State Winners

South Australia’s Citizen of the Year 2022

Christine Robertson (City of Charles Sturt)

For so many our pets are a cure for loneliness, a member of the family when there is no one else, a lifeline.  When a loved pet goes missing, the pain of wondering whether you will ever see them again is profound. A volunteer group founded by Christine Robertson and two colleagues in 2013 has led the way in helping lost pets get back home.Bringing families and their pets back together is the purpose of this registered charity ‘Lost Pets of South Australia’. It was realised that reuniting pets with their owners was hampered by the high number of animals without microchips.

An average vet fee of $65 to microchip a dog or cat was inhibiting families wanting to safeguard their pets’ welfare, so Christine developed a charitable program, ‘Chipblitz’ to cheaply administer the implants for $10. It has since gone national with more than 1100 volunteers at 130 locations across Australia microchipping an estimated 23,000 pets in other States. It is now the biggest program of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere with more than 43,000 pets treated in SA since it began in late 2015.

Commendation Award for the South Australia’s Citizen of the Year 2022

Julie-Ann Finney (City of Port Adelaide Enfield) 

When Julie-Ann Finney’s son, 20-year Royal Australian Navy veteran David, took his own life after fighting Post Traumatic Stress for a decade, she resolved to “protect his name and his legacy forever”.  Julie-Ann had lobbied politicians, given countless media interviews, and gathered more than 400,000 signatures over the two years following David’s death in a desperate attempt to generate sufficient support for a royal commission into veteran suicides.  It worked. On 8 July 2021, the Government established a Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran suicide.  Julie-Ann said it would help in the healing process of supporting veterans facing trauma following their time in service, giving hope for recommendations to finally provide solutions that result in ending the tragedy of veteran suicide.

Commendation Award for the South Australia’s Citizen of the Year 2022

David Thomas OAM (District Council of Robe)

Country communities often thrive because of the dedication of a few to improve the lives of others. After retiring from SAPOL after 42 years’ service, David has had several roles assisting young people – being a Coordinator of the Christmas Party for special needs children for over 10 years, State Coordinator for Blue Light South Australia and Member of The Driver Intervention Program. David has also been Chairperson of the Lions Disaster Response and Recovery where he supported many organisations that were affected by the aftermath of bushfires in Adelaide, Kangaroo Island, Keilira and Lucindale. He has also Chaired a Drought Relief Committee for Lions Districts in South Australia disbursing funds to drought affected farmers and their families.

South Australia’s Young Citizen of the Year 2022

Elijah Hobby (Light Regional Council)

Elijah Hobby’s exceptional levels of voluntary service to people in his hometown is noted with quiet reverence. He is a volunteer with the Hewett Centre where he commits hundreds of hours of his own time in a leading role within the Centre’s Kingfisher Café. Not only did he design its menu and planned its functioning, he also oversees baking of most of the Café’s cakes and serves customers attending Centre events.  His skills working in a professional kitchen coupled with his approach to customer service and café management have come to the notice of Centre management who are highly impressed by Elijah’s work ethic and his outstanding service standards.  He works with closely with three of the Centre’s on-site therapy groups showing a remarkable ability to learn how to communicate with participants who are non-verbal. That adroitness extends to those living with dementia. His warm-hearted approach is always kindly, and fun filled.  Before coming to the Hewett Centre, Elijah had been an apprentice baker, but he had to leave in his third year after being subjected to workplace bullying. Not long after that he was diagnosed with Autism and a degenerative eye condition significantly limiting his vision and his independence. Finding himself at home with little to do he was encouraged to volunteer with the Hewett Centre’s therapy groups. It proved to be a life-changing turning point.

Commendation Award for South Australia’s Young Citizen of the Year 2022

Julia Dangerfield (City of Mount Gambier)

In the endless competition with humans for living space, our native animals and birds usually come off second best. That’s where wildlife carer Julia Dangerfield comes in. Looking after maimed, dying, or homeless wild animals for free is a demanding job, and Julia often goes about her day surviving on just 2-3 hours’ sleep. She helps other wildlife carers while still maintaining her own animal refuge at her home, relying heavily on the support of donations to house and feed her mixed assortment of Australian fauna under her special care. Julia’s deep concern for animal welfare is manifested in her spirited efforts to raise public awareness about the issue.

