Medowie Bale Out the Drought organiser and passionate community advocate Ben Niland has been named Port Stephens’ 2018 Citizen of the Year.
He was one of six residents recognised at the Port Stephens Annual Awards, which were announced at the Australia Day civic ceremony in Raymond Terrace on Saturday morning.
“It’s an amazing honour, something totally unexpected,” Mr Niland said. “I’m really excited by it and really thankful to my parents who have instilled in me values of giving back to your community. I’m very grateful to that, and for the support of my wife who has always encouraged me to keep doing these things.
“There was a great field of [award] candidates there. I’m very surprised to have been chosen as Citizen of the Year ahead of them. There were many deserving people amongst them and I wish them all the very best for the year ahead.”
Mr Niland also congratulated the new Australian citizens that were part of the morning’s citizenship ceremony.
Port Stephens councillor Chris Doohan, a co-founder and organiser of the Bale Out the Drought fund-raising campaign, paid tribute to his friend.
“Ben’s commitment to our community is amazing, from his many years of service to the Medowie rugby club, even honoured with clubman of the year twice, to his unwavering efforts to support the realisation of the Medowie Sport and Community Club,” Cr Doohan said.
“Ben worked tirelessly on the Medowie Bale Out the Drought campaign, and the results of that were sensational.
“I am honoured to have worked with Ben on many fronts for Medowie, and his acknowledgement as Citizen of the Year is a fitting tribute.”
Making the announcement at Saturday morning’s Australia Day celebrations, Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer said the awards recognise outstanding members of the community.
“This year’s winners are leaders and role models for our community,” he said. “They have achieved great things, given generously to others and made Port Stephens an even better place to live, work and play.
“These people don’t do what they do for the credit – they do it because they love our community and they love what they do. So it’s wonderful to be able to recognise them formally for their contribution to Port Stephens.
“I also want to acknowledge each of our nominees, who have all gone above and beyond for our community. Thank you.”
The 2018 Port Stephens Annual Award winners are:
Citizen of the Year
Ben Niland has been awarded 2018 Citizen of the Year for his significant contribution to the Port Stephens community.
Ben is a passionate advocate for Medowie and is heavily involved in all manner of local sports through leadership and sponsorship.
He is currently secretary of the Medowie Sports and Community Club and chairman of the Port Stephens Council Audit Committee.
Last year, Ben envisioned and helped to established the hugely successful Medowie Bale out the Drought campaign which raised more than $80,000 to Rural Aid to help drought affected farmers.
Young Citizen of the Year
Amy Dufour has been awarded 2018 Young Citizen of the Year for being an inspirational role model to young citizens of Port Stephens and her significant achievement in sport.
Amy, aged 19, started playing touch football at the age of 8. Since then she has played for Nelson Bay Touch Association and has represented Australia in competition.
Amy is a consistent role mentor to younger players and is well known for her fair-play and abundance of natural talent on the field.
ALSO READ: Port Stephens Annual Awards nominees
Port Stephens Medals
The Port Stephens Medal is awarded to individuals, organisations or groups for distinguished service to the community. The 2018 medals have been awarded to:
Hunter Region Botanic Gardens
Established in 1985, the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens cover an area of more than 130 hectares, much of which has been preserved as natural bushland. The gardens are managed, maintained and developed by a non-profit company of around 200 dedicated volunteers.
The Hunter Region Botanic Gardens serve the people of the region as a focus for the appreciation, study, research and enjoyment of horticulture, botany and related fields through growing and displaying plants, both native and introduced species, in landscaped and natural surroundings.
Michael Murray is an expert in business strategy, leadership and business systems development. He has brought this wealth of experience and organisational professionalism to Port Stephens Suicide Prevention Network, where he has served as the chairperson for the past 12 months.
Port Stephens Suicide Prevention Network is a community initiative which is wholly funded by public donations. The network enables volunteers from the community to be involved in activities that can lead to them finding additional meaning and purpose in life.
The network’s activities are designed to foster an increased sense of well-being for its participants, encouraging the acquisition of new skills and creating open and honest communication.
Lee Anlezark is the outgoing president of the Tomaree Parkinson’s Support Group – an organisation that he established 10 years ago and led with optimism, hope and enthusiasm.
Living with Parkinson’s himself, Lee fully understands the need to encourage healthy living, healing and well-being to improve the quality of life and health outcomes for those affected by Parkinson’s in our community.
Sportsperson of the Year
Graeme Chamberlain has been awarded 2018 Sportsperson of the Year for his outstanding service to the sporting community of Port Stephens.
Graeme is an Ironman who pushes himself to be his best while also encouraging others to achieve more personally through his work as a volunteer.
Graeme is the Club Captain at the Birubi Point Surf Lifesaving Club, is a member of the Tomaree Tri Club and the Nelsons Bay Hash Harriers.
Michael Francis is the 2018 Cultural Endeavour Award recipient for his outstanding service to the cultural life of the Port Stephens community.
Michael is a member of the Board of Directors of the Port Stephens Community Arts Centre, an organisation which he has been involved with for over 20 years.
More than 1420 members of the Port Stephens community have been members of the Arts Centre throughout Michael’s tenure. Michael is a natural leader who has promoted artistic culture in Port Stephens significantly through his work in the community.