the community through a vast range of groups and projects. And she does this while also studying and working.

From 2015-2018 Devika served as an Australian Air Force cadet. From 2018, as a member of the cadet staff, she has been teaching classes and mentoring young cadets to achieve their goals in aviation and leadership.

As an IPC Health Youth Ambassador, Devika works to publicise the harm that gambling can cause. This includes school outreach projects to make students aware of gambling harm, so they don’t fall into the gambling trap.

As a member of the ‘Women of Brimbank’ group since 2018, she has played an important role in helping local women. 

During the pandemic Devika has worked hard to help others feel safe and comforted.

As a volunteer with the Victoria University Volunteering Program, Devika wrote countless letters to residents in aged care home, bringing them comfort and giving them a contact to the outside world.

During the pandemic, she also organised COVIDSafe events for local women, to keep them feeling connected and supported.

Devika has also been an advisory member for the Brimbank Community Fund for the past two years. She provides the Fund with feedback on what would benefit local youth.

Her volunteer work includes work as a Kids Activity organiser for the McKay Garden Festival 2019-2020, as an Advisor to State Library Focus Group Culturally and Linguistically Diverse People in 2020, and for Council’s Homework Club in 2020, and Council’s Mentor Program in 2020-2021.

Through all her efforts, Devika’s focus is on supporting her community and making it better.

Young Citizen of the Year Joint Winner: Haylee Bissett 

Haylee is committed to advocating on issues affecting young people, and has shown great leadership in supporting communities that have traditionally been pushed to the margins.

At her Sunshine College North Campus school, Haylee is a peer support leader who supports students to transition to secondary school life.

As her school’s Beacon Ambassador, she represents the school’s values of wellbeing, learning, growth and relationships - and serves as a student role model. She also works to help plan school events and lead advocacy issues.

Haylee is a LGBTIQIA+ young person with autism – and she is passionate about supporting other students and young people who are part of the autism and LGBTIQIA+ communities.  Haylee led the formation of her school’s first LGBTIQIA+ club, creating a place where students feel they belong.

She mentored students with autism last year, providing advice and support during the lockdown period of remote learning. This work also led Hayley to advocate successfully for a safe space at her school for students with learning difficulties and mental health issues.

Over the past two years, Haylee has been involved with ‘The Bold Source’ which is a youth magazine that is led, curated and designed by creative young people Brimbank, in association with Brimbank Council’s Youth Services. As magazine editor Haylee used her passion for storytelling and her voice to create change.

Haylee is committed to creating change for the better – through her school, her community and beyond, and she is a source of inspiration for the people around her.


The 2021 Brimbank Citizens of the Year were announced at a special Citizenship Ceremony held on Tuesday 26 January 2021 held at Kevin Wheelahan Gardens in Sunshine.

Brimbank Mayor, Cr Ranka Rasic presented the awards to the category winners.

Brimbank Citizen of the Year: Uncle Graham (Boots) and Aunty Joyce Cooper

Uncle Graham (Boots) is a proud Yorta Yorta, Mutti Mutti man and Aunty Joyce is a proud Yorta Yorta woman from Northern Victoria, and they are local Brimbank Aboriginal Elders well known in the community.

They have both taken the lead in supporting their communities, and have gained recognition as custodians of knowledge and lore, ensuring it is passed on from generation to generation.

In 2020 they went above and beyond in their contribution to the Brimbank community and continued to work with various service providers to advocate for the needs and improvements in service delivery for local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

As respected Elders, they are pivotal in helping tackle broader community issues such as health, education, unemployment, racism and oppression; making many people feel positive and connected with the community.

Over many years they have run community programs such as working with young people to share and preserve their culture, led the Dreamtime at ‘the G’, participated in various community committees, advocated on behalf of the community, acted as role models, and have fostered 87 children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.

Brimbank Young Citizen of the Year: Otto Riddell

Otto is a young leader who inspires and empowers youth across Brimbank through activities with the Crystal Queer program and the headspace Sunshine Youth Advisory Group.

In the Crystal Queer program Otto has been able to share the journey as someone who identifies as being both transgender and asexual, and through input to the program has empowered, educated and advocated for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Otto has been key in building events for the Crystal Queer program including a trivia night and art exhibition, involvement with community consultations and focus groups and was a driving force in the Brimbank Youth Services: LGBTIQA+ survey completed last year.

Otto’s non-judgemental attitude and openness inspires others, both young and older, to see things from a different perspective.

Otto has an ability to bring people together and encourages them to open up, and to speak their truth.

In the headspace Youth Advisory Group, Otto has not only advocated for positive change to the LGBTQIA+ community, but also for children at school and those who identify as having disability, such as autism.

Otto has been a valuable and insightful contributor to the many projects that headspace and the Brimbank community is involved with.


The 2020 Citizens of the Year were announced at the Brimbank Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony and Community Breakfast on Sunday 26 January at the Kevin Wheelahan Gardens in Sunshine.

