The 2023 Australia Day Award ceremonies held across Macarthur acknowledged and honoured the passion and commitment of locals from Campbelltown, Camden and Wollondilly.

“The Australia Day Awards recognise people in our community who go the extra mile to make a difference in all walks of life,” Mayor of Campbelltown, George Greiss, said.

Good Morning Macarthur’s founder Brian Laul was awarded Campbelltown’s highest honour, Citizen of the Year, for his work across a range of community initiatives over many years. He has been a passionate and tireless advocate for Campbelltown and championed many great events and programs.

“It is important to acknowledge that I can do what I do because of a legion of volunteers, well-wishers and close friends who pop up from nowhere in times of need, an ultra supportive family and the grace of God,” Mr Laul said.

As chairperson of Rainbow Crossing Inc, director of the Macarthur Multicultural Children’s Festival, founder of Oz Funland and The Wizard of Oz Show, it is evident that Mr Laul’s ongoing dedication to giving a voice to people and organisations in Campbelltown, along with operating local programs that connect the community to important services and information, is what makes him more than worthy of this title.

“I feel extremely honoured to receive this award and for what I love doing: empowering others to own their story, share it and speak their truth to encourage others along their journeys,” Mr Laul said.

Other Campbelltown award winners included:

  • Young Citizen of the Year – Kyla Hodges 
  • Community Group Initiative of the Year – Horizon Youth St Andrews 
  • Disability and Inclusion Award – Reece Riley
  • Environmental Citizen of the Year – Deb Evans-Clark
  • Sportsperson of the Year – Lachlan Arbuckle

“I’d like to congratulate our winners and thank all the nominees and everyone who put in the time to nominate them for their contributions to Campbelltown,” Cr Greiss said.

Popular local not-for-profit Rainbow Crossing Inc followed up its Campbelltown honour with another big win as Camden recognised a myriad of local residents and community organisations that initiated change and improvement over the past year.

One of its founding directors, Kylee Betham, was crowned Camden’s Citizen of the Year.

The co-founder of the Shining Stars Foundation, Ms Bentham was recognised for her lifelong commitment to volunteer work that now entails providing more than 800 free meals to those in need on a regular basis.

“Community, collaboration and being there for people in need is what motivates me. Remember together we make a difference,” Ms Bentham told Good Morning Macarthur.

“I am so very humbled to have won Camden Australia day Citizen of the year for 2023, thank you to everyone who nominated me.”

From the young age of seven, Ms Bentham had been known for her work helping amongst the Meals on Wheels initiative with her grandfather, working Red Cross stalls with her grandmother and volunteering throughout Macarthur and Liverpool with her mother during her teenage years. 

During last year’s floods, she tirelessly provided water, food and medical supplies where they were needed most.

“Shining the spotlight on those within our community who live to serve is truly special,” Mayor of Camden, Therese Fedeli, said.

Other Camden awardees were:

  • Young Citizen of the Year – Ebony-Rose Mangion
  • Arts and Culture Award – Melissa Musgrave
  • Sports Achievement Award – Group 6 Rugby League Referees
  • Community Group Award – Camden Community Garden and Macarthur Storm Chasers

“To the fantastic residents who have won awards this year and all those who were nominated – you should be so proud of your dedication and commitment to making the lives of others so much better. How lucky we are to have you as part of our community,” Cr Fedeli said.

Two locals well known for their commitment to young people shared the Citizen of  the Year honours at Wollondilly: Peter Fenning and Mark Scambary. 

“It was an honour to be nominated and I was thrilled to be awarded the citizen of the year,” Mark Scambary said. 

As part of the Buxton RFS and the rural Fire Brigade for the past 40 years, Mr Flenning was recognised for his advocacy for an inclusive brigade, encouraging new members of all ages, ability, ethnicity and gender, and boosting community engagement.

Up until his retirement in 2022, Mr Scambary served as a Police Officer in the Wollondilly/Camden area from 1993, where he maintained a commitment to protecting and supporting the young people in the community and building positive relationships with many individuals and organisations.

“Many of the things I did with Young people outside of work brought me pleasure and a sense of achievement and I did not look at them as a chore at all,” Mr Scambary told Good Morning Macarthur

“I am proud to call The Oaks home and I will continue to help out at The Oaks in my retirement.”

Unlike the other regions, Wollondilly had a lot more awards up for grabs, and the other category winners are: 

  • Disability Inclusion Award – Wollondilly Community Men’s Shed (WOLCOMs) encompassing six Men’s Sheds throughout Wollondilly.
  • Local Hero, Community Group – The Bargo Book Group
  • Local Hero, Individual – Patrick Nellestein
  • Sportsperson of the Year – Gaye Wardle
  • Achiever of the Year – Libby Berg
  • Environmental Citizen of the Year – Inga Schwaiger
  • Young Citizen of the Year – Joshua Azzopardi

“Volunteerism is the cornerstone of community and without the dedication and passion of those nominated for awards today we wouldn’t have the incredible communities that we enjoy here in Wollondilly, so I sincerely thank all those who were nominated for awards for their contributions and commitment to their communities and to the shire,” Cr Gould said.

–   Marie Stambe & Sharon Robertson