Meet the local heroes whose achievements and commitment to our community have seen them nominated for the 2021 Australia Day Awards.
The winners will be announced at a ceremony at the North Coast Botanic Garden on 26 January 2021 along with nearly 100 residents who will receive their Australian Citizenship.
Despite still recovering from a series of fractures sustained in a fall three months previously, Michael didn’t hesitate to leap into action when he saw four Korean visitors struggling in a rip at North Wall. With the help of a body-boarder already in the surf, Michael managed to get them all to shore unharmed – but damaging his own healing injuries in the process. He has since – at the age of 50 – gained his Bonze Medallion and become a Volunteer Surf Lifesaver.
In 2020, he raised $1,130 for the Starlight Foundation by swimming 32 kilometres over a month. He and his daughter also completed another month-long fund-raiser for Reachout Australia in which they swam more than 30 kilometres for teen mental health. In addition, Michael also completed a month-long fundraiser for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service Northern NSW Region.
In May 2020, Michael finished a certificate course in Mindfulness Mentoring. He is also a long-time supporter of Coffee4Blokes; an organisation that supports men struggling with anxiety, depression and loneliness.
Julie is an energetic, enthusiastic woman who is truly dedicated to making this world a better place. As coordinator of OzHarvest Coffs Harbour she is determined to fight food waste. Over the past seven years, she and her team have rescued an impressive 1.2 million tonnes of food and delivered 230,000 free meals. Julie works up to 60 hours a week, every week of the year, collecting food from local suppliers, organising its storage and distribution to deserving recipients.
During the bushfires, Julie and her team supplied two truckloads of food to the SES to distribute to families affected by the fires.
This has been a massive year for Julie and her team at OzHarvest. Due to COVID-19, she had to completely change her process of collecting and delivering food to the people in need in Coffs Harbour. Before the pandemic, food was collected from the donors, checked and then sent out to about 50 charities, institutions, organisations and community centres. But everything came crashing down because 98% of the charities they supplied were closed and so a new way to get the food to the clients of those agencies had to be devised. In consultation with the staff at Coffs Harbour Community Village a ‘Pop Up Shop’ was created so people from all walks of life could receive help. Now OzHarvest volunteers deliver 85% of their food to the Community Village every morning where, at times, there is a queue many metres long of people who are hungry and waiting for food.
John Higgins is a man passionately dedicated to promoting the development and growth of South Coffs Community Gardens. His boundless energy and enthusiasm, his passion, dedication and vision for the future has – along with his fellow gardeners – created a magic space, filled with plants, and flowers, fruit trees, birds and bees, a space which will engage the senses.
The garden offers a space for anyone in our community who longs for an area to cultivate and grow whatever they desire – vegetables, flowers, fruit trees, the choice is theirs. It aims to welcome a diverse group of people across differences of age and ability to create an environment for people to work co-operatively together and to share knowledge and expertise. Through its Living Lightly Workshops it shares ideas and teaches sound environmental gardening practices, including organic gardening, recycling, composting and sustainable water use.
John and his fellow gardeners welcome all cultural groups with their traditional food, plants and cultures and they work hard to foster a spirit of inclusiveness. This inclusivity includes the invitation to pre-schoolers and disabled and disadvantaged children to develop life skills, a love of nature, a knowledge of gardening and conservation and a care for their environment- things which will be with them for the rest of their lives.
By creating a community garden and gathering a group of like-minded people together, John has created a garden which is an asset to our city and provides not only opportunities for people to come together and enjoy a pleasant and productive pastime, but a place to learn, to share and to pass on their knowledge to the wider community.
Through all the trials and tribulations of drought, bushfires and finally Covid-19, John – as the President of SCCG – has worked tirelessly to ensure that the Community Gardens continue to thrive and grow.
John – the Captain of the Nana Glen Rural Fire Service Brigade – has been nominated by a local resident for his work in helping protect homes, property and people threatened by the recent bushfires in the Orara Valley. Her words sum up John’s contribution to his local community. She said: “As the fire was heading towards my home I watched John Lardner and his crew fighting the fire in the hills behind my house, suddenly there was a wall of fire and I could not see the fire truck. That was one of two incidents that nearly cost John and his crew their lives to save the Nana Glen community. In September 2020 I could not bring myself to do a hazard reduction burn before the summer due to the impact of the Bees Nest fire (the previous year), John Lardner said the fire brigade would come and do it for me, and I believe they are doing this for other property owners as well. He never stops helping. I feel my words do not show the care and love John Lardner has for our community.”