Mayor of Brimbank, Cr Georgina Papafotiou presented the Brimbank Australia Day Awards as part of the Australia Day celebrations

Citizen of the Year: Dr Selvanayagam Selvendra

This award is presented to a member of the community (over the age of 26) who has made a noteworthy contribution during the current year/or has given outstanding service to the local community over a number of years.

Dr Selvanayagam Selvendra is a retired doctor and surgeon. He was born in Sri Lanka, and arrived in Australia in 1974 after training as a general practitioner and surgeon in Ireland, England and Scotland, and working as a doctor in Sri Lanka for several years.

Dr Selvendra served the Sunshine community as a general practitioner for 45 years, working at practices in both West Sunshine and North Sunshine.

He also worked as a surgeon in Melbourne for 20 years, including at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

He fully retired on 30 June 2019, after a total of 59 years of service to his patients —including 45 years in the Brimbank community.

Dr Selvendra still performed house calls for patients who were too sick or unable to get to the clinic up until his retirement. He also regularly gave patients his home number so they could contact him if any issues arose outside of hours.

Dr Selvendra is also a talented musician and artist in his spare time, and has performed free concerts and donated paintings for auction to help raise funds for various community causes.

Young Citizen of the Year: Mr Eangano Singehebhuye

This award is presented to a young person (under the age of 26) 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.

Mr Eangano Singehebhuye is a community engagement officer and coach at Football Empowerment, and Founder and CEO at not-for-profit Acts of Random Kindness Victoria Inc.

Mr Singehebhuye runs events that aim to inspire and empower youth across Brimbank. He has lived in Brimbank since moving to Australia as a child in 2005, and his passion for football is clear.

Mr Singehebhuye has run events including free after-school soccer programs for children, soccer programs to help empower young women aged 13-29, as well as leadership and empowerment workshops.

He achieved incredible results in a short period of time. By 2016, he had established a fully-fledged program that catered to 103 primary school-aged children, 47 young women, and 153 young men.

Mr Singehebhuye has an exceptional ability to bring people together and to unify people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

He has also partnered with local football clubs in Brimbank, Albion Rovers FC and Westvale SC, to give young women the opportunity to play club football.

Australia Day Honours for Local Residents

A big congratulations to all the local recipients of the Medal of the Order of Australia whose work was recognised on Australia Day 2020.

Sunshine resident and Artistic Director of the Ilbijerri Theatre Company Rachael Maza was awarded for significant service to performing arts. She is also an actor and has performed in Australian film and television.

John Lo Piccolo, from Hillside, was also recognised for service to the performing arts. Mr Lo Piccolo has recorded several albums and singles during his long career that started in 1969.

Managing Director of Freestone’s Transport, Paul Freestone, was honoured for his service to the road transport industry and to the community spanning several decades. The Keilor Village resident has also been a competitor in car and truck racing for over 30 years.

Sunshine Community Brass Musical Director Wayne Bowden was also recognised for his service to music. He has been a musical director, conductor and player of several bands since the 1970s. 

Gregory Hitch, from Cairnlea, received an Australian Fire Service Medal for 32 years involvement in fire and emergency management. He is currently Regional Controller – North West Metro.

Thank you for your outstanding contributions.


The 2019 Citizens of the Year were announced at the Brimbank Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony and Community Breakfast on Saturday 26 January at the Kevin Wheelahan Gardens in Sunshine.

Mayor of Brimbank, Cr Lucinda Congreve presented the Brimbank Australia Day Awards as part of the Australia Day celebrations.

Citizen of the Year: Senada Bosnic Ekic

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.

Arriving in Australia as a refugee in 1999 with her husband and three little children in tow, Senada hit the ground running and quickly established her family locally in Brimbank.

Within six months, Senada went to school to learn English and had a job!

In the following years Senada continued her studies and gained qualifications in Community Wellbeing and Community Development. She has also completed the Brimbank Community Leadership Program.

For over 15 years, Senada’s volunteering activities have mainly centred around the Bosnia and Herzegovina communities, and linking them to the broader Brimbank community - whether it be in her role as President of Kud Dukat Bosnian folklore group, or as a presenter at 3ZZZ Radio.

Senada established 'reach out link’, a small private business as a community support worker.  She also volunteers at the St Albans Community Centre where people come and ask for advice and help with filling in forms and other needs.

Young Citizen of the Year: Hue Man Dang

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.

Hue Man has made an outstanding contribution to the local community as an influential leader and positive role model. 

Her goal is to make an exceptional positive impact on the lives of young Australians, especially those experiencing disadvantage; whether it be financial, discriminatory or lacking opportunities.

Hue Man’s work includes the creation of work-ready resources as well as study resources which are free to access.

