Shire honours for leading citizens



Pictured at the Mornington Peninsula Shire awards ceremony are, (L-R) the mayor Cr Sam Hearn with Val Rowe, Community Inspiration Award; Veronica Whittaker, Citizen of the Year; Harry Hansen, Community Inspiration Award; Spenser Unthank, vice-chair, The Peninsula Group – Uncle Bob’s Club; Acknowledgement of Excellence Awards went to Rob Connor, Red Hill Show, Community Event of the Year, and Jean Stirling, Lifetime Achievement Award. Pictures: Supplied

VERONICA Whittaker is Mornington Peninsula Shire’s 2020 Citizen of the Year.

Ms Whittaker was recognised for her work with not-for-profit boutique Clothes4U which provides clothing and support to those in need.

The service began in 2013 when a group of peninsula women got together to discuss how they could help disadvantaged women and girls. Their idea was to “pamper women who were fragile and raise their confidence”.

Ms Whittaker was elected president and Clothes4U now offers clothing, shoes, under garments and toiletries to men and women. Education programs assist with interview preparation and clients can have a free hairdressing service weekly.

Citizen of the Year Veronica Whittaker

Clothes4U is a registered charity with deductible-gift status.

The shire’s 2020 Young Citizen of the Year is Ellie-May Maguire, 22. She is being recognised for her advocacy in juvenile diabetes research, her contribution to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), her involvement with the local Type 1 Diabetes community, and her own career as a paramedic.

Ms Maguire is the public face of JDRF at Kids in the House in Canberra. She was also involved in securing bipartisan support from the government for $54.5 million in funding for clinical research to prevent, treat and cure Type 1 Diabetes.

Young Citizen of the Year Ellie-May Maguire

The Mornington Peninsula 2020 Community Event of the Year is the 91st Red Hill Show. The show on Saturday 9 March 2019 was run by the Red Hill Horticultural Society formed in 1896. The showgrounds were transformed into a colourful and entertaining spectacle attracting about 11,000 people. They included 96 trade sites, 450 exhibitors, 1500 exhibits supported by 150 volunteers.

Peninsula producers were the focus of the event and the newly created Mornington Peninsula Paddock was full, with gourmet food and 5-star producers.

The show focuses on social sustainability and community building and provides an opportunity for community groups to fundraise and/or promote their organisations.

The selection panel when considering nominations for the 2020 Citizen of the Year Award agreed some candidates warranted consideration beyond the scope of the award categories.

Three new awards were created: Community Inspiration, Lifetime Achievement and Acknowledgement of Excellence.

Community Inspiration Awards went to Valerie Rowe and Harrison Hansen. Ms Rowe recently set up Seawinds Capel Sound Boomerang Bags, which sews reusable bags to reduce plastic bag use. She coordinates the group and works with the community to see where help is needed. She recently coordinated swags for the homeless on the peninsula foreshores and organised cancer bags so those receiving intravenous treatment could be more mobile.

Another of Ms Rowe’s initiatives is Boomer Bears made using recycled fabric. The small handmade teddies are used by emergency services crews when attending difficult family scenes and car accidents to reduce stress on young children. Local services say the bears give staff and volunteers a “real lift in sad situations”.

As well as managing the Angel Op Shop in Rosebud and increasing their profits for charities, Ms Rowe organises fundraisers for families in need, volunteers for emergency events, and is a foster mum for dogs for kids with disabilities.

Harrison (Harry) Hansen, 16, completed Year 10 at Western Port Secondary College last year. As a Year 10 leader he has been involved in mentoring programs for years 3 and 4 students to support their successful transition to secondary schooling.

With the support of other Year 10 leaders, he ran the Year 7 camp and helped organise and run community days, such as R U OK Day, and ran school tours for prospective parents and students.

He has participated on many committees organised by school leadership seeking feedback about college initiatives and is also involved in the Youth Advisory Council.

Lifetime Achievement Awards went to William Mackenzie and Jean Stirling. William (Bill) Mackenzie, 95, has had a long and full life. He was involved in the Mornington and Frankston Rotary clubs and in establishing Mount Martha Rotary Club. He was a foundation member of Mount Martha Probus, member of Mount Martha Bowls Club, founding member and elder of Mount Martha Uniting Church and secretary of Mount Martha Book Club.

Mr Mackenzie volunteers to fundraise for many organisations, hands out how-to-vote cards at elections, runs book stalls, takes parishioners to appointments, and opens his home to bible study classes.

Uncle Bob’s Club committee members Clem Kleinig OAM, Ralph Allen and Mary Allen

He established Kankama, in Mornington, to provide a day service to adults with intellectual disabilities.

Lifetime Achievement Award winner Jean Stirling, 91, has been recognised for her “exemplary and dedicated service to the Sorrento community through 65 years of active volunteering”.

Ms Stirling was a foundation member of the Sorrento Ambulance Committee which raised funds to buy land for an ambulance station in 1965. She was secretary of the Sorrento Presbyterian Church committee Church Ladies Guild for 25 years and organised fetes and flower shows to support church activities. She was also secretary of the Sorrento Red Cross committee and arranged for the first visits of the mobile blood bank to Sorrento.

Ms Stirling has also been involved with the Sorrento Op Shop and Nepean Historical Society and has been recognised for her work with them.

Living in Sorrento all her life she maintains a strong commitment to the community and is still an active volunteer.

An Acknowledgement of Excellence Award was presented to Uncle Bob’s Club for its Annual Good Friday Wheelbarrow Push. The club has raised money for the Royal Children’s Hospital for 60 years. The peninsula members of the club consist of fewer than 20 members – many in their 70s and 80s.

Their main event is the 29-kilometre Good Friday Wheelbarrow Push from Sorrento to Safety Beach. People drop money into the barrow and into collection tins as walkers pass by on their six-hour journey. CFA crews in fire trucks drive around collecting on behalf of Uncle Bob’s Club. Volunteers, including members of other service clubs, collect coins at traffic lights between Mornington and Rosebud.

Over the years the event has raised more than $2 million – with last year’s event raising about $90,000.

The mayor Cr Sam Hearn thanked all winners and nominees for their commitment to the community. “Their stories and efforts inspire all of us to give back for the good of others,” he said.

“Congratulations on this well-deserved recognition.”

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 4 February 2020


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