Citizen of the Year Awards

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Citizen of the Year Awards part of the NSW Australia Day program is a great way to recognise Port Macquarie Hastings local legends, trailblazers, community groups and change makers. Do you know someone or a group who is strengthening community through volunteering, charity work, a program that supports disability, mental health, seniors, culture, arts, or social connections?

The 2024 winners for each category are: 

The 2024 nominees for each category are: 

Citizen of the Year

For someone making an extraordinary contribution to the community and may recognise service over a number of years. To be eligible, the person must be an Australian Citizen.

Wendy Hudson
Wendy is a stalwart’ of her community who is dedicated and committed to family and good citizenship.  She is president of the Kendall Tennis Club and has significantly grown membership and expanded facilities under her leadership. She is at the heart of the Kendall community.

Erin Denham
Erin is committed to restoring dignity, pride and hope in our most vulnerable. Erin’s selfless commitment is an inspiration to all who know her. She co-founded local charity Make-a-Difference in 2016 with her husband, Rob. With Rob and the volunteer team they lead, Erin has significantly improved the lives of disadvantaged and marginalised people in our community.

Simone Cunneen
Simone's passion for supporting mental health and community engagement has stemmed from personal and family experiences.  Simone is one of the leaders of Port Macquarie Women Connect, which provides a safe place to share, connect and support each other.

Corey Tutt OAM
Corey is a STEM professional, author, social entrepreneur and founder of Deadly Science, an initiative that provides STEM resources to remote schools throughout Australia. He was recognised with the Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to Indigenous Australian STEM in 2022 and has received numerous other accolades for his work.

Dr Kristy Kotsalas
Kristy is the founding doctor of Port Macquarie Aesthetics Clinic (PMAC), which she established as a side specialty from general practice. She has been practicing medicine for over 15 years. During Covid, she developed a state-wide protocol for patient Covid management in general practice. 

Alex Glen-Homes
As chair of Business Port Macquarie, Alex is integral to the success of the organisation and its advocacy and support.  She is a role model for local business and is an advocate for community and connecting people.  She supports local businesses to build strategic alliances that benefit the community and create opportunities for all.

Melinda Cockshutt
Mel has been nominated for setting up Heart of Courage, a community organisation to assist people in regional areas who have been affected by cancer.  In regional Australia, patients face greater challenges to access treatment and care.

Margret Meagher
Margret Meagher is founding executive director of Arts & Health Australia, a national advocacy organisation dedicated to promotion of best practice arts and health policy. Margret has been nominated for her role in promoting regional tourism through the Hello Koala Sculpture Trail. The ambitious community art project comprises 83 sculptures and has won many tourism awards.

Cherie Caltabiano
Cherie is described as a true beacon of hope.  Supporting people facing financial hardship and life on the streets is at the center of all she does.  Motivated by her unwavering commitment to providing culturally safe care, Cherie makes an enduring impact on people’s lives.  

Grayce Gerke
Grayce is a physiotherapist who has dedicated her training, time and professional life to helping women of all ages. Her focus is on pelvic health.  Grayce quietly champions all facets of women’s health and does not seek attention for her dedicated work.  She is very well loved by her colleagues and patients.

Nardja Davies Carter
Nardja has been nominated for her role running cultural education programs as a National Parks Aboriginal Education Ranger.  Nardja is a Birpai woman and is an active member of the Birpai community. She advises on cultural matters and delivers interpretive experiences with respect and a deep understanding of culture.  She is also an artist who uses different media to express her culture.

Andrew Tebbit
Andrew is a Veteran who was a member of the Australian Army for 15 years.  He has represented Australia in two Invictus Games and won medals in the events he contested.  Andrew was nominated for his determination to bounce back from significant injury remarkable achievements that are an inspiration to others.

Ryan Kelly
Ryan was a Commander in the Royal Australian Navy and served for over 22 years. He is a former clearance diver. Since being medically discharged due to a life-altering injury, Ryan has focused on rehabilitation.  Ryan volunteers in a number of areas including surf lifesaving and teaching.  He represented Australia at the Invictus Games in 2023.  He has been nominated for his determination, resilience and unconquered spirit, which is an inspiration to all.

Kim Berry
Kim has been nominated for her work with Deadly Science. Nominated by fellow nominee and founder of Deadly Science, Corey Tutt, her nomination says, ‘if everyone was like Kim, the world would be a better place’. Kim has made a significant contribution to her community by helping families recovering from domestic violence and supporting people living with mental health issues.

Tony Wright
Tony has been a member of Port Macquarie Surf Lifesaving Club for 27 years.  He has been nominated in recognition of his lifelong volunteering, sporting and leadership activities within the club and community. Despite a life-threatening accident, he continues to give back to the community and can be found most weekends out on patrol.

Sarah Pensini
Sarah has been nominated for her work with local markets.  Sarah sees the markets as a way to contribute to the social and environmental wellbeing of the region and Sarah sees them as a great way to foster community spirit.

Doug Pirie
Doug is a secondary school teacher who is passionate about public education. He is a volunteer patrol member with surf lifesaving at Flynn’s Beach as also volunteers with the Lifeline call center crisis support team.


Young Citizen of the Year

For a young emerging leader who is making a real difference in their community and for the voice of youth. To be eligible, the person must be aged 16-25 years of age on January 26, 2024.

