Australia Day awards for ‘community givers’


MORNINGTON Peninsula Citizen of the Year Julie Saunders puts her community first.

Like others named in the shire’s Australia Day Local Awards last week, she has spent years working to improve the lives of others.

Ms Saunders was honoured alongside Young Citizen of the Year: Phoebe McShane, Community Event of the Year: Senior’s High Tea, Crib Point Community House, Community Spirit Award (accepted by Mary Budd): Josie D’Alia, and Lifetime Achievement Award winners Michael Wunderly and Colin Blythe.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit in March, Ms Saunders, of Crib Point, knew straight away how she could help. During the lockdown she and a group of volunteers cooked, packed and home delivered three-course meals to around 60 households every Wednesday. They eventually delivered 1200 meals to mainly older residents in need in the Crib Point area. The community chefs worked out of the town’s RSL kitchen while the Crib Point Football/Netball Club provided volunteers and donations.

Ms Saunders also acts as an IP – or independent person – a voluntary position administered by the Department of Justice that involves making herself available to assist young offenders who have been arrested by the police. When a parent or guardian is not available an IP is required to sit with the alleged offender to assist them through the interview.

Young Citizen of the Year Phoebe McShane at 15 became the founder and director of Ausome Hoops, a specialist basketball program for children diagnosed with autism.

Her brother George was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when they were both young. A keen basketballer, Phoebe wanted George to play but found that many of the sports and activities he tried were not inclusive. She sought to change that, for George and others with Autism Spectrum Disorder in their community.

A team of basketball coaches, teachers’ aides and junior basketball players assisted in delivering this one-of-a-kind program to children on the Mornington Peninsula. Ausome Hoops not only taught the children basketball skills but provided the support that many mainstream programs lack.

The Community Event of the Year is Senior’s High Tea, Crib Point Community House.

Each year the community house organises a free high tea for seniors. Because of COVID-19 and restrictions, including the five kilometre travel limit, the toll on mental health and the need for our seniors to connect, it was decided to take the high tea to seniors in the Western Port area and hold it virtually.

In October, 184 “goodie bags”, which contained everything needed for a High Tea at home with a loved one or friend, were made up and delivered from Balnarring to Baxter by volunteers.

Community Spirit Award winner Josie D’Alia has the past 30 years been secretary to the Italian Rosebud Club, organising trips, weekend outings, dinner dances and shows. She also helps residents by phoning, visiting, driving them to appointments and shopping. Ms D’Alia was also involved in establishing Our Lady of Fatima primary school and the second campus of Padua College.

Lifetime Achievement Award winner Michael Wunderly has over three decades contributed to the Mornington community, especially the Mornington Football Netball Club. He has been on the committee since 1997 and started the Alexandra Park project with Martin Scanlon, project treasurer, in 2016. As president of the Alexandra Park project, Mr Wunderly approached Mornington Peninsula Shire, as well as Flinders MP Greg Hunt and The Bays Hospital, to ask them to build a community pavilion for use during the day by the hospital and groups, such as Wallara. Through that vision The Bays Hospital received a federal grant to go towards consulting rooms and a rehabilitation gym in the new building due to be built in 2021/22.

Fellow  Lifetime Achievement Award winner Colin Blythe, has given 25 years to McCrae Lions in many roles, including the past five years as club president. He is well known and respected by many service clubs on the peninsula for the work undertaken by Lions in assisting the needy.

For the past 16 years, Mr Blythe has been a driving force on the Dromana Australia Day Committee.

Mr Blythe came up with the idea of lighting the McCrae lighthouse for Christmas and it has now become a symbol of support for charities.

Pictures: Tanya Fry

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 2 February 2021


Comments are closed.