THERE’S no glass ceiling where the Bass Coast Shire Council or its Citizen of the Year awards are concerned.
Last Wednesday night, in anticipation of next Tuesday’s Australia Day celebrations, it was the Bass Coast Mayor, Cr Jordan Crugnale, presenting the Young Citizen of the Year award and 2016 Citizen of the Year award …and the winners were all women.
The major award was shared jointly by Allison O’Halloran from Dalyston and Trish Hogan from Harmers Haven who were recognised for their efforts to save and revitalise the Bass Coast Boardriders Club, which was near defunct in 2013.
Cr Jordan Crugnale also announced Inverloch’s Rebecca Slavin as the 2016 Bass Coast Young Citizen of the Year.
Having overcome a long battle with drug addiction and a history of domestic violence, Rebecca was recognised for her resilience, courage and leadership in presenting her story at community seminars on drug abuse and reaching out to others facing similar challenges.
All three women were surprised and delighted when they were named this year’s citizens of the year at a function in the Bass Coast Council Chambers, attended mainly by family members of the nominees for the awards, shire officials and local MPs Brian Paynter MLA, the State Member for Bass and Melina Bath MLC, State Member for Eastern Victoria.
In the absence of Shire CEO Paul Buckley, who is on leave, Acting CEO, the shire’s General Manager Sustainable Development and Growth, Allison Jones officiated.
The winners of the main award, Trish Hogan and Allison O’Halloran, who now jointing share the title as 2016 Bass Coast Citizen of the Year, were “frothing” about the result.
“Thank you. That’s amazing. Trish and I are ‘frothing’ at the moment. That’s what you’d be if you were an excited surfer,” said Allison after coming up to receive the award.
“After four or five years of rebuilding, it’s great to be getting the feedback from the older surfers, just how good they think the new kids are that are coming through and how respectful they are of them and other people out in the water,” she said.
Trish was equally taken aback by the announcement but accepted the award on behalf of the local surfing community.
“This is an award for the whole surfing community and everyone else involved. Our parent supporters are amazing. But it’s a labour of love for Allison and I, we get a lot out of it as well.
“The only trouble is, we haven’t got a clubrooms to put it (the award) in… hint, hint,” Trish said to the mayor Cr Crugnale.
Junior citizen “speechless”
The new Bass Coast Junior Citizen of the Year, Rebecca Slavin, said she was “speechless” after being named winner of this year’s Young Citizen honour, quite a feat for someone who has distinguished herself by being able to speak to hundreds of people at drug information forums, and also one-on-one with addicts.
Mayor Cr Crugnale had earlier noted that Rebecca didn’t even know why she had been invited along.
“Eighteen months or two years ago, I was being interviewed by the police in relation to drugs charges, now I’m here,” she said.
Rebecca thanked the people who supported her through her troubles
“Thanks for opening the door for me and now I’m moving along the path you have opened up for me.”
Rebecca said later that she was likely to turn her terrible experiences into an opportunity to help others by completing a diploma in community and counselling services, having also been invited by Latrobe Regional Hospital to be a member of its drug and alcohol consultancy committee.
But she no longer fears a relapse herself.
“Because I went through a Christian program, I have been set free from drug addiction. I’ve changed things about my day-to-day life but I’m not worried about going back there, no.”
The other candidate for the youth award, teenager Nick Lawson, was equally deserving, having completed an impressive community service schedule including raising $5500 for the Monash Children’s Cancer Centre with a music concert in 2013 and $2300 for the Leukaemia Foundation in 2012.
The nominees for the main Citizen of the Year award were as follows:
• Neil Everitt (Inverloch): After 30 years of community service, Neil moved to Inverloch in 1998 where he has involved himself in all aspects of volunteering and community leadership including with the Inverloch Lion’s Club, Inverloch Visitor Information Centre, South Gippsland Yacht Club Wooden Dinghy Regatta, Bendigo Community Bank, bowls club and more.
•Jennifer Churchill (Kilcunda): To summarise Jenny Churchill’s contributions to the Bass Coast community is a considerable challenge. Most notable are Jenny’s contributions as a life-time member of the Wonthaggi Tennis Club, and Wonthaggi Theatrical Group, the Wonthaggi Netball Club and View Club as well as local arts and sporting groups, historical societies and service clubs. In 2007, she received an award from the Rotary Club of Wonthaggi for her sustained commitment to the community.
• Alison Chapman (Inverloch): Alison has made significant contributions to local arts through music and writing, and plays an ongoing role in our emergency services with the Inverloch VIC SES. Alison is president of the Bass Coast Writers Group and has been a member for 10 years. In 2015, she edited the local writers’ anthology Ripples, and founded the Bass Coast Song Writing Group. She is also the treasurer and founding member of the Bass Coast Acoustic Music Club organising and promoting live acoustic music events across the region, as well as a founding member of the Bass Coast Pickers, an acoustic string band that is a regular feature and often plays pro bono for community events. After recent earthquakes in Nepal, Alison organised a charity concert with the Bass Coast Pickers and raised $3000 for a small village.