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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

Koala advocate is Tweed Citizen of the Year

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The 2020 Tweed Shire Citizen of the Year is Jenny Hayes from Team Koala (right), who is pictured after receiving her award from Mayor of Tweed Councillor Chris Cherry. Photo: Tweed Shire Council.

Murwillumbah local Jenny Hayes was named the 2020 Tweed Shire Citizen of the Year at Tuesday’s Australia Day Awards and Citizenship ceremony.

The award recognises Ms Hayes’s community work over many years, particularly her dedication to the protection of the Tweed’s endangered koala population, culminating in the founding of Team Koala in 2009.

‘What I am really touched and appreciative about is how much the community has come together to protect our Tweed koalas. Just arrived, or been here for many generations, young and old, everyone joined together and that is so special,’ Ms Hayes said.

‘We have amazing volunteers who go above and beyond what anyone can expect and to be honest, this and my love of animals is what keeps me motivated and inspired for the cause and keeps me going.’

Ms Hayes has been a long-time campaigner for koala-friendly development restrictions, particularly on the Tweed Coast where the koala population is most under threat.

Local champions honoured

Ms Hayes was one of seven local champions honoured at the official Australia Day Awards ceremony.

The 2020 Individual Volunteer of the Year Award was split between two worthy winners, Michael Reid and Les Hardy. Michael was chosen for his dedicated work at Agape Outreach Incorporated, where he is known to cook up to 60 litres of food at a time – at his own expense – supporting the homeless and needy of the Tweed. Long-time Pottsville resident Les Hardy was a joint recipient of the award for the number of charities and community organisations he supports, and is often found selling raffle tickets to benefit these organisations.

The 2020 Group Volunteer of the Year Award went to the Murwillumbah Hospital Coffee Shop Volunteers who for the past 11 years have provided their helpful service five days a week, 52 weeks a year, to benefit the sick and frail and those that care for them. During that time, the group has raised more than $580,000 towards equipment for the hospital.

The 2020 Community Event of the Year Award was given to the Tweed Valley Equestrian Group, whose annual Power of Pink Fundraiser has raised much-needed awareness and more than $125,000 towards breast cancer research.

The 2020 Sporting Achievement Award went to tennis coach Gemma Eaton for her outstanding work particularly with disadvantaged young players and children with a disability.

The 2020 Young Achiever in Community Service Award was taken out by 12-year-old Tj Kleeman, who can be found most weeks at her local cemetery, tending to the graves of people unknown to her. Two additional young nominees received honourable mentions in this category – Shantel Gregoraci and Alyce Togo.

Mayor of Tweed Shire Chris Cherry said the Australia Day Awards provided an important opportunity to acknowledge and thank those whose actions have enhanced the fabric of the community.

‘The Tweed owes a lot to the contribution of these local champions, whose selfless dedication and commitment makes our community such an exceptional place to live,’ Cr Cherry said.

33 residents from 12 countries as far afield as Colombia, Thailand and The Netherlands also became Australian citizens at the ceremony.

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