Hue Man was a Joan Kirner Young and Emerging Women Leaders Program Participant; recipient of the University of Melbourne Peer Student Network’s Outstanding Individual Leadership Award; Hobsons Bay Community Grant Fund Recipient in; Layne Beachley Foundation ‘Aim for the Stars’ Scholarship Recipient; YMCA Youth Parliament Best Speaker Award; and Western Chances Scholarship Recipient.


Citizen of the Year: Rod Boyd JP

Born and raised in Brimbank, Rod is a proud local. He loves the diversity of the area and has seen many transformations over the years. He and his wife have always lived in Brimbank, raising their children and grandchildren here. Back in the 1970s he served the western suburbs as a member of the Victoria Police before moving into other positions, including as a radio announcer with Melbourne’s 3UZ.

For the past 21 years he has been General Manager of Western Radio Broadcasters – Stereo 974. There he nurtured, mentored and increased the ethnic language broadcasting across the station to cater to the needs of the community.

Stereo 974 is one of the longest established community broadcasters in Victoria. It has a vast demographic and the multicultural division is now spread over 12 different languages. It was early in his time at the station when Rod recognised that emerging communities didn’t have a voice, so, along with ethnic speaking residents, he tailored Stereo 974 to become the newsletter of the airwaves.

Rod has been a tireless worker for his community in general and in his capacity as a Justice of the Peace. He's known for giving generously of his time to help others, working extensively with English and ethnic speaking communities.

Following the Coode Island fire in 1991 and subsequent inquiries that revealed information was not freely available, he created a warning system at the radio station to convey emergency information over the airwaves. Stereo 974 was the first Emergency Response Broadcaster in Victoria.

The fruits of Rod’s hard work can be seen Victoria-wide through the establishment of the Radio Network as a source of immediate information alerting the community to emergency events.

Rod was also instrumental in the creation of the state-of-the-art community broadcasting studios in Brooklyn where Stereo 974 broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with volunteer radio announcers and producers.

Both Rod, and Stereo 974 have received a number of awards for Multicultural Broadcasting as well as support from Emergency Services and local and state governments.

One of the many achievements in Rod’s community service was the implementation of a small business program in the Young Offenders Unit at Port Phillip Prison. The program he created was called Doin’ Time and was based on business principles and practices where all inmates took on a range of roles from General Manager to Human Resources.

The name Doin’ Time is a registered trademark. The program screen prints t-shirts which are sold with the proceeds going to various charities. To date more than $150,000 has been raised.

Over the past few years Rod has also been actively involved as a community representative for the new Ravenhall Correctional Centre.

Young Citizen of the Year: Michael Lim

Since 2013, Michael has made an outstanding contribution to the Brimbank community. He has been an influential leader and positive role model through volunteering, community engagement and advocacy.

Michael has demonstrated a pattern and long-term commitment to empowering and improving the lives of disadvantaged young people while working to develop the strength and resilience of his local community.

At 21, Michael became the CEO of Community Health Advancement and Student Engagement (CHASE). CHASE is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to improve health literacy among disadvantaged young people in Melbourne’s west.

CHASE currently works in conjunction with Victoria University Secondary College, Copperfield College, St Albans Secondary College, East Keilor College and Brunswick Secondary College. It achieves its aim through education, peer to peer mentoring and community engagement.

CHASE provides a year-long mentoring program that connects tertiary educated students with disadvantaged secondary students.

In 2017, CHASE engaged with over 300 students and 100 mentors. CHASE is growing rapidly every year, connecting with more students, schools and mentors.

Michael has been a Brimbank Youth Ambassador since 2016. He has advocated for young people with elected councillors, local community organisations and council staff.

He is a member of the Brimbank Learning and Employment Steering Committee (BLESC) and is involved with research and policy internships with Melbourne University. 

He's also been an active Ambassador for the NITOR Program since 2013. NITOR is a school-based program in Brimbank that aims to improve the educational, academic and professional outcomes of disengaged Year 10 boys. Michael himself was identified as an at-risk student in Year 10, and graduated from the program in 2011.

His own experience of marginalisation inspires him to increase opportunities for young people in Brimbank. He strongly believes that disengaged and disadvantaged students don’t lack ability, they lack opportunity.

Michael’s passion to re-think and build equitable systems providing opportunities and voice to structurally disadvantaged young people is evidenced through his substantial involvement with the Foundation for Young Australians, Melbourne CityMission, Western Chances, CHASE, NITOR and Brimbank City Council.

Michael’s positive contributions and passion for his community stem from an intrinsic motivation and deep desire to enhance social cohesion, cultural diversity and prosperity amongst the citizens of Brimbank.

Lifetime Achievement Award: St Albans Community Centre Cooperative Ltd

St Albans Community Co-operative Pty Ltd was founded in 1974. Over the past 44 years, a tireless group of local people have raised funds to get community projects and much-needed infrastructure off the ground in St Albans. The members of the Co-op have identified community need and taken positive action to find and deliver solutions.