Taryn is a gifted, dedicated and highly motivated student whose contribution both to school and community has been consistent throughout her whole school career. She is a ‘giver’ and this is exemplified in her involvement in all aspects of her schooling at Woolgoolga High School and her ability to meet life’s challenges and overcome them with dignity and fortitude.
A passionate Peer Tutor and Mentor she also plays a vital role in the school’s student wellbeing program S.M.I.L.E, which fosters a quality learning and supportive environment and has helped many students both directly and indirectly.
As a Prefect she was a fine ambassador for Woolgoolga High School at out-of-school activities, including assisting with Harmony Day, the local Rotary Auctions and Legacy Week activities. Taryn is committed to the environment and also won the school’s ‘Sustainable Futures Award’.
Demonstrating a diversity of interests and skills in many aspects of school life, including debating, choir, music, tutoring and fundraising along with a pursuit of academic excellence, she has been a wonderful role model for all her school community.
Taryn is a young woman with a limitless future who has already had a profound impact on both her school and the wider community. Her ability to identify needs and her determination to meet those needs is to be admired and shows a maturity beyond her years. Her enthusiasm and personal integrity ensure that she will continue to have a positive influence on her community.
Elizabeth (Beth) Rogers
Beth Rogers’ impact on members of the community who were originally from Burundi has been immeasurable. These particular former refugees are probably among the most traumatised of all the displaced people who have found a home and a welcome in Coffs Harbour.
Fleeing genocide in Burundi only to spend years in violent and frightening refugee camps has left a massive mark on many lives, but the care, support and love that Beth has shown this community has been a key factor in helping them recover and go on to build positive and productive lives.
Her impact is probably best described by those she has helped. The words of one sum up Beth for many. They said: “My family and I were having great difficulties adjusting to this massive change. We were feeling disconnected, isolated, unable to communicate, and extremely home sick. Meeting Beth was like winning a lotto. She was pleasant, extremely generous, sensitive to our cultural needs, and she appeared to know how to communicate with us despite our limited English language skills at this stage. She would kindly come to our home and offer her time and resources freely according to our needs. She taught us how to do our shopping, use the household utilities we were unfamiliar with, offered transport to and from various appointments, helped us connect with the community, and the list can go on.
“Beth became an extension of my family and at a personal level, she became the grandmother I never had. I have since remained close with Beth and I will always cherish her for all her goodness.
“Beth was not offering her support to my family only. She was actually simultaneously helping many other families in my community. She gave driving lessons to several young people in my community and supported their families just as much as she supported mine.
“Beth’s friendship to my family and community in general has had a lasting positive impact to our capacity to resettle in Australia successfully. She gave us hope when we most needed it, and this has carried us through the toughest times. With her support, most young people in my community have gone on to pursue their dreams”.
Rosie Smart is a talented and dedicated young surfer who epitomises all the qualities of sportsmanship, loyalty, commitment, athleticism and ability, making her the champion she is. Her record in her chosen field is impressive and her immense talent places her in the forefront of board riders in her age group in NSW and indeed Australia.
Winning a scholarship to Bishop Druitt College’s High Performance and Athlete Development Sporting Program in 2020 has enabled Rosie to continue to develop her skills and assists her to focus and achieve her goals as an athlete and academically.
Even though COVID-19 curtailed all sporting competitions until August this year, Rosie still managed to achieve First Place in the NSW U16 Surfing State Championship and U16 High School State Championship, as well as Runner Up in the NSW Rip Curl Grom Search 16’s Surfing.
However, even with the pandemic restrictions, she has continued her daily training regime involving surfing together with complementary cross-fit training and skateboarding – and travelling, when possible, to a variety of venues to gain experience with different waves and surfing conditions.
Rosie is sponsored by Coopers Surf Australia, Oakley, Firewire Surfboards and FCS. These sponsors recognise her potential as an international surfer and are proud to support her in her quest for excellence in her chosen field.
Rosie herself is conscious of an obligation to her sponsors, as well as her club and school, to be an ambassador for women’s surfing and takes pride in always conducting herself in a sportsmanlike and professional manner. She always demonstrates a strong work ethic along with a sense of responsibility to give back to the sport she loves by supporting and mentoring young surfers.
Pictured at a group photo-call are: (Back left to right) Beth Rogers, Michael Bourne, John Lardner. (Middle) John Higgins. (Front) Julie Ferguson, Rosie Smart.