Tess McWilliams
Tess is an exceptional sports all-rounder who was selected for the U18s Australian schoolgirls’ rugby league team in 2023. She continues to excel at rugby league and is excited to be part of its development and growth in Australia.

Living Treasure of the Year

For exceptional work done by older Australians who have dedicated their life to a worthy cause. To be eligible, the person must be over 55 years of age and live in the Port Macquarie Hastings area.

Mary Holdom
Mary has been nominated to recognise her selfless nature and tireless fundraising efforts for various towns in New South Wales over several decades. Mary is described as a remarkable and resilient woman, whose generosity, spirit and determination to help people has changed lives. 

Pamela Condon
Pammie is an advocate for healthy ageing. She walks 30 km every day and has inspired many people in the community to become more involved in fitness and exercise.  She is dedicated to the social and health benefits of daily walking.

Sherrill Weidenbohm
Sherrill is a quiet achiever who had made giving her life’s work. For 50 years, she has worked tirelessly and quietly to rally community to support a number of initiatives. For years, through her role at Woolworths, she has ensured a weekly donation of groceries to families in crisis.

Ann Pereira
Ann has been actively involved in community for over 25 years. She has held various positions with Wauchope Chamber of Commerce and is the current treasurer.  She is a woman of faith and is very active in the Catholic church and church community.  She contributed to Meals on Wheels for 14 years as a board member and treasurer.

Bill Vassallo
Bill Vassallo’s commitment and compassion to help others is described as remarkable.  At 83, he is still an active volunteer who contributes to the fitness, health and wellbeing of the residents of Dahlsford Village.  His unique character adds significantly to the lifestyle of the village, both socially and its cohesiveness.  

Frances Hoad
Frances Hoad has dedicated 40 years to community as the driving force behind the Bonny Hills community hall.  Frances was instrumental in the vision and initial planning of the hall. Frances has mentored new committee members and ensured, even when support was low, that the committee continued to function.

Rick Thomson-Jones
Rick has been nominated for his ongoing caretaking of Shelly Beach.  Rick is known locally as ‘The Rainbow Man’.  As a long time local resident, he cares for the Shelly Beach environment and wildlife. He is also an artist who creates temporary art pieces from sand, shells, rocks and driftwood.

Community Group of the Year

For a person or group delivering outstanding work on an event or project for the community during the past calendar year.

Port Macquarie Pink Ladies
The Pink Ladies are a highly visible volunteer group and epitomize the phrase ‘quiet achievers’.  The group provides invaluable practical and emotional support at the Port Macquarie Base Hospital and in community health and has over 100 volunteers.

Graffiti Blasters
Paul Arkell and Paul Anderson have over 800 combined hours of volunteer graffiti removal work around the Port Macquarie Hastings LGA. Like many unsung community-minded people, they quietly go about their volunteering with dedication and positive energy.

Bonny Hills Progress Association
The BHPA committee is made up of volunteers whose work has made a significant contribution to the cultural, safety and social cohesion of the Bonny Hills community.  From arts and culture through to road safety, the committee has worked to benefit the local community.  It also promotes the Bonny Hills Art Prize, which attracted over 350 entrants in January 2024.

Port Macquarie Hastings Homelessness Collective ‘Our Place’
Our Place is held every fortnight to provide a range of support in one space. It is run by a coalition of services and providers to deliver assistance to our community’s most vulnerable and includes a free breakfast and access to showers and laundry facilities.  This is a one-stop venue for our community’s most vulnerable.

Camden Haven Community @ 3
Camden Haven Community @ 3 works hard to reconnect people with society and family. It helps with job seeking, accommodation, mental health and domestic violence. The group has 41 front line volunteers and 150 extended volunteers.  The group also helps move people from crisis accommodation into more stable housing.

Wauchope Hospital Volunteers
Wauchope Hospital Volunteers was recently honoured with an award to recognise the hard work of volunteers in support of Wauchope District Memorial Hospital, its patients, and staff.  The group won for highest volunteer hours per member in rural and regional NSW - an astonishing 15,053 hours.

Environmental Citizen of the Year

For people or organisations championing environmental initiatives in the Port Macquarie Hastings Local Government Area.

Peter Berecry
Peter is a leader in koala rescue and rehabilitation. He is known as a ‘salt of the earth’ person who has contributed to the success of significant environmental initiatives. He has supported Port Macquarie Landcare for nearly 20 years with bush regeneration projects.

Malcolm McNeil
Malcolm has been nominated for his environmental practice and leadership to encourage others to be more environmentally conscious. He is a leader in shaping and delivering an agenda of environmental sustainability locally.

Port Macquarie Landcare
Port Macquarie Landcare has grown into a thriving organisation that has made an outstanding contribution to environmental restoration of public land.  The group initially had a local focus and began their work in small neighborhood reserves.  


Hear from Port Macquarie local Ben Cudmore, who was recognised as one of two Citizen of the Year 2023 awardees for his commitment to breaking the stigma on mental health through Self Seen.


Tin Hta Nu is our 2023 Living Treasure awardee. Listen to Tin's story about how she fled from Burma in 1990 as a refugee, and what motivates her to provide services and support to other refugees and community members in need.