For many years, much-loved president Jack Sheridan led the group. He was also a Mayor of Keilor before council amalgamations. Jack passed away in February 2016. His legacy to the community was to finalise the donation of $2.5 million towards the building of Brimbank’s first ever performing arts venue.

The 200-seat Bowery Theatre was officially opened in February 2017. The late Jack Sheridan is remembered through the naming of the Centre’s atrium.

St Albans Community Co-operative has been a donor partner for over 10 years with Western Chances, who provide scholarships to young people experiencing financial disadvantage. The Co-op has donated $210,000 for scholarships to students residing in the 3021 postcode.

Other projects they have helped establish and support include

  • the St Albans Community Health Centre,
  • the Adult Migrant English Centre,
  • Horizons Disability Support Group,
  • the Migrant Resource Centre and
  • the Sunshine Hospital.

Down to just five remaining members, and now led by secretary Ken Hovenga, the other members are Christa Lanzendoerfer, Alan Aisthorpe, Colin Thorpe and Marija Keller. Most are in their late 70s and 80s.

It will soon be the end of an era for the St Albans Community Co-op. They have struggled to find young people to take over their lifetime’s work. But they have left an outstanding and rare legacy, made a valuable contribution to their community, and positively changed the lives of many.

Mayor’s Outstanding Contribution Award: Sebastian ‘Sam’ Agricola

Sebastian ‘Sam’ Agricola has devoted the past 16 years working with the community, politicians and businesses to improve the image, look and function of St Albans.

During that time, he has also been President of the St Albans Business Association and is one of St Albans most staunch advocates. He pioneered the St Albans Lunar Festival, which now attracts more than 70,000 people annually and has been active in fundraising and philanthropy.

His outstanding contribution to the community has resulted in CCTV being introduced to St Albans and lobbied all tiers of government to remove the level crossing at St Albans Railway Station.

Sam also advocated and won the support of traders and Council to establish a special rate levy to market and promote the St Albans Town Centre. He has worked tirelessly with traders to instil pride in their businesses and their local area. He has fought hard, in conjunction with Brimbank City Council, to keep bus stops in Alfreida Street.

His love for St Albans is clear to everyone who knows him. His determination and drive to make St Albans a better place has earned him the support of his community.

Community Sport Achievement Award: Ian Mackenzie

Ian Mackenzie has spent countless hours volunteering for the St Albans Football and Cricket Clubs, and especially coaching the Football Integration Development Association team in recent years. The Victorian Football Integration Development League provides Victorians with an intellectual disability the opportunity to participate in Australian Rules football at a competitive level.

Ian has been a wonderful inspiration and role model for everyone associated with the clubs, but particularly for the Development League team.

The team members all look up to Ian. Through their participation in the sport they've developed their confidence, self-esteem and life skills, as well as the many health benefits that come from regular competitive sport.

In fact, under Ian's leadership the St Albans team won the first premiership in their short history last year.

A pillar of the community, Ian also works closely with the St Albans Sports Club. He has spent a lot of time helping Scope with balloon football and cricket activities for those with disabilities.

Community Wellbeing Award: Za Tuah Ngur

Za Tuah Ngur is well-known by service providers and families in the Brimbank community. While service providers know her as Nguri, Burmese Chin families know her as Sayama Nguri. Sayama means teacher in Burmese and is a term used for highly respected females of senior rank or age.

Nguri has earned this title with her contribution over the past nine years as a community leader and mentor. Nguri has been employed by a number of organisations during this time including Council, VICSEG, New Hope and as a church pastor within the Burmese community and President of the Chin Women’s Association.

The focus of Nguri’s work and life has been to support and educate newly arrived Burmese families and help them to understand and adjust to Australian culture and local services.

Nguri has founded a playgroup for Burmese families and co-facilitates parenting programs. She also supports families who have children with disabilities at Sunshine Special Developmental School. She has been instrumental in developing community gardens at Sunshine Harvester and Sunshine Special Development School.

She assists in story time sessions at Brimbank libraries and supports talks on the importance of bilingualism. She's been the driving force behind many initiatives in Brimbank to support and connect communities.

Cultural Achievement Award: A tied result with awards presented to Rita Seumanutafa and Tracee Hutchison

Rita Seumanutafa is a highly regarded leader in the Islander community and recognised ethnomusicologist of traditional Samoan music. She's a passionate advocate for the engagement, creation and enjoyment of performing arts for multicultural communities.

Among other commitments, Rita is a founding board member of mentoring organisation BridginWorx, a festival committee member at Immigration Museum and an advisory committee member at Melbourne Museum. She is also the founder and Managing Director Of PICAA Inc. (Pacific Island Creative Arts Australia Inc.).

Through Rita setting up PICAA, more than 10,000 people have had the opportunity to experience traditional Samoan music, dance and storytelling.
Her projects promoting multicultural arts in Brimbank reached an audience of over 1,000 in 2017.

