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Australia Day Awards recognise inspiring Knox locals

Knox City Council has recognised five inspiring local residents in the Knox Australia Day Awards.

Knox City Council Mayor, Councillor Susan Laukens said there are many high achievers, local heroes and unsung volunteers who work tirelessly for the Knox community and that Australia Day is an opportunity to congratulate the everyday heroes in our midst.

“We pay tribute to all our nominees, who are our community’s unsung heroes,” Cr Laukens said. “They do not put their hand up to be recognised but consider their achievements as ‘just what they do’. They’re not paid to do this: they’re using their own resources, their own time and their own energy, expertise and passion to support the community.”

The 2022 Knox Australia Day Awards winners are:

  • Citizen of the Year: Gayle Dye
  • Young Citizen of the Year: Sophie Ashdowne
  • Elder Citizen of the Year: Barbara Edwards
  • Volunteer of the Year: Margaret Hawkes
  • Sustainability Leadership Award: Anthony Bigelow

The award winners were recognised for the generosity, passion, courage and sense of justice they demonstrate through their everyday lives, and the significant contribution they have made to the local community.

Cr Laukens said: “Australia Day is an important day to reflect on the story of Australia and acknowledge the past, particularly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have lived on these lands for many thousands of years.”

This year’s Awards took place virtually, with videos of the award recipients shared through Knox’s social media channels.

About the Australia Day Award winners:

Citizen of the Year: Gayle Dye

Citation:

The Knox Citizen of the Year is awarded to a citizen who has given selflessly of themselves to others. Gayle Dye has been nominated as Citizen of the Year by Cheryl Stephens, Carmy Ogley and Sall Kumruyan. This nomination recognises Gayle’s selfless service and generosity that helped the Knox community during COVID-19.

On her own initiative, Gayle launched Gayle’s Share Space that provides material assistance for local people doing it tough. From her own garage, the Share Space has grown into a mini-supermarket providing food, hygiene products and household items. Gayle coordinates the donations of items from the Knox community and local businesses, including the two local Bakers Delight stores who give bread every Friday and Sunday night.

Gayle spends four to five hours a day sorting and stocking items, and creating packs for families in need. She also makes weekly deliveries to people unable to make it to the Share Space. Up to 120 families per week receive help from the Gayle’s Share Space, including people experiencing family violence or homelessness.

Gayle experiences major health issues that require daily chemotherapy. Despite these challenges, Gayle continues her work in the Share Space in a time when need continues to grow. A well-known resident of Rowville, people describe Gayle as “generous, genuine, humble, and selfless”. And today, we would like to add one more word: “outstanding”. Gayle Dye, congratulations on being the 2022 Knox Citizen of the Year.

Young Citizen of the Year: Sophie Ashdowne

Citation:

The Young Citizen of the Year award recognises community members under 25 years of age who make an outstanding contribution to their community. Sophie Ashdowne, a student at Our Lady of Sion College, has been nominated by Kate Austin from Pinchapoo. This not-for-profit redistributes hygiene products to Australians experiencing disadvantage. Sophie has been nominated for consistently lifting people’s spirits and helping anyone she can, even during COVID lockdowns. Sophie is an important presence at the Pinchapoo warehouse. She takes new volunteers under her wing, and teaches them the ropes. She is also known for being a vibrant presence for Pinchapoo publicity. As Kate says, “at times when media have visited the warehouse, Sophie is the first in front of the camera, completely owning who she is”. Not to be deterred by COVID lockdowns, Sophie even started a mini Pinchapoo warehouse from her home with her mum. This kept the organisation’s production work alive, as well as promoting the mission of Pinchapoo through her photos. Sophie is a proud member of the Knox community who will continue to serve others with her gusto, love and magic. Congratulations, Sophie Ashdowne, Knox Young Citizen of the Year for 2022.

Elder Citizen of the Year: Barbara Edwards

Citation:

Barb Edwards, has been nominated by Dianne Firth for Elder Citizen of the Year. The nomination celebrates Barb’s tireless commitment to looking after those who care for others, especially those caring for a person living with mental health challenges. After a long career in teaching, Barb is now at the forefront of Ferntree Gully Family Support Group. This group provides compassionate and non-judgemental support to carers, many of whom are experiencing crisis. Barb also leads a support group for people who have lost loved ones to suicide, and has continued this work even with the challenges of COVID-19. Barb’s journey has not been without challenges yet she can always be relied upon as a tower of strength in life’s dark moments. For this important service, Barb Edwards is the Knox Elder Citizen of the Year for 2022.

Volunteer of the Year: Margaret Hawkes

Citation:

The Volunteer of the Year is awarded to recognise outstanding dedication to serving the Knox community.

Maggie Hawkes has been nominated for Volunteer of the Year by Lois Bannister. While some may see retirement as time to kick back and relax, Maggie has actively worked to make the world a better place. Many local organisations have benefited from her fundraising efforts, including Heathmont Bush Care, Friends of Sassasfras Creek, Habitat for Humanity, the Epilepsy Foundation and Vision Australia. Maggie is an active member of Boronia Lions Club, and serves as Vice Treasurer of the Knox branch of Victorian Masters Athletics. She also volunteers in the emergency department of Angliss Hospital, providing comfort and support for patients. The sheer diversity and breadth of Maggie’s volunteering efforts is nothing short of outstanding. Knox is proud to name Maggie Hawkes as Volunteer of the Year of 2022.

Sustainability Leadership Award: Anthony Bigelow

Citation:

The Sustainability Leadership award is a new award that honours individuals making a significant positive impact on our local environment. Anthony Bigelow has been nominated by Darren Wallace for his outstanding commitment and service to Dandenong Creek. Anthony has served as both Vice President and President of First Friends of Dandenong Creek for the last six years. During this time, Anthony has initiated important sustainability projects that protect local flora and fauna, and reduce creek pollution. Anthony has successfully lobbied for funding for several grants. This funding has promoted awareness of Dandenong Creek and ensures proper monitoring of creek water quality. One of the grants was used to fund a short film about the eels of Dandenong Creek, the film focuses on the importance of eels for the Wurundjeri people, as well as the impact of urbanisation on creek life. The First Friends of Dandenong Creek has flourished under Anthony’s leadership. He has boosted new memberships and encouraged strong participation in group projects. Congratulations, Anthony Bigelow, the first winner of the Knox Sustainability Leadership Australia Day award.

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