Australia Day 2018: Winners of the Port Stephens Annual Awards

Nine Port Stephens residents have been honoured with awards recognising their significant contribution to the community.

Nominees and winners of the Port Stephens Annual Awards were announced at the Raymond Terrace Australia Day civic ceremony on Friday morning.

The Citizen of the Year award was taken out by Colleen Mulholland-Ruiz, who has been a passionate advocate for the Raymond Terrace community for the past 20 years. 

Ms Mulholland-Ruiz, the centre manager of Raymond Terrace MarketPlace, has been an active patron of the Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL) program, which aims to create safe teaching and learning environments for schools.

Former Port Stephens councillors Sally Dover and Geoff Dingle were awarded the prestigious title of Freeman of Port Stephens for their extensive dedication to the community and more than 10 years service with the council.

Freeman of Port Stephens is an honour given to individuals who have distinguished themselves with the highest order of community service.

Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer said the annual awards are a great opportunity for the community to join together and thank those who do so much for our area.

“Australia Day is a time for us to come together and celebrate what's great about our community and the people who positively contribute to it every day,” he said.

“It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to acknowledge each of our nominees and winners, who have all showed passion for their communities and dedicated their time and effort to making Port Stephens a better place.

“It’s a pleasure to recognise Sally Dover and Geoff Dingle with the highest honour, Freeman of Port Stephens, for their dedication to and representation of the community, from parks and reserves and hall committees, to health, education and regional planning partnerships.”

Mackenzie Bell, aged 10, was the recipient of Young Citizen of the Year for her tireless fundraising efforts for multiple sclerosis.

Robyn Killen received the inaugural Cultural Endeavour award for her dedication to the Port Stephens Community Arts Centre as secretary for the past 10 years.

A new category in 2018, the Cultural Endeavour award is given to individuals who have exhibited outstanding service to the cultural community of Port Stephens, or who have attained a high level of achievement in the wider cultural community.

Your 2017 Port Stephens Annual Award winners (from top left) Peter Clough, Colleen Mulholland-Ruiz, Mackenzie Bell, 10, Sally Dover, Geoff Dingle, Robyn Killen, Leon Lindsay and Geoffrey Basser.

Your 2017 Port Stephens Annual Award winners (from top left) Peter Clough, Colleen Mulholland-Ruiz, Mackenzie Bell, 10, Sally Dover, Geoff Dingle, Robyn Killen, Leon Lindsay and Geoffrey Basser.

Rugby league stalwart Colin Machon was recognised as Sportsperson of the Year for his pivotal role in the expansion of the competition over the past 25 years.

This year, three members of the community were awarded the Port Stephens Medal.

Geoffrey Basser was awarded the medal for his contributions to several community groups including Nelson Bay NOW, Tomaree Residents and Ratepayers Association, Salamander Bay Rotary and COPSY Incorporated.

Leon Lindsay was honoured with a Port Stephens Medal for his dedication to the Probus Club of Port Stephens from 1989 to present as well as his many charitable initiatives.

Peter Clough received the medal for his work in bringing the Tomaree Peninsula to life with festivals and events plus his work with Nelson Bay Town Management Group, Nelson Bay Rotary Club and Tomaree Business Chamber.

Port Stephens Annual Award winners

Citizen of the Year

Colleen Mulholland-Ruiz

A member of the Raymond Terrace business community for more than 20 years, Ms Mulholland-Ruiz is an active patron of the Raymond Terrace Community Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL) Committee.

The PBL program is an evidence-based, whole school framework used by many schools in Raymond Terrace that aims to improve learning outcomes for students through creating safe, effective teaching and learning environments. Click here to read more on the program.

PBL has now been extended into homes, businesses and the wider Raymond Terrace community thanks to the initiative and determination of Ms Mullholland-Ruiz. 

Colleen Mulholland-Ruiz (front, centre) with students from Raymond Terrace schools that take part in the PBL program in 2014.