Rita has extensive experience working with youth in Brimbank and is an outstanding role model in the wider community. Through her leadership and actions, she's provided opportunities for her community members to connect and create support networks to find solutions to issues and use
education as a pathway to breaking barriers.

During her 15 years of service to the community, Rita’s involvement in artistic events and performances has reached in the vicinity of 25,000 people.

Tracee Hutchison is a television and radio broadcaster, journalist, commentator, producer/director and author with a national and international media profile. For many years she's used her network and influence in advocacy for Brimbank through her role on the Board of Music Victoria, where she is Chair of the Women’s Advisory Panel.

She also serves on Music Victoria’s Heritage, Awards and Regional Advisory panels. In July 2015 she was appointed CEO of the Human Rights Arts & Film Festival and she's currently head of Journalism at the Australian College of the Arts.

She has been a passionate advocate for social justice issues throughout her career and is proud Ambassador for The Big Issue’s Women’s Subscription Enterprise.

Tracee is committed to the community benefits of the arts and the importance and value of all forms of the arts in the western suburbs. She was a founding member of the Bowery Theatre STACC Community Consultative Committee in the advisory role of an industry expert.

She has used her extensive industry connections to support a showcase of the Bowery Theatre to the arts industry. Significantly, many high profile people have discovered the Bowery through her invitation.

Tracee has also capitalised on her broadcast channels to position Brimbank as a new and vibrant arts precinct to a wide audience. And she has helped staff recruit and secure industry experts to the Bowery STACC Community Consultative Committee.

She remains an avid supporter of emerging artists and students and a valued mentor to young performers.

Educator of the Year: Jacinda Richards

Jacinda is the founder and CEO of L2R Next Gen Inc. which she established in 2009. L2R is a grassroots not-for-profit organisation providing opportunities for young people to participate in free weekly hip hop dance workshops in Melbourne’s west.

The classes include young people from culturally and linguistically diverse, newly arrived and at-risk communities.

In addition to free dance classes, L2R creates a safe environment where young people can gain valuable connections and friendships, learn new skills in the arts, and increase their confidence and ability to fully participate in their communities.

With extensive professional dance experience spanning many genres, Jacinda has worked all over the world. Since 2009 she has worked as the Community Development Officer at Western English Language School (WELS) in both the Braybrook and Wyndham campuses. It was through her work at WELS that encouraged her to develop and establish L2R.

Among other projects in 2017, Jacinda delivered the Bowery Dance Project at STACC, and the 3021 project which provided free weekly hip hop classes over terms 2 and 3 at STACC. She is a committee member of the Western Youth Arts Network and works extensive hours each week as a volunteer to run L2R.

She has received funding from the Sidney Myer Foundation to pay her salary as the CEO for just one day per week. The other six days is all volunteer work.

L2R dancers have performed all over Melbourne including at the Premier’s Gala Dinner, New Year’s Eve at Federation Square, Victoria’s Multicultural Festival and the AFL’s Multicultural Round. More than 120 young people from the west between the ages of 7 and 25 are currently involved in her programs.

Environmental Achievement Award: St Albans Meadows Primary School

St Albans Meadows Primary School has demonstrated a commitment to continuous environmental improvements by implementing a number of programs to educate and engage students in conservation, preservation and sustainability practices.

They have done this through:

  • Growing foods organically to reduce the school’s environmental footprint,
  • Lunch-time environmental groups,
  • In-school water conservation measures,
  • Nude Food litter reduction,
  • Commitment to Resource Smart management system,
  • A kitchen garden program, and
  • Strong sustainability curriculum focus

St Albans Meadows Primary School has been instrumental in championing the significant reduction of its landfill waste by setting up a collaborative school approach. Each classroom has landfill, compost and recyclable bins where students learn by incorporating good waste
habits into their everyday school life.

The school also promotes citizen responsibility by incorporating classroom knowledge into practice. Students are given a voice on how they would like to shape their sustainable kitchen garden, chicken coop and watering system utilising rainwater.

The students are involved in the planning, growing, harvesting, preparing, sustaining and sharing the produce. By doing so, they learn about the food chain system, plant life cycles, eco-systems, environmental impacts and the benefits of healthy eating.

The St Albans Meadows Primary School embraces environmental sustainability, conservation, preservation and social inclusion through learning and teaching best practices throughout the school as one community.

Essential Services Excellence Award: Georgie Hall

Georgie Hall was the third female to be appointed within the Metro Region of Ambulance Victoria, commencing in January 1987. In 1995, she was the first female to be appointed as a Team Manager.

Georgie has managed the Sunshine Branch for the past 23 years and has been on Brimbank’s MEMP committee for the same period of time.
In her role as Team Manager, she has mentored staff members who have gone on to become Mobile Intensive Care paramedics, Air Ambulance paramedics, Group Managers and Team Managers.

