Byron mayor Simon Richardson speaks at the council's Australia Day Awards ceremony, held on Saturday, January 25 at the Cavanbah Centre.
Byron mayor Simon Richardson speaks at the council's Australia Day Awards ceremony, held on Saturday, January 25 at the Cavanbah Centre.

REVEALED: Who took out Byron’s Australia Day honours

GIVING to your community isn't always selfless, because what you get back from doing so can be profound.

This was one of Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson's messages at the council's Australia Day Awards ceremony.

Held on January 25 for the second consecutive year, the ceremony saw invited guests gather at the Cavanbah Centre to see the shire's top honours awarded.

Cr Richardson acknowledged much volunteers and other nominees get back from giving to the community.

He also spoke of the degree to which communities have supported each other in recent times.

"Particularly in the last six months when mother nature's given us all sorts of challenges, we really do appreciate, more than ever, what our locals and our friends and our community do for each other," he said.

Arakwal woman Rhonda King gave a Welcome to Country and spoke of the April, 2019 determination that declared her people's native title over a stretch of land including Cape Byron and stretching from Broken Head to Brunswick Heads and past Mullumbimby.

"This was a historic moment for us and we celebrated it with more than 300 people across the Bunjalung nation," Ms King said.

Arakwal woman Rhonda King gives a welcome to country at the Byron Shire Council's Australia Day Awards ceremony, held on Saturday, January 25 at the Cavanbah Centre.
Arakwal woman Rhonda King gives a welcome to country at the Byron Shire Council's Australia Day Awards ceremony, held on Saturday, January 25 at the Cavanbah Centre.

"This recognition … has given us freedom to walk and freedom to access and use our resources on country to look after it for the next generation.

"This is a crucial step toward a unified future."

Ms King acknowledged the "tiresome work" of award nominees and said their efforts could bring "greater things and opportunities for the Byron Shire community".

Ballina Greens MP Tamara Smith commended the council for its approach to Australia Day.
"The leadership the mayor and the council have shown around Australia Day, I'm incredibly proud of that," Ms Smith said.

"It's a day when we want everyone to feel comfortable.

"Australia isn't a thing. It's a landscape and it's people. It's communities of people. The last three or four months … it's been so horrible, cataclysmic, apocalyptic, but what's been extraordinary is the way people have come together."

Byron's 2019 Citizen of the Year, Anne Goslett, stressed there were many people who were worthy of recognition in the community.


Byron's Australia Day Ambassador for 2020 Andy Paschalidis speaks at the council's awards ceremony at the Cavanbah Centre on Saturday, January 25.
Byron's Australia Day Ambassador for 2020 Andy Paschalidis speaks at the council's awards ceremony at the Cavanbah Centre on Saturday, January 25.


Byron's 2020 Australia Day Ambassador, Andy Paschalidis, spoke of the resilience of Australians that had been in clear view during the devastating and deadly bushfires.

"I just praise those people out there fighting those fires," Mr Paschalidis said.

"It hurts to see our country burning, but we're resilient. We bounce back."

He said one of the things he loved most about Australia was its "spirit of volunteerism".

"We are so blessed in this country; we have so many people who put their hand up to give," he said.

Byron Shire's Australia Day Award recipients are:


Citizen of the Year: Helen Hamilton

PAST president of Liberation Larder, Helen Hamilton has been named the Byron Shire's Citizen of the Year.

Ms Hamilton was the president of food recovery not-for-profit Liberation Larder for nine years until 2019.

During this time, she worked with the group's volunteers, organised and raised money for the group and enlisted tradies and businesses to provide in-kind labour.

Byron mayor Simon Richardson said her guidance had seen the group grow to have more than 80 volunteers.

"In 2018/19 Liberation Larder served 23,405 meals and delivered 1,200 food boxes to homes - what an extraordinary service for the people in our community who are finding the going tough," Cr Richardson said.

"Liberation Larder is supported by local businesses who donate unused produce including the large supermarkets, restaurants and the weekly Farmers Market, adding up to 21,571 food donations last financial year.

"Helen Hamilton has been instrumental in the growth and success of this important community service.

"Helen has taken her vision and passion for our community and made an incredible difference to the lives of so many people and on behalf of the Councillors and residents of the Byron Shire I humbly say thank you."

