Camden’s mental health advocate Brooke Murray, Campbelltown’s domestic violence advocate Lesley Robson and Wollondilly’s community stalwart Marjo Hallowell were declared Citizen of the Year by their respective Councils in today’s local Australia Day honours.

24-year-old Brooke Murray runs the “What Keeps Me Well Campaign” Instagram page and regularly speaks out to advocate for those suffering from mental health issues.

Since 2015, she has raised more than $3,000 for various charities including Beyond Blue, Black Dog Institute and Liptember beneficiaries.

“I started this from my own mental health journey and wanted to look for a way to help others going through any issues of their own,” Ms Murray said.

“Everyone has their own way that helps and works for them, but it is good to give out lots of options for people to make their choice and feel well as soon as possible.”

Two groups shared the Camden’s Community Group Award: Big Yellow Umbrella who run amazing services such as free food hampers for locals, mums and bubs groups, playgroups, parenting services and bill assistance and The Macarthur Centre for Sustainable Living which is an education facility and model for the promotion of sustainable technology and living practices in homes and businesses in the region.

Mayor of Camden, Cr Therese Fedeli, said winning one of these prestigious awards is something each recipient should be very proud of.

“This award represents dedication, commitment, passion and hard work, so recipients should be very proud of themselves for being such incredible role models within our community,” Cr Fedeli said.

Other Camden Australia Day Award winners included:

  • Young Citizen of the Year Alana Bailey, who has been a member of the Camden Youth Council for the past four years, working on projects like the Camden Multicultural Festival and Camden Youth Week program.
  • Sports Achievement Award winner Monique Pirrone who was a massive support in getting Parkrun off the ground in Camden, and has since never missed any of the 101 weekly events.
  • Arts & Cultural Award winner Bob Gurney, who has served Camden’s art community for over 20 years, playing an integral role in the development of the region’s art scene.

Camden’s Citizen of the Year Brooke Murray

Camden’s Community Group recipient Big Yellow Umbrella

Lesley Robson was awarded Campbelltown’s 2022 Citizen of the Year for her tireless work organising a range of projects and community awareness programs to end gender-based violence such as the annual 16 Days of Activism and the Wash Away Violence project. She is a member of the Campbelltown Domestic Violence Committee.

Recognising the community spirit and tireless work of residents and community workers across six award categories, Mayor of Campbelltown George Greiss said, “This past year has been among the most challenging in our shared history but it’s amazing to see how many residents and community organisations have stepped up in different ways to support the wider community.”

Community Group initiative of the Year was awarded to Lomandra Community Pantry in recognition of their work in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, distributing food hampers and pantry essentials to other community services and helping more than 300 local families in need.

Other Campbelltown Australia Day Award winners included:

  • Sportsperson of the year Mitchell Austin, in recognition of his success, earning a professional contract in the US and being signed to the Sydney Blue Sox
  • Environmental Citizen of the Year Alexis Bowen, who encourages residents to think about their environmental impact and reduce litter through her business Bin Chicken.
  • Disability and Inclusion Award winner Renee Allara in recognition of her work with Australian Deaf Elders, supporting those in need of interpreting services who were ineligible for NDIS funding.

Campbelltown’s Citizen of the Year Lesley Robson

Campbelltown’s Environmental Citizen Alexis Bowen

Wollondilly awarded its top honour to veteran community worker Marjo Hallowell at a ceremony at Picton Botanical Gardens.

“What an honour! Congratulations to all the category winners, all those who were nominated and all those who became Australia Citizens today,” Ms Hallowell said, flashing her characteristic smile and double thumbs up amidst the garden’s wisteria in full bloom.

It would honestly take more than a solid tome to list Ms Hallowell’s accomplishments, she has been such an enduring community gem over 40 years. But for the record here are some: Secretary of One Stop Community Assistance (OSCA), treasurer of Wollondilly Women in Business, inaugural Wollondilly Women in Excellence Awards Patron and Woman of the Year. In 2021 she rode 850 kilometres in the Great Cycle Challenge for the Children’s Medical Research Centre with her team raising $9,229. She is a member of The National Trust, a friend of Picton Rotary Club, volunteers at Taara Gardens where OSCA is creating a vegetable and sensory garden, and has created a Facebook page encouraging people throughout Australia to donate to their local Bush Fire Brigades. She has planted hundreds of trees and natives in Bargo and she has taken part in the Clean Up Australia Day Campaign and the Backyard Bird Count for a number of years!!!!

Community volunteer Tia Veech was named the Shire’s Local Hero of the Year for her incredible efforts in feeding people during COVID, volunteering with Dilly Rocks, Driveways at Dawn and The Wear it Yellow day committee to say thank you to all the firefighters.

“Tia is an inspiration and the silent (not so silent) person behind a lot of local groups. Without her support on so, so, so many of my crazy ideas, they just would not be the same and I couldn’t have pulled them off”, said last year’s awardee Sharon Robertson.

Congratulating all the winners, Mayor of Wollondilly Matt Gould said, “Today is more than a holiday; in Wollondilly Shire it is an opportunity to come together and showcase the unique stories that we have.”

Other Wollondilly Australia Day Award winners included:

  • Young Citizen of the Year Dane Clark who is currently the International Sport Karate and Kickboxing Association Australian Champion for 16/17 year-old boys in full contact sparring.
  • Environmental Citizen of the Year Reginald Collins, Nangarin Vineyard Estate’s land care coordinator, who has served on the executive committee for 12 years managing programmes to control invasive weeds in the bushland corridors.
  • Community Group of the Year Wollondilly Women in Business, the largest and fastest growing professional, business and community network in the region
  • Sportsperson of the Year Thomas Noakes, who competed at the 2021 NSW Combined Events championships with a stress fracture in his back and won.
  • Disability Inclusion Award Wendy Evans, chairperson for over 10 years of Interactive Community Care.
  • Achiever of the Year Mark Davies from the Wollondilly Men’s Health Social Group who brings men together to meet socially without judgement or attitude.

Wollondilly’s Citizen of the Year Marjo Hallowell

Wollondilly’s Australia Day Awardees