Central Coast Council’s 2024

Australia Day Award Winners

Central Coast Council’s 2024 Australia Day Award Winners have been announced, with 18-year-old Matthew Blakemore, named as ‘Citizen of the Year.’

Central Coast Council's 2024 Australia Day Award Winners names from left to right - Robert Mulvey, Te're Melrose (Doggie Dates NSW), Howard Oxley (Elderslee Foundation), Matthew Blakemore, Taia Sansom (3 Villages Community Group), Regina Doyle, Anannya Bandaru and Roberta Dixon-Valk.

31 January 2024


COUNCIL Director of Community and Recreation, Melanie Smith said the annual awards are a way for Council and the wider community to celebrate and recognise individuals and organisations who enrich our community.


“The recipient of the 2024 Citizen of the Year award, Matthew Blakemore embodies the word ‘community’, and strives to build greater awareness around the needs of young people with a disability,” Ms Smith said.


“Matthew’s contributions extend beyond the Central Coast community, with Matthew appointed to the Research Board of the University of Technology Sydney to help ensure that research on young people is relevant, contemporary, accessible and inclusive. The current project being developed is 'Wellbeing of Young Autistic Australians.’


“Matthew’s expertise were also acknowledged when he was asked to speak at Parliament House on his transition from school to work with the Prime Minister present.


“As a young person living with Autism and an intellectual disability, Matthew has also been working with Next Level Inclusion to develop 'Easy Read' documents for organisations including St John Ambulance Service and the Government.”


Council Administrator, Rik Hart said Central Coast Council’s Australia Day Awards are a fantastic way to shine a spotlight on worthy individuals working to make our community a better, more inclusive place to live, work and play.


“As well as congratulating this year’s winners, I would also like to congratulate all those who were nominated. Thank you all for the outstanding contribution you each make within our community every day,” said Mr Hart.


“All recipients share important characteristics in serving the community, which include selflessness, commitment, and generosity. Along with this, they all work to bring different groups together within our community.”


A brief biography of the Central Coast Council 2024 Australia Day award winners and those highly commended is included below:


Citizen of the Year- Matthew Blakemore


Matthew is 18-years-old and loves his sport. He is a state representative for discus and shot put and is also a keen solo overseas traveller. Matthew is extremely focused with a strong sense of justice and works to build greater understanding of the needs of young people with a disability and the challenges and barriers they experience. Matthew himself has Autism and an intellectual disability.


Matthew works two jobs, working full time at Central Coast Granite and overnight weekend shifts at McDonalds.


Matthew has also been appointed to the Research Board of the University of Technology of Sydney to help ensure that research on young people is relevant and is inclusive. The current project being developed is titled, 'Wellbeing of Young Autistic Australians."


Matthew was asked to speak at Parliament House on his transition from school to work with the Prime Minister in attendance. As a young person with a literacy difficulty, Matthew has been working with Next Level Inclusion to develop 'Easy Read' document versions for organisations including St John Ambulance Service and the Government to make their information accessible for people with an intellectual disability or for those who English may not be their first language. He believes strongly that young people with disabilities need opportunities to be able to be successful and access the same information as everyone else.


Community Group (Joint Winner) - 3 Villages Community Group


The 3 Villages Community Group is a local based group working for and on behalf of Yattalunga, Saratoga and Davistown. The group works with other local groups, residents, and businesses to apply for funding and grants from local and state government, and other avenues where possible. The 3 Villages Community Group have successfully delivered many projects including the replacement of park furniture and shade shelter at Lintern Reserve, Davistown, supplying and installation of sun lounges at Centennial Avenue, Saratoga and the creation of an accessible concrete pathway surrounding the play space at Jirramba Reserve, Saratoga.


The groups involvement in the upgrade of play spaces and fish cleaning tables demonstrates their commitment to ensuring that residents have access to well-maintained and enjoyable open spaces. The group aims to see the ideas and dreams of residents delivered where and if possible, to make enhancements for the whole community.


Community Group (Joint Winner) - Elderslee Foundation


The Elderslee Foundation originated as a retirement village. A significant shift occurred however in 2012, when the Foundation divested itself of the retirement village. Instead of pocketing the proceeds, the Board made a commendable decision to reinvest the funds into the Central Coast community, aiming to uplift and enhance the wellbeing of its older residents. While initially concentrating on the elderly, the Elderslee Foundation soon expanded its reach to support projects across all age demographics. This broader focus has allowed the Foundation to significantly assist a multitude of Central Coast agencies.


The Foundation achieved another milestone in 2018, acquiring a warehouse in Tuggerah and ambitiously transforming this into the Red Tree Theatre - a vibrant arts and community centre. Since its inauguration, it has attracted nearly 30,000 visitors, hosting a range of events from plays, musicals, conferences, and workshops.


Community Group (Highly Commended) - Doggie Dates NSW


Doggie Dates NSW is an inclusive, free, social dog walking group on the Central Coast that run 20 dog walks per week. Doggie Dates is open to all community members, catering for people with physical disabilities, with walks graded and many that are on wheelchair accessible paths. Through the regular dog walking meetings, people can talk and build friendships while improving their health.


Members have said it has helped improve mental health and their social anxiety gradually reduced. Members for Doggie Dates range from teens, families with toddlers and  those aged 70+. Doggie Dates is more than a social dog walking group -  it also provides great social connection and helps improve the quality of life for participants.


Community Life (Winner) - Roberta Dixon-Valk


Roberta in an exceptional individual with an extensive background in Marine and Coastal Resource Management, and has consistently demonstrated exceptional leadership, advocacy, and innovation in her field. Roberta serves as the Co-Founder and Head of Research, Development and Innovation at Take 3 for the Sea. She has spent over 30 years working to look after the health of the oceans, estuaries, rivers, plants and animal ecosystems on the Central Coast.


In 2009, Roberta with a friend (Amanda Marechal), had the idea to establish Take 3 for the Sea. This initiative hopes to inspire everyone, every day, to participate in the simple yet powerful call-to-action: "Take 3 pieces of rubbish with you when you leave the beach, waterway, or anywhere, and you've made a difference." This is a proactive response to the ongoing issue of plastic pollution leaking into our oceans, choking marine wildlife, and harming human health. Their electrifying message has spurred action across 129 countries, rallying participants from all corners of the globe to take part in their call-to-action. Roberta's impact is astonishing, having successfully inspired the removal of an astounding 42 million pieces of rubbish and counting.


Volunteer (Winner) – Regina Doyle