Colleen Mulholland-Ruiz (front, centre) with students from Raymond Terrace schools that take part in the PBL program in 2014.

In her capacity as the centre manager of MarketPlace Raymond Terrace, Ms Mulholland-Ruiz has made this program sustainable by offering her full support and commitment, along with the entire MarketPlace management team.

Ms Mulholland-Ruiz is a tireless advocate not only for PBL, but has a positive, passionate and ongoing involvement in many other community groups including sporting groups, service clubs and support groups such as Grandparents as Carers.

She also instigates an array of fund-raising activities generating donations such as $5000 to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter last year and recently contributing $7000 to the Leukaemia Foundation raised from the annual Raymond Terrace Christmas Parade which is funded, organised and delivered by MarketPlace Raymond Terrace.

Young Citizen of the Year

Mackenzie Bell, aged 10

In 2017 Mackenzie completed her second swim in the MS 24 hour Mega Swim at Sydney Olympic pool.

Mackenzie was two years old when her mother, Deanna, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). The young swimmer participated in the 2017 MS 24 hour Mega Swim event as her mother was unable to do so at the time. Her first swim was in 2014 when she was just 6. Read more about that here.

Mackenzie Bell, then aged 6, taking part in her first MS 24-Hour Mega Swim in 2014.

Mackenzie Bell, then aged 6, taking part in her first MS 24-Hour Mega Swim in 2014.

Mackenzie raised $1860. All funds went towards the MS Go for Gold Scholarship program and services that directly assist those living with MS while the search for a cure continues.

As well as raising money for MS, Mackenzie supports the RSPCA Million Paws Walk, to fight against animal cruelty, a cause that she is a passionate advocate for.

Freeman of Port Stephens

Sally Dover

Ms Dover served as an elected Port Stephens councillor for 13 years from 2004 to 2017, and as deputy mayor for a total of four years (2007, 2010 and 2012-2013).

Sally Dover.

Sally Dover.

List of committees that Ms Dover was part of for five or more years:

  • Aboriginal Strategic Committee
  • Ngioka Centre Advisory Panel
  • Soldiers Point/Salamander Bay Tidy Towns and Landcare Committee
  • Birubi Point Cultural Heritage Advisory Panel
  • Tomaree Education Complex Multi-Purpose Centre Committee
  • Port Stephens East Local Health Committee
  • Worimi Conservation Lands Board of Management
  • Tomaree Sports Council
  • Boat Harbour Parks and Reserves Committee
  • Port Stephens Australia Day Coordinating Committee
  • Nelson Bay Community College

Freeman of Port Stephens

Geoff Dingle

Mr Dingle served as an elected Port Stephens councillor for a period of 13 years from 2004 to 2017.

Geoff Dingle with the Medowie Tidy Towns group preparing for Clean Up Australia Day in 2015.

Geoff Dingle with the Medowie Tidy Towns group preparing for Clean Up Australia Day in 2015.

List of committees that Mr Dingle was part of for five or more years:

  • Fern Bay Hall, Reserves and Tidy Towns Committee
  • Medowie Community Centre Committee
  • Medowie Tidy Towns and Cycleway Committee
  • Williamtown Public Hall Committee
  • Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management Committee
  • Medowie Floodplain Management Committee
  • Port Stephens West Local Health Committee
  • Medowie Sports Council
  • Boat Harbour Parks and Reserves Committee
  • Financial Assistance Community Grants Panel
  • Hunter Water Corporation Consultative Committee
  • Joint Regional Planning Panel

Sportsperson of the Year

Colin Machon

Mr Machon has been involved with the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby League organisation for 25 years. He was the chairman for many of those years, and is now the competition patron.

Within the chairman’s role, Mr Machon drove growth and expansion of the competition. The NHRL is now the largest senior rugby league competition in the world.

Mr Machon has overseen the growth from a men’s only competition of three divisions, to now having five divisions in 2018, as well as two ladies tag divisions and a ladies tackle competition.