Georgie has been an active member of the community and tireless Brimbank worker for the past 30 years as a paramedic and member of a range of committees including the local MFB and Police.

She has provided great support, leadership, guidance and valuable information to these committees on issues related to public health and community wellbeing.


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 Leukaemia 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.


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.


Citizen of the Year: Kim Thien Truong

Deer Park resident Kim Thien Truong was a refugee who escaped Vietnam in 1980 to start a new life.  On the voyage to Australia she endured terrible hardships such as hunger, overcrowding, sickness, death, thunderstorms and pirates before being shipwrecked on a deserted island off the coast of Malaysia.

Since settling in Australia as A widow with a young family and elderly mother, she has been determined to give back to the community.

In 2009 she established the Kim's Foundation of Hope to raise funds to bring sick, orphaned and disabled children from Vietnam to Australia for expert medical treatment they couldn't access in Vietnam. 

Kim opens her home for patients to stay during their time in Australia. Her work also raises funds to build bridges and water wells and provide housing in the most impoverished villages. She provides scholarships so poor children can continue with schooling.

In Australia she helps new residents of Brimbank adjust to the way of life in a new community by providing workshops and seminars on how to be involved and how to contribute to environment and sustainable issues.

Kim also raises funds for the Royal Children's Hospital and the Cancer Foundation and is a part-time project officer for the Australian Victoria Vietnamese Women's Association, where she takes a leading role on environmental and family violence issues.

In the past she has been the recipient of numerous community awards. In 2007, The Age newspaper nominated her as one of the top 100 most influential people in Melbourne.

Young Citizen of the Year: Maima Massaquoi

Maima was originally a refugee from Liberia.  She was born in Guinea, Africa in 1996 and came to Australia nine years ago. She is an outstanding young role model and an active community member.

A resident of St Albans, Maima volunteers as a Youth Leader with Brimbank Youth Services and has previously been awarded for youth leadership by her local church. She has exhibited her fashion designs in festivals around Melbourne and is part of a successful dance troupe that performs at many community events, bringing ongoing cultural vibrancy and excitement in Brimbank.

Already a respected emerging cultural leader in the community, she has the potential to change people's perceptions of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse women and those from refugee backgrounds. 

Her vision is to be a successful woman that others look up to.  She completed her VCE in 2014 and has applied for a place in Theatre at VCA and fashion at RMIT.

Environmental Achievement Award: Friends of Iramoo

Previous award winners Friends of Iramoo have again made an outstanding contribution to the preservation of Brimbank’s natural heritage. In 2014 the self-governed group went international to showcase how they work in Brimbank.

A dedicated volunteer group, the Friends developed an annual calendar of events to educate, get community involved, share expertise and resources. In 2014 they presented their program of events at the international IUCN (The International Union for the Conservation of Nature) World Parks Congress. 

The Friends of Iramoo demonstrate far reaching benefits for understanding the natural environment of Brimbank, challenging the ‘industrial’ perception of Brimbank and creating yet another good news story for Melbourne’s West.

Friends of Iramoo events attract both local residents looking after their ‘patch’ and specialists/grassland lovers from outside Brimbank.

Cultural Achievement Award: Loketi Niua Latu

Derrimut resident Loketi Niua Latu is passionate and committed to Asia Pacific culture, not only to practise as an artist herself, but to get others involved to celebrate and share their culture with Brimbank and beyond. 

She is an Artist, Founder and Chair of the Australia Pacific Arts Network. She encourages Pacific people in Brimbank to celebrate and share their culture locally, nationally and internationally.

Recently, she curated the Melbourne Tapa Project, which explored the migration journey of four local Pacific communities told through 20 metres of beaten bark. 

As a result of this work she was approached by Craft Victoria to exhibit this local project in their Flinders Lane Gallery showcasing Brimbank to a wider arts and culture audience. 

Through her drive and leadership the Pacific Islander community is celebrated and appears at numerous, festivals, arts and culture events in Brimbank.

Educator of the Year: Yvonne Reilly

Glasgow-born Yvonne teaches at Sunshine Secondary College. A mother of three, she is a trailblazer with her innovative teaching methods in mathematics.  She has made an outstanding contribution to education throughout her career and demonstrates strong leadership.

Yvonne applies her expertise in a high needs local school, and also shares her programs with others nationally and internationally.

Her work in teaching maths and numeracy has been featured in national current affairs and news television programs and articles in the Age newspaper. Fifty-six schools and other teaching organisations have visited Sunshine Secondary College to see her program in action and learn from the outcomes. 

She is regularly invited to be a keynote speaker at international teaching conferences.

The numeracy outcomes have improved considerably for Sunshine College Students under Yvonne's Leadership. In fact, the school was mentioned as one of only five in Australia to be a 'turn-around school'. The results of the maths program were highlighted in the 2014 Grattan Report.