Ms Hamilton is currently president of the Byron Bay Community Association.

She helped to establish the Byron Herb Nursery which provides employment for people living with disabilities, has been involved in the SHIFT program which helps vulnerable women and has been an active member of the group involved in redeveloping the old Byron Bay Hospital.

Ms Hamilton said there were an "awful lot of people" who stood behind her and contributed to the organisations she'd been involved with.

"I think I'm just very lucky to have come to live in this wonderful place," she said.


Young Citizen of the Year: James Wright

JAMES has volunteered with BUDDI for the Byron Schoolies Safety Response over the past six years.

This has seen him providing help to young people every day and night throughout the Schoolies period.

For two years, he's been in a Hub Supervisor to help co-ordinate and induct new volunteers.

He's been involved with year-round volunteer work with the Community Drug Action Team, managed by BUDDI, along with other initiatives.

He's been involved with Byron's Young First Offenders program, 'Restorative Pathways', Youth Chill Zones at festivals.

Mr Wright said he felt "honoured" to receive the award.

Mr Wright said his history with the organisations had begun when he was a young person, witnessing the challenges Byron youth face.

He said he was pleased "to be able to work with young people in our community who are at a disadvantage" due to a range of issues, with services "geared toward young people".

Mr Wright had been accepted onto the board of directors the Byron Youth Service and the Byron Youth Activities Centre in December 2017.


Creative Artist of the Year: Niah McLeod

RAISED in Byron Bay, Niah McLeod is currently based in Bangalow.

She's had work commissioned by local councils, companies and individuals.

She's designed a logo for Tourism Australia, was the 2017 Paddington Art Prize Young Artist of the Year and was last year a finalise in the prestigious Paddington Art Prize.


Volunteer of the Year: Margaret Robinson

MS ROBINSON volunteers as an usher at Byron Community Centre and she is a director and board member of both the Northern Rivers Community Fund and the Northern Rivers Community College.

In 1997, she volunteered to become the booking officer at Marvell Hall in Byron which has been transformed into a thriving space appealing to diverse cultural activities and all ages.



Sportsperson of the Year: Mark 'Mono' Stewart

LOSING his right leg below the knee - the result of bone cancer - at the age of 16 had little impact on Mark "Mono" Stewart's determination.

Surfing helped his recovery and by the mid-1980s, he was a state champion knee boarder.

He won the International Surfing Association's World Adaptive Championships in the US in 2015.

The council declared October 2, 2015 Mark "Mono" Stewart Day in Byron Shire in response to this win.

Mr Stewart was nominated for the Surfing Australia Awards as Male Surfer of the Year in 2016.

Last year alone he competed in the Australian Adaptive Surfing Championships, US Open Adaptive Surfing Championships, English International Adaptive Surfing Championships, Spanish International Adaptive Surfing Championships, Wales International Adaptive Surfing Championships, Hawaiian Adaptive Surfing Championships and the ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championships.


Environmental Project of the Year: Linda Sparrow, Bangalow Koalas

IN 2016, before Linda Sparrow established Bangalow Koalas, the town's koala population was not mapped.

The region's koalas were at severe risk at that time.

Ms Sparrow has worked to enhance a small koala corridor in Bangalow, but this has since grown to a broader region.

She told the awards ceremony crowd they were now working in the Tenterfield area and would be prepared to go further.

She also pointed out members of the audience who had helped her along the way.

The group gained national and international recognition last year.

Ms Sparrow works with other organisations including the council, State Government, RMS, Landcare, Friends of the Koala, national koala groups, Lions, local business, schools and landowners.

As of last year, she had raised $240,000 to protect local koalas and co-ordinated the planing of 28,000 trees in the Byron Shire.


Community Event of the Year: Nudge Nudge Wink Wink - Party with a Conscience

Nudge Nudge Wink Wink is a community-led series of family-friendly fundraising parties established three years ago.

The organisers put together high quality events that are not-for-profit, promote local talent and support local charities.

The events have raised more than $300,000 to date for a range of charities including Byron Youth Service, Headspace, Future Dreamers, The UNCLE project, Wet Weather Shelter Project for the homeless and Kids Caring for Country.


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