The Echo Awards, held every five years, was a great success on Wednesday night as it celebrated 35 years of local independent journalism in the Northern Rivers and the community that have supported it throughout those times.
‘Nicholas Shand conceived the idea of the newspaper as a vehicle for asserting the civil liberty of local residents after a series of heavy-handed police raids in the Main Arm Valley,’ said co-founder David Lovejoy.
David went on to delight the audience with a range of anecdotes about the hiccups and accidents that have happened throughout its history including how the paper had been driven close to bankruptcy when ‘the classified pages caused a case of mass déjà vu in the Shire, on account of our having printed the entire previous week’s ads by mistake’.
However, The Echo would be nothing without the amazing community that supports it. This year The Echo presented eight awards to recognise the amazing work and commitment of some of our dedicated community members.
The Echo Frontline Heart award went to RFS Group Captain for Byron Shire Bob Graham. Bob is kown for his quite community commitment and has been a volunteer member of the Rural Fire Service (RFS) for 44 years and has shown his commitment to the community time and again. During the devastating Black Summer fires he helped coordinate and plan how the RFS would respond, facilitated our own public meetings here in the shire as we confronted the challenges of seeing our own homes under threat and was on the frontline coordinating brigades to ensure that homes were saved and crews were safe.
Linda Sparrow from Bangalow Koalas received The Echo Planet Heart award for her amazing work over the last five years protecting koalas and planting koala corridors.
While it might have started with the aim of protecting 400m stretch of koala corridor in Bangalow five years ago it has grown into so much more. Now Linda and her team have a vision of enhancing and connecting that 400m koala corridor from Byron Shire to Tweed Shire in the north, to Tenterfield in the west, and Grafton in the south.
They have planted over 126,000 trees planted since 2018 with a remarkable 80 per cent of those trees have been planted from 2020 with no stopping in sight. In fact it has been not only planting trees but also creating jobs with a bush regeneration team and then last year seven people in Byron Shire and five indigenous rangers near Coraki were employed.
The Echo Sporty Heart went to Kyuss King from Byron Bay, who was celebrating his 21st birthday on the night. Kyuss entered his first competition at just eight years of age. In 2014, he was voted number two grom in the world, by Surfer magazine in the USA.
He won the Surf Dive ‘n Ski Australian junior surfing title in 2015 with a perfect 10-point wave. His most recent event was the Vissla Central Coast Pro at Avoca Beach, where he placed third.
Where government fails, individuals act and the winner of The Echo Community Heart award was Anne Goslett form the Shift Project in Byron Bay. Anne has worked with community organisations for 30 years and identified a gap in housing options for women. So in 2015 Anne started the Shift Project, a not-for-profit charity that works with women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness helping many women throughout the region.
The Echo Business Heart award went to Jenelle Stanford, President Mullumbimby Chamber of Commerce. She was been instrumental in getting the Chamber up and running seven years ago. Since then she has got the Chinny Charge running again after a 16 year hiatus as well as supporting the Mullumbimby Sculpture Walk and working with council to support beautifying, reinvigorating and upgrading the town.
The Echo Young Heart award went to Mia Thom who has been the leading voice of the climate change rally’s here in Byron Shire inspiring young people throughout the area to have their voices heard.
Just prior to the COVID lockdown the Byron Shire march saw over 5,000 young people and their supporters take to the streets of Byron to raise their voices against dangerous government policies that are speeding the world towards a disastrous future.
All this was happening while Mia was studying for her HSC in which she achieved the highest ranking. As an emerging Bundjalung leader, Mia is known for her generous sharing of culture throughout her school career at Byron High and her life.
Recognising the importance of community creativity The Echo Creative Heart award went to the Ocean Shores Art Exhibition (OSAE). Started in 2004 the OSAE has provided the opportunity for both aspiring and established artists throughout the community to exhibit and sell their work. Each year sees hundreds of adults and school kids exhibit and sell their work often beingthe first step in establishing an art career for young people in the region.
The final award was a new one that recognized the amazing commitment from one of The Echo’s own. The Everyone Love Eve Award, of course went to Eve Jeffery.
‘Often seen in purple, Eve has cheerfully been an allrounder, the sort of person a small organisation like the Echo needs: taking classified ads, taking photographs, putting out the online edition on many days, writing not only news stories but also the paper’s entertainment section, or the letters and articles when people are away,’ said The Echo’s general manager Simon Haslam.
‘Outside The Echo she’s also an activist, and with her partner David Lowe at Cloudcatcher Media has produced award-winning films about such important issues as fracking, coal mining, sexual assault, pokies – you name it. She’s also raised two children, been a wildlife carer, driven a car covered in soft toys, and tonight even showed that she has what it takes to run a singing group.’