Australia Day Award Wrap Up

Published on 27 January 2023


Upper Hunter Shire Council held Australia Day celebrations throughout the Shire, with ceremonies held in Scone and Merriwa, and the annual Australia Day parade in Murrurundi seeing one of the biggest turnouts ever. The events, which had suffered due to COVID-19 restrictions and requirements, saw crowds return in full force.

The Scone ceremony was attended by Mayor Maurice Collison, Councillor Lee Watts, a long-serving member of the Scone Australia Day Committee, who served as the host for the event, welcoming guests and introducing the various speakers and performers. Also in attendance were Cr Allison McPhee, Cr Adam Williamson, General Manager of Upper Hunter Shire Council Greg McDonald and Mrs Beryl Bates who, along with her husband, Errol, sponsor the Young Citizen Awards. 

The Merriwa ceremony was attended by Crs Ron Campbell, Tayah Clout and Belinda McKenzie.

Greg McDonald began the proceedings in Scone, welcoming the guests to the Upper Hunter Shire. Although unable to attend in person, Aboriginal Elder and Bidjara man, Richie Lawton of Budbudda Dreaming, provided a traditional Acknowledgment to Country via a pre-recorded video message.

Following, Mayor Maurice Collison began the Australian Citizenship ceremony, with local residents of many backgrounds joining him in taking the pledge, and beginning their first day as an Australian citizen. With Councillor Allison McPhee, the Mayor handed certificates of citizenship and native plants to each new Australian. 

At the Scone ceremony, the 2023 Ambassador was James Pittar. James is a blind Australian swimmer who became the first person with his condition to swim the English Channel. He has also completed some of the most difficult marathon swims in the world and is a recipient of multiple awards and honours. 

The Merriwa ceremony's ambassador was Promila Gupta, a highly accomplished chef, author, and business owner, who specializes in vegetarian food. She has won numerous awards, held executive positions and advisory roles, and served as an Ambassador for various organizations. In 2020, she was awarded an Order of Australia Medal. 

The Scone ceremony announced the winners of the School Achievement award, with Taylah McCarthy from Scone Grammar School, Cynthia Gibbs from Scone High School, and Olivia Taylor from St Joseph's High School Aberdeen, taking home the honour. Josie Porter  took out the award for Merriwa Central School, having her award presented at the Merriwa ceremony.

Creative Arts Excellence awards were announced for exceptional achievements in creative arts for year 12 students. For Scone Grammar, the winner was Hamish Guiana, from Scone High School, John Butt and from St Joseph's High School Aberdeen, Ethan Perrott.

Aberdeen Cemetery Volunteers were awarded Community Group of the Year for the Aberdeen district. For Scone, the award was presented to Scone Public School Boys Basketball Team. At the Merriwa Ceremony, Merriwa Meals on Wheels was announced as the winner for the Merriwa district.

The Young Achiever of the Year was also announced, with Ruby Brochtrup winning for Aberdeen, Macarthur Bettington for Murrurundi, Lachlan Hails from Scone, and Tahli Gleeson for Merriwa. The Achiever of the year saw Daniel Hoogerwerf winning for Aberdeen, and Peta and Andrew Luke winning for Merriwa.

Special awards were also handed out in various categories, including Environmental Achievement and Sustainability in Business. Andrew Wallings won the Environmental Achievement award in Merriwa and Elders Rural Services - Merriwa won the award for Sustainability in Business. In Scone, there was the All-Round Sporting Achievement Award, which was won by Lewis Brown, and the Outstanding Sporting Achievement award, which was won by Layla Collins.

Young Citizen of the Year awards were handed out to Heidi Lamb for Murrurundi District, Hamish Guiana for Scone district, and Jorji Taaffe who won the award for the Merriwa District. 

The Citizen of the year was awarded to Robyn Selman for Aberdeen District, for her outstanding volunteer work. The Scone District Hunter McLoughlin Memorial Citizen of the Year was awarded to John Scalley for his outstanding teaching career and community and pastoral work in the Scone District. The Merriwa District Citizen of the year was awarded to Rob Tindall for his years of dedication to the Merriwa community.

The Young Citizen of the Year award was presented to Hamish Guiana at the Scone ceremony. Hamish, a dedicated member of the Upper Hunter Youth Council, is known for his respect for others and his contributions to various campaigns and initiatives through his school. He has also represented the Upper Hunter at the National Leadership Summit in Adelaide, and is involved in the community through his love of music. He has been offered a place at the Australian Institute of Music and is considering attending after a trip to India.

The Citizen of the Year award for 2023 was presented to Rob Tindall at the Merriwa ceremony. Rob has been an active member of the Merriwa Show Committee for 12 years, serving as president multiple times and has also been the Chairman of the Merriwa Showground User Committee for over 10 years. He has coordinated the "Farm Safety Day" event for 8 years and helped set up the Merriwa Helping Hands program. Rob has also been elected as Chairman of The Merriwa Festival Of The Fleeces and serves on the Merriwa Community Advisory Committee. In appreciation of his contributions, Rob has received the Paul Harris Fellow award from The Rotary Foundation Of Rotary International.                

“I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the outstanding individuals in our community at this year's Australia Day Awards.” Mayor Maurice Collison begins, “The awards are a testament to the dedication and hard work of our citizens. It is truly inspiring to see the positive impact that these individuals and groups have made in our community, and it is a privilege to honour them for their contributions.” 

“I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to all the staff who worked tirelessly to put the events together, without their efforts this celebration would not have been possible.”

To learn more about the stories of these great achievers, head to our nominee profile news article.