THE Bass Coast Shire Council put the spotlight firmly on Australia Day celebrations locally when they named their top citizens for 2018 ahead of the big day next Friday week, January 26.

And the one to emerge from the six finalists presented at an awards night in the Old Wonthaggi Post Office on Wednesday night, January 17 this week was Wonthaggi Baptist Church Pastor Brendan Smith.

In accepting the award, Mr Smith was humble, paying tribute instead to the other five finalists saying that Bass Coast was all the richer for their volunteer contributions and those of the other members of the local population who volunteered their time regularly.

Volunteerism was a consistent theme throughout the presentation night, hosted by Bass Coast Mayor Cr Pam Rothfield who said Bass Coast citizens were punching above their weight when it came to volunteering, with 22% of Bass Coasters volunteering against a national average of 19%.

Other worthy nominees for the Citizen of the Year award were Editor of the Bass Valley News Roger Clark, Winter Festival organiser John Curran, Lions Club volunteer Sam De Pasquale, Wonthaggi Anglican Church weekly meal organiser Wendy McBurnie and San Remo Op Shop President Marj Powell.

But ultimately it was Brendan Smith who received the shire’s highest individual honour.

In four short years locally, his credits include the renovation and expansion of the church buildings which are available to the public, mentoring 75 people and involvement in a wide range of local events including free family fun days for the Wonthaggi community, The Dollar Club to support families in crisis situations, the Gravity family social club, encouraging visiting nursing homes, food hampers for the disadvantaged, youth programs, support for the annual Carols by Candlelight in Wonthaggi and more.

He serves on the Wonthaggi Primary School Council. among other things.