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Byron Shire
March 2, 2021

Inspiring Tweed and Ballina residents honoured

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Sam Ford is the 2019 Tweed Shire Citizen of the Year, along with Meredith Dennis.

Australia Day honours for community achievement in the Tweed have this year gone to a ‘coward’s punch’ survivor, a palliative care co-ordinator, a koala advocate and a tireless worker for the homeless.

Meanwhile in Ballina, awards went to a music educator, a high school sporting hero, a volunteer for multiple charities and a student all-rounder.

Tweed awards

Sam Ford and Meredith Dennis have both been named 2019 Tweed Shire Citizen of the Year for their outstanding inspirational work in the community.

Sam survived horrific injuries as a result of a ‘coward’s punch’ in October 2009, leaving him with severe and permanent disabilities. Since his injury, Sam has achieved many milestones and has become a beacon of hope and inspiration to others who have suffered a brain injury. Sam is involved in many local fundraising efforts and participated in the inaugural Tweed Coast Charity Walk to raise funds for the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter.

Meredith has been a palliative care innovator for nearly two decades. Trained as a nurse, and volunteering at the Wedgetail Retreat community hospice since 1998, Meredith oversees the operation of volunteer palliative care training, home-hospice support services, the community hospice, educational courses, Sunshine ‘Pamper’ Days, the loan of medical equipment to clients and the Tweed Palliative Support Hospice Op shops. Meredith also takes care of many rescue dogs and horses at her Limpinwood property.

Meredith Dennis is the 2019 Tweed Shire Citizen of the Year, along with Sam Ford.

The Volunteer of the Year Award has also been shared between two recipients, Team Koala Inc. President, Jenny Hayes, and Agape Outreach founder, Theresa Mitchell.

Jenny has dedicated the past decade to raising awareness about the endangered status of Tweed Coast koalas. In 2018, she was influential in obtaining a grant from the NSW Government Parks and Wildlife Service to produce a koala information booklet that provides details about koalas, their habitat, how to deal with sick or injured koalas and a 24/7 emergency contact number. This booklet is freely distributed at the Pottsville Market and to local schools.

Theresa founded Agape Outreach Inc, which provides meals to over 190 homeless people, as well as food hampers, shower facilities, free laundry facilities and low priced clothing. Through Agape Outreach, Theresa also provides life coaching and emotion and relationship classes, as well as nutrition and budgeting classes.

The Young Achiever in Community Service Award (under 25 years) has been awarded to Jaime Coetzee for her dedication to community service. Jaime is Deputy Mayor of the Tweed Youth Council and also undertakes volunteer work with numerous organisations including her regular Sunday commitment to helping homeless people through the You Have a Friend charity.

The Australia Day Award for Sporting Achievement goes to Perth Glory goal keeper, Eliza Campbell, who made her debut with the team in November 2017. She has also represented her country with the Matildas. Eliza has made a successful career from her passion for football and is helping to show other young players the pathway to achieving sporting success.

The Community Event of the Year Award has gone to the Charity Cup Touch Football Tournament for the second consecutive year. The Charity Cup is in its seventh year and involves a large scale touch football competition where every cent raised goes directly to assist local individuals or families suffering hardship. The tournament has raised a total of more than $100,000 that has been distributed to over 40 local individuals and groups. It now attracts some 300 people from all age groups and backgrounds who come together to promote healthy living and support those in need.

The Arts and Cultural Achievement Award was awarded to the 2018 Murwillumbah Arts Trail, which provided a forum for musicians, indigenous artists, circus and theatre performers, dancers and fashion designers to come together and share their talents in a fun, festive atmosphere for the community.

Ballina awards

The 2019 Ballina Shire Citizen of the Year is Marie Caldwell. Marie has tirelessly shared her musical talents with the whole community for over half a century, developing the musical talents of young people and adults alike. Marie has been involved in the development of early childhood music and fostered the musical talents of our local thespians as a musical director and 50-year member of the Ballina Players Theatre. Marie continues to bring joy to older residents by regularly playing at retirement homes and entertaining the wider community at local events.

Sportsperson of the Year was shared between Samantha Brophy and Kyle Underwood.

Ballina Coast High School student Samantha, originally from Canada, has been playing ice hockey since the age of six. Samantha started playing with the Southern Stars three years ago, travelling to Brisbane up to three times a week for training and competition. She was recently selected in the Australian Women’s U18 National Ice Hockey Team.

From the age of 12, Kyle has rigorously followed his dream to achieve professional golf status on the US PGA tour while also achieving academic excellence. After completing his HSC in 2017 at Emmanuel Anglican College Ballina where he was school captain, Kyle was awarded a four-year athletic and academic scholarship at the Long Island University in New York.

The Arts & Cultural Award was presented to Lennox Head resident Brian Pamphilon.

Brian has played lead roles in nearly 30 local musical productions, winning the coveted ‘Best Actor’ Award at the 2015 Gold Coast Area Theatre Awards.  Brian was also nominated as the ‘Actor of the Year’ by The Northern Star. He tutors in trumpet, piano and voice and has played the trumpet every Anzac Day and Remembrance Day for the past ten years in local Northern Rivers ceremonies.

This year’s Local Hero is Robert Sword.

Arriving in Lennox Head with his wife Dawn after they lost everything in the 2003 Canberra bushfires, Bob set about committing himself to the service of his new community. Here are some places you will find him at work: East Ballina Lions Club’s barbecues and markets, Meals on Wheels, Ballina Hot Meal Centre, Cancer Council Daffodil Day and Relay for Life, Wardell Knit and Knat Group and Clean Up Australia Day.

Ballina’s Young Citizen of the Year is Finn Ball.

Finn attended Alstonville Primary and High Schools with an outstanding record of academic, cultural and sporting achievements. For several years, he has been deeply involved in voluntary work with a variety of community organisations, most notably the Alstonville Plateau Historical Society. His prowess in public speaking and mathematics has led to many hours coaching younger students in these areas.

Senior Citizen of the Year is Lloyd Jansson

Lloyd is a talented musician who began learning the trumpet at the age of ten. When he eventually retired and moved to Ballina 23 years ago he joined the Ballina Shire Concert Band and started the Unity Jazz Band. At the age of 91 he is still involved in a small jazz group and has only recently stepped down from being Musical Director of the Ballina Shire Concert Band – to become deputy.

Community Event of the Year this year is Love Lennox Festival.

The annual festival, hosted by the Lennox Head Chamber of Commerce, continues to grow and as Lennox’s biggest community event attracts over 10,000 people each year. The event aims to promote main street businesses and attract more people to town during the cooler winter months. The festival now serves a much broader objective; providing a variety of community groups and small businesses an opportunity to connect with the people they represent or service.

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  1. Meredith Dennis has also worked tirelessly as a volunteer for the Tweed river Art Gallery for the past 25 years.
    She radiates kindness, a real gem in our community.


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