There were approximately 850 registered players in 2008, which as of 2017, rose to 1721.

That rise is astonishing considering that numbers across the game generally declined during that period. That rise can only have been achieved through diligent work over a long period of time, of which Mr Machon demonstrated through and through.

Cultural Endeavour

Robyn Killen

Ms Killen is the secretary of the 400 member strong Port Stephens Community Arts Centre, looking after all legal aspects to with the centre’s building and conduct of members.

With her background in real estate and strata title, Ms Killen has a gift in keeping the arts centre a safe and harmonious space with a strongly upheld code of conduct.

Robyn Killen at the Port Stephens Community Arts Centre.

Robyn Killen at the Port Stephens Community Arts Centre.

Ms Killen has excelled in her position of secretary for the past 10 years.

As secretary to the art centre's board, she is well equipped to advise the board on a best course of action for any situation.

Ms Killen also advises and helps on the biennial Port Stephens Art prize bringing her vast experience and wealth of knowledge to the table.

Port Stephens Medal

Geoffrey Basser

Since Mr Basser moved to Salamander Bay in 2003 he has been involved with Tomaree Business Chamber, Nelson Bay NOW and the Tomaree Ratepayers and Residents Association.

Mr Basser has had involvement with both Nelson Bay and Salamander Bay Rotary where he has championed, organised and developed a number of projects including Project Neighbour, a series of public forums for men's health awareness, and the End Polio Now fundraiser.

Craig Baumann, Geoffrey Basser and Bob Westbury at the Gan Gan Lookout opening in 2012.

Craig Baumann, Geoffrey Basser and Bob Westbury at the Gan Gan Lookout opening in 2012.

In 2013 Mr Basser encouraged a group of Rotarians to look at the significant lack of services in youth mental health. COPSY Incorporated was established out of this initiative and continues today to find the best possible mental health service for youth in Port Stephens.

Leon Lindsay

Mr Lindsay is a true community leader and has been heavily involved with the Probus Club of Port Stephens from 1989 to present.

During Mr Lindsay’s term as president the club, which was then a men’s only club and membership numbers were on the decline, he used his business acumen and forward thinking approach to actively support and encourage the change to a mixed gender club.

The change has enabled the club to grow into the strong organisation it is today.

Mr Lindsay founded the Volunteer Driver Pool Service which offers transport to Probus members who need to get to out of area to medical appointments and hospital visits.

Port Stephens Probus Club members George Hammond, Cathy and Leon Lindsay in 2014.

Port Stephens Probus Club members George Hammond, Cathy and Leon Lindsay in 2014.

Mr Lindsay often took on this role himself looking after club members as well as his Fingal Haven neighbours.

Besides his contribution to the Probus club, Mr Lindsay together with his wife Cathy, have actively participated and contributed to many charitable initiatives for the Harbourside group over the last 30 years.

Mr Lindsay is passionate about caring for the welfare of older members of the community and spends a considerable amount of his time paying home visits and cheering up those who feel cut off due to ill health or mobility issues.

Peter Clough

Mr Clough has dedicated much of his time to bringing life and vibrancy to the Tomaree Peninsula through his tireless work on festivals and events.

Nelson Bay Town Management Group, Nelson Bay Rotary Club and now the Tomaree Business Chamber have all utilised Mr Clough’s talent for organising events, managing large teams of volunteers and bringing the community together to achieve common goals.

Peter Clough in Nelson Bay in 2017.

Peter Clough in Nelson Bay in 2017.

Mr Clough initiated a program of events including the popular Blue Water Country Music Festival and Tastes of the Bay to increase visitation to the Bay during quieter periods.

Mr Clough works hard in his capacity with Tomaree Business Chamber, with strong support from his wife Kristine who puts in many volunteer hours.

The events Mr Clough organises bring extra income to Port Stephens and provide an array of benefits to local business, particularly hospitality and retail, enabling these businesses to remain viable and increasing employment opportunities in the region.

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