Lifetime Achievement Award: llan 'Titch' Williams   

Born and bred and a lifetime worker in Sunshine, Titch Williams is a founding member and trainer at the Albion Football Club. He was instrumental in starting up this proud club over 54 years ago so others could enjoy, belong to their community and play sport.

He also formed the Sports Trainers Association. Titch has demonstrated a lifetime of commitment to creating opportunities for others to participate in sport and to develop links and friendships in their own community. He still rarely misses a game.  Famous for his role as club trainer, Titch has trained at over 2000 games.

Not only has he given over half a century of volunteer service to Albion Football Club, he has been a long-serving and high level member of St John First Aid since he joined as a cadet at only 13 years of age.

Titch has been recognised numerous times over the years for his community spirit and love of the West.

Essential Services Excellence: SES Brimbank Unit

The Brimbank SES is an essential part of our community. Brimbank's SES volunteers have dedicated over 15,500 hours this year in emergency response, education and training to the Brimbank community. The value of this work each year is around $750,000. Without local and dedicated volunteers, many in need would not get the help they need. Much of their work is afterhours and in hazardous and frightening conditions. 

Some examples of their tireless work this year include:

  • two major storm incidents with clean-ups and responses lasting over a 36 hour period;
  • providing four search crews and supporting the police through two serious missing person incidents;  
  • setting up an incident point to assist police in major crime scene and assisting fire crews at bushfires.


Citizen of the Year: Brigitte Baker

Brigitte Baker is a highly valued member of the University Park Primary School. She's President of the Parents and Friends Association at the School, for the last two years. She's tireless in her efforts to raise much-needed funds for resourcing the school. While giving hours of her time, in the background she fosters children who have often experienced grief, loss or trauma. This has been her life’s work for the last 27 years. Although children may bring with them a range of behaviours as a result of their experience, she remains loving, caring, kind and respectful to all children that she works with. Brigitte has fostered over 600 children.

Young Citizen of the Year: Edward Buijs

Edward Buijs (19) is shortly to commence his second year  at Melbourne University studying a Bachelor of Science majoring in Biomedical Engineering. Edward was previously nominated in this category by Overnewton Anglican College due to outstanding contribution to the school as School Captain and for his ongoing volunteer work. This year Edward was nominated by his employers at Overnewton Castle receptions where he works between 15-20 hours a week.  Edward was the youngest person promoted to a leadership position there.  This year he continues to volunteer tirelessly in our community and additionally travelled to Papua New Guinea to participate in a humanitarian aid program organised by his church to build schools and shelters.

Community Wellbeing Award: The Phoenix St Children’s Centre

The Phoenix St Children’s Centre has recently produced an information guide for the families who attend the centre embedding sustainable practice in their building and business, as well as incorporating it into their curriculum for the children. Children and families are guided through how little choices can make a big difference to our environment. Through their work this year Phoenix St Children’s Centre have enhanced our community’s wellbeing through the multiple benefits of sustainable practices in additional to health and saving money. They have given permission for the booklet to be reprinted for the wider community at no cost.

Environmental Achievement Award: Kara Humphrey and Asha Bannon (The Sugar Glider Project)

Kara Humphrey and Asha Bannon have worked tirelessly to revive the Sugar Glider monitoring project at Organ Pipes National Park. They have made an outstanding contribution to the Brimbank environment by providing researching and monitoring Sugar Glider numbers, health and habits in the park. The results of their work have instigated a program of revegetation along Jackson’s Creek in Organ Pipes which is being now extended into neighbouring Sydenham Park. They conduct walks and talks, produce strong newsletters and marketing materials, have made their information accessible to schools which has resulted in this being part of the new Australian Curriculum which has sustainability as a cross curriculum priority.  Most notably they have used technology and social media to dramatically increase the numbers of volunteers through a younger demographic.

Cultural Achievement Award: Bruce White

Bruce works full time as Manager of Westpac Sunshine Branch and despite a taxing work load he voluntarily leads and organises The Sunshine Short Film festival, Sunshine Festival Events, Sunshine Street Market along Hampshire Road and Pho Fever.  He is President of the Sunshine Business Association (and represents over 400 traders) and has driven a wide range of initiatives that bring more people, readers and cultural mix to Sunshine.

Educator of the Year Award: Bev Fegan 

Bev Fegan is the Principal at Jackson Special School. She has implemented Positive Behavioural Intervention programs and implemented Professional Learning Development teams at the school. Bev has applied her lifelong interest in the educational needs of students with disabilities in her role at Jackson school, working collaboratively with staff, students and the wider community to develop a shared vision for all students. Bev leads Jackson every day in establishing a learning community founded on trust and mutual respect that offers authentic, quality educational experiences and enables students to be valued as contributing members of the wider community.

