BRUCKNELL’S Donna Ellis was announced as Corangamite Shire’s 2019 Citizen of the Year at the council’s Australia Day celebrations in Terang on Saturday.
Two other major awards were announced as part of the celebrations, including:
• Young Citizen of the Year – Matilda Perriss from Cobden; and
• Community Event of the Year – Cobden Uniting Church Bushfire Relief Distribution Centre.
Corangamite Shire mayor Neil Trotter congratulated all of the winners and nominees.
He said Ms Ellis had shown great leadership in the community across a wide range of endeavours.
“Donna is deeply committed to the health and wellbeing of the community,” Cr Trotter said.
“She is the co-ordinator of Timboon parkrun, team manager for the inaugural junior girls’ team at Timboon Demons Football Netball Club and has been on the Timboon District Health Service Community Advisory Committee for two years.
“She has also been a member of Brucknell CFA and has been involved in fundraising for Abbeyfield, including the Celtic Music Night, open gardens and plant stall.”
Ms Ellis said the honour was unexpected and was the result of many people’s efforts, not just her own.
“My philosophy is if you see something that needs doing, or an opportunity for the community, you find people who can make it happen,” she said.
“How can we do it? Who has the skills to do it? You grab a bunch of other people to help you get it done.
“People help because they know you have the ideas, the enthusiasm and you’ll follow through.
“It’s important to let everyone know what they are doing is valuable and makes things work.”
Cr Trotter said Young Citizen of the Year Ms Perriss was nominated for her tireless efforts during the St Patrick’s Day fires.
“On that night Matilda was duty manager at Ritchies Cobden when the manager and other staff were cut off,” he said.
“She opened at 2am for the CFA and relief centre to get supplies to feed firefighters and people who had left their homes.
“She showed maturity beyond her 20 years and worked for many hours, not knowing if her own family and home were safe.
“The CFA, Cobden Relief Centre and customers were very impressed by her outstanding job during a very stressful and emotional time.”
Ms Perriss was grateful for the award and humble about her achievements.
“I’m really honoured and privileged to have won it,” she said.
“I got a phone call saying “We need to get into the shop”.
“We couldn’t get in contact with Herm (Ritchies IGA Cobden manager Paul Brebner)...I just went down and did what I could.”
Cr Trotter said the Cobden Uniting Church Bushfire Relief Distribution Centre received and distributed thousands of donated goods and made personal deliveries to fire-affected households.
“The efforts of the centre volunteers helped affected households in their immediate time of need and then took off some of the pressure as they worked to get their farms back on track,” he said.
“Perhaps even more valuable was the emotional support staff provided when they took groceries and other goods out to people who were too busy to get into town for the essentials.”
Cobden Uniting Church Bushfire Relief Distribution Centre representative Barbara Cowley, who is the church’s treasurer, said the award was a surprise when so many other groups had done great work.
“We responded to a need, which was to distribute all the wonderful donations that came our way,” she said.
“Fortunately we had the capacity to cope with it all due to the space in our church complex and we were pleased to be able to serve the community in this way.
“Hopefully we were seen as doing good, rather than being do-gooders.”
Cr Trotter also congratulated the other 20 individuals and six events who received Australia Day achievement awards.
“Corangamite Shire is lucky to have people and events of this calibre,” he said.
“They are an inspiration to the rest of the community when it comes to ensuring a strong community and a prosperous nation.”
South west Victorian educator Duncan Stalker OAM delivered the keynote speech at the celebrations.
Three new Australians also received their citizenship on the day, with a free barbecue lunch and entertainment following the ceremony.