Australia Day 2021: New Australian citizens welcomed and winners of Port Stephens Annual Award announced

HONOURED: Port Stephens 2020 Young Citizen of the Year Dan Howard with Citizen of the Year John Chambers.

HONOURED: Port Stephens 2020 Young Citizen of the Year Dan Howard with Citizen of the Year John Chambers.

Raymond Terrace community stalwart John Chambers has been named Port Stephens' 2020 Citizen of the Year while Nelson Bay basketball coach Dan Howard has claimed Young Citizen of the Year.

Mr Chambers, a long-time Rotarian, received top honours in the Port Stephens Annual Awards for his extensive contributions to the Port community while Mr Howard was recognised for his efforts in keeping youths active after the COVID-19 lockdown in early 2020.

On being named Citizen of the Year a humble Mr Chambers, a retired teacher who volunteers about 40 hours a week to community service, joked that it was "a bit embarrassing".

"I'm a quiet achiever," he said, adding: "It is great. I don't do it for the recognition. The community has to be seen helping the community and this [awards] is probably one of the best ways to do it."

Mr Chambers has helped to implement many programs to support the community's most vulnerable including a driver training program and a furniture bank.

On being named Young Citizen of the Year, Mr Howard said he felt "really honoured".

"I wasn't expecting it at all. It's awesome to be recognised," he said.

Mr Howard has been a basketball coach and mentor with PCYC for the past nine years.

In April last year, he launched Coach Dan Skills and Drills on YouTube and Facebook. His channels have attracted more than 400 followers and helped to motivate Port teens to keep fit during the lockdown.

Eleven community members and groups were recognised in the 2020 awards, which were officially announced at Port Stephens Council's Australia Day civic ceremony at Medowie Social on Tuesday morning.

Judges picked the winners from a strong field of nominees, which included 21 individuals and five organisations.

"All of our recipients have generously given their time to help others, whether that's through contributing to community groups and programs, caring for the environment, celebrating our culture or dedicating themselves to help our sporting community. They are fantastic role models and leaders in the Port Stephens community," Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer said.

Port Stephens Medals for distinguished service to the community were awarded to recently retired Raymond Terrace Fire and Rescue captain Dennis Peters, Caring for Our Port Stephens Youth president John de Ridder, Worimi Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO Andrew Smith and Medowie Girl Guides.

Medowie Girl Guides district leaders Rachael Bass and Elizabeth Keeley accepted the medal on behalf of the group, which has been part of the Port community for 40 years.

"It's lovely to have the organisation recognised but especially the work all our volunteer leaders put in to support our girls," Ms Bass said.

SERVICE REWARDED: Councillor John Nell presenting Medowie Girl Guides district leaders Rachael Bass and Elizabeth Keeley a Port Stephens Medal.

SERVICE REWARDED: Councillor John Nell presenting Medowie Girl Guides district leaders Rachael Bass and Elizabeth Keeley a Port Stephens Medal.

Sportsperson of the Year was awarded to Maya Stewart, who recently moved from Nelson Bay to Sydney to be closer to training facilities to continue her rugby union career in the Super W and the Australian women's team which is training for the Rugby World Cup and Tokyo Olympics.

"I am very flattered. I didn't expect it," she said. "It's nice to come home and receive this award."

The Cultural Endeavour was awarded to Kay Newton and Peter Robinson, who recently relocated to New Zealand. While living in Port Stephens, the pair volunteered tirelessly on many projects and contributed to historical education in the area.

The Environmental Award was won by Sea Shelter founders Lia and Ryan Pereira. The pair, also the owners of Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters, received the award for their work with the not-for-profit marine conservation, research and rescue organisation.

There were no Freemen of Port Stephens announced in the 2020 awards. The award winners were announced after 22 conferees from 14 different countries became Australian citizens.

As the Port's Australia Day ambassador, Dianne Ball OAM, executive director of Wahroonga Aboriginal Corporation and chief executive officer of the Karuah Local Aboriginal Land Council, gave the address on Tuesday morning.

Respect of the traditional owners of Port Stephens, the Worimi people, was a strong theme of Tuesday's Australia Day official proceedings.

Ms Ball spoke of her work over the years with Port Stephens Council and community organisations to help Indigenous residents access services and programs, the need to continue working together to bring the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities together even further and reconciliation.

Uncle Neville Lilley kicked off Tuesday's official proceedings with the welcome to country.

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