Lifetime Service Award: Lions Club of Sunshine

Lions Club of Sunshine celebrated 60 years in 2013. The Club has worked tirelessly on community projects to improve the wellbeing of the Brimbank Community.  In the past the Club has not sought recognition for its work, but the 60th anniversary was timely for them to be noticed and acknowledged.  They pride themselves on being ‘quiet achievers in our community’. The club has raised more than one million dollars which has been poured back into our community for projects such as the Elderly Citizens Centre in Watts St, Sunshine (now sold and converted to a Church). They have delivered much, with only an average membership of 20.


Citizen of the Year: Les Norton

Les is a long-term resident of Keilor, having moved to the area in 1975.

As the first local gastroenterologist at the Western Hospital in Footscray, Les saw the need for more local medical services in this field of medicine and as such, lobbied for and created local specialist facilities so that people don’t have to travel to Melbourne for treatment.

He has spent over 30 years restoring the historical Overnewton Castle and has made it available for the community to enjoy.

Les is also an active philanthropist and is a member of the East Keilor Rotary Club, the Keilor Historical Society and the Keilor Life Activities Group. He is highly regarded for his continued support and commitment to the community.

Young Citizen of the Year: Fostin Nshimirimana

Born in Burundi, Fostin has overcome many early challenges in his life to become an exemplary member of the community.

Fostin has been involved in a number of Council initiatives including sitting as a member on the Youth Forum Committee and Youth Participation Forum as part of Council’s Youth Planning Strategy, organisation of the December 2012 Sunshine Youth Forum and now acts as a Peer Consultant for Council.

With a passion for music and dance, he is a founding member of, and one of the key mentors for, the RAP3021 program, where participants write, record and perform their own hip hop music. He also facilitates his own rap program, More Than Words, at Delahey Community Centre.

Fostin is also a part of the hip hop group the St Albans Crew, and has arranged and participated in two local events, 2011 Exposure Event and 2012 Sound of the Streets, showcasing local hip hop talent to the community.

Teacher of the Year: Sylvia Bereens

Sylvia has worked at St. Augustine’s Primary School for 27 years, and has taught in Keilor for over three decades.

Sylvia is recognised and admired for her ability to make students feel good about their efforts and in helping them to strive for excellence. She has kept up to date with technology over the decades and embraces new information communication technologies to ensure students have the best possible learning opportunities.

Sylvia also contributes to the community in a voluntary capacity with a number of organisations including teaching at the Migrant Resource Centre, assisting families in crisis through Kris Care and participation in community choirs.

Community Wellbeing Award: Sunshine Heights Cricket Club

The Sunshine Heights Cricket Club is an all ‘inclusive’ club, providing members of the community regardless of race, sex, financial status or ability with an opportunity to be involved in cricket.

The Club’s success is highly recognised by many organisations including, Cricket Victoria and Australia, the Department of Sport and Recreation, VicHealth and the Australian Sports Commission.

The Club has successfully targeted and incorporated people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities, people with a disability, females, socially disadvantaged backgrounds and those considered to be socially disadvantaged, over many years.

Last year the club achieved a number of excellent outcomes for the community including:

  • Expansion of Refugee Integration Program to 28 children, which aims to reduce the barrier of entry to social participation within the community.
  • Supported the first Australian Schoolboys’ Team International T20 tournament in Corfu. The team was entirely made up of participants from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds, who made the semi-finals.
  • Continued partnership with the Western Tigers (team made up of entirely Sudanese refugees) in the Football Federation of Victoria Metropolitan Mens division.
  • Winners of a number of grand finals and the introduction of new teams to the community.

Their inclusive programs have been covered by a number of national media outlets, and have helped to increase awareness of the clubs ‘inclusive’ approach and the benefits bought to the Brimbank Community.

Environmental Achievement Award: University Park Primary School

Over the past 3-4 years, University Park Primary School has implemented a number of environmental programs to educate and engage students in conservation and preservation practices, in addition to the ongoing school curriculum, including:

  • Lunchtime environmental group
  • In-school water conservation program
  • Litter reduction through Nude Food Day
  • Planting of a Bush Food Garden and Wildscape Garden
  • Creation of a Frog Pond

The school is also committed to a Resource Smart waste model.

Cultural Achievement Award: Gallery Sunshine Everywhere Inc.

Established in 2007, the Gallery Sunshine Everywhere Inc. celebrates their fifth birthday this year.

Gallery Sunshine Everywhere Inc. is a not for profit organisation, run by volunteers, working to engage the wider community to celebrate and raise awareness of the talents of pre-primary, primary and secondary students through exhibitions, projects and e-communications. And, as their name suggests, they don’t have a ‘homebase’ and work everywhere in Sunshine.

Since their establishment, they have worked with dozens of schools and hundreds of students in the delivery of 66 exhibitions to showcase to, and educate the community on, the art of young artists.

Gallery Sunshine Everywhere Inc. commissions works with schools, families and workplaces, and also provides mentoring to young and emerging artists. 

Last updated: 6 June 2024 - 1:15pm