Zenith Virago has been named the 2021 Byron Shire Citizen of the Year.

Byron Shire Mayor, Simon Richardson, made the announcement tonight at the council's Australia Day Awards, held at the Cavanbah Centre.

"Zenith has had a profound impact on our community in so many ways and it really is an enormous honour to present her with the Citizen of the Year award," Cr Richardson said.

"Zenith is a pioneer and leader in her approach to dying; to helping people prepare for death and guiding them, and their families, through the end of life process which is frightening, uncertain and sad.

"She is wise, compassionate, spiritual and honest and has been a great source of comfort to many people over the years she has been doing this important work.

"Zenith founded the Natural Death Care Centre where she offers her services to the community either free, or for significantly reduced rates and for 15 years she has facilitated the annual Day of the Dead ceremony to honour all the much-loved people in our community who have died."

Zenith Virago has raised community awareness on issues of gender equality and violence against women and her annual V-Day event.

Her Vagina Conversations production have raised more than $40,000 for the Women's Escape Fund, providing emergency financial support to women when it's most required to assist them and their children to remain safe.

In 2015, American director Broderick Fox won the Byron Bay Film Festival with his documentary Zenith and the Art of Dying.

Fox unveiled the many layers to Virago's life in the 77-minute documentary, but the main focus was on her work around death.



The 2021 Byron Shire Volunteer of the Year Award went to Peter Mair, a member of the State Emergency Service (SES) for 49 years.

"This award is a small way for the people of the Byron Shire to say thank you to Peter who cares so deeply about his community," Mayor Richardson said.

Mr Mair, who retired from the Police Force in 2017, is the SES Tweed-Byron Zone Local Commander.

Nickolla Clarke was named the Byron Shire's Creative Artist of the Year.

"Nickolla, a young Arakwal woman, is a role model in our community who shares her culture and stories though her art," Mayor Richardson said.

"She was the lead artist on the Byron Bay Railway Park art project and was key contributor to the Mullumbimby Gateway project," he said.

Kiahn Larkin was nominated to the Young Person of the Year award, gere with Sarah Ndiaye at the Byron Shire Australia Day ceremony 2021.
Kiahn Larkin was nominated to the Young Person of the Year award, gere with Sarah Ndiaye at the Byron Shire Australia Day ceremony 2021.

Byron Shire's Young Citizen of the Year was Mia Thom.

Ms Thom was accepted into the University of Sydney's Wingara Mura 2019 Summer Program which is designed to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students get a feeling for university life and explore options for tertiary study and future careers.

Ms Thom graduated from Byron Bay High School last year, and has achieved recognition for her leadership within the school and community, being a recipient of the 2019 and 2020 BASE Leadership Awards and is committed to social change and advocating on human rights issues and climate change.

"Former students of Mullumbimby High School will know Byron Shire's Senior Citizen of the Year, Pamela Wark, very well," Mayor Simon Richardson said.

"Pamela has taught at Mullum High for more than 45 years and is highly regarded by colleagues and students as an inspirational, dedicated and caring educator.

"Recognising Pamela as our Senior Citizen of the Year is a great way of celebrating her contribution not just to Mullumbimby High School, but to our whole Shire," Mayor Richardson said.

"On behalf of Byron Shire Council and the broader community I congratulate the winners of the 2021 Byron Shire Australia Day Awards," Mayor Richardson said.

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