South Australia’s Community Event of the Year 2022

West Beach Surf Life Saving Clubs Annual Pink and Blue Swim/Walk (City of Charles Sturt)

With thousands of Australians dying of breast and prostate cancer each year an imaginative pink and blue outdoor fundraiser has people lining up in their hundreds to take part. As a colourful outdoor charity event that takes place on water and on land at West Beach every Summer, the aim of the annual ‘West Beach Surf Life Saving Club’s Pink & Blue Swim or Walk’ is to raise money to improve treatment and outcomes for people suffering from breast and prostate cancers. It consists of family and pet-friendly walks of 2kms and swims over 200m, 500m or 1km distances. 100 per cent of the entry fee goes to the St Andrews Hospital Breast Care Unit and the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. The event was first staged in 2013 by the West Beach Surf Life Saving Club’s volunteers. It attracted 80 participants. It has now evolved to include a walk (making it more inclusive) and has generated more than $400,000 since its inception. In 2022 more than 900 people took part with donations totalling $92,000.

Commendation Award for South Australia’s Community Event of the Year 2022

Renmark Rocks on Festival (Renmark Paringa Council)

A rock ‘n roll Festival at Renmark is rocking locals with its runaway success as a tourist promotion for Renmark Paringa Council.  Increasing in size year after year, ‘Renmark Rocks On’ is not only for those old enough to remember squares (uncool people), it’s for anybody who loves donning cool threads (clothes) and bopping to the sound of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. Under the stewardship of Renmark Paringa Council this extremely popular crowd pleaser is ticking all the boxes since its inception almost a decade ago with an annual expansion of attractions for enthusiastic crowds dressing up in billowing 50s-style petticoat dresses and all-black tight-fitting outfits for blokes sporting slick-backed hair.  Even Covid-19 restrictions have not scared off fun seekers who are embracing new measures designed to keep everyone safe. All three nights devoted to the carnival sold out in 2020 despite newly imposed limits of 250 per night.

South Australia’s Award for Active Citizenship 2022

Stephen Hedges (City of Victor Harbour)

Stephen Hedges has become an acknowledged expert on the lifecycle of the Little Penguin colony on Victor Harbor’s Granite Island. He has made an outstanding contribution to penguin research, first as a tour guide for more than 20 years, and then as a research assistant with Flinders University, and the BirdLab, for almost 10 years. His voluntary work assisting in the colony’s survival has not only added to an enhanced understanding of the factors affecting their decline by helping to collect crucial information, but also by communicating the science and the unknowns to Local and State Governments, conservation groups and the community. He became Senior Environmental Advisor to the company leading the Granite Island Causeway Project providing expert, practical advice on mitigating the risk of disturbance to the Little Penguins. He worked for the City of Victor Harbor as organiser/leader of penguin tours, and as a mentor/technical adviser to staff on the resilience of local marine bird and reptile species. Stephen has a broad range of other community interests, including volunteer work as a citizen scientist with Kangaroo Island/Victor Harbor Dolphin Watch. While Art teacher at Victor Harbor High School, he raised environmental awareness within the School before it was fashionable with his philosophy of reduce, re­use and recycle featuring in his lesson activities.

Commendation Award for South Australia’s Award for Active Citizenship 2022

Melvin Charlton (District Council of Tumby Bay)

Tumby Bay CFS Captain Melvin Charlton has faced down death and won more than once. Melvin and his team of courageous volunteer firefighters on Lower Eyre Peninsula have fought some of the worst of SA’s bushfires. And people, livestock and buildings survived because of it. Melvin has received the Award for Active Citizenship later this year for selfless service to his community. It covers his role as Captain, Region 6 Air Support for the SA Country Fire Service, where he has worked, led, and mentored fellow firefighters whose mission is always to ensure the safety of Tumby Bay and other districts. In recognition of his “significant effort, bravery, and service to the CFS”, Melvin has already been awarded the SA Ministerial Commendation for Meritorious or Courageous Action. He works as part of Tumby Air Operations Brigade, having served 43 years with the CFS; 13 of those as Region 6 Air Support Captain. In other valued community service roles, he has spent years volunteering in Port Neill for the betterment and beautification of the district. His bountiful efforts, delivered without fanfare or expectation of reward, have benefitted several sporting clubs and local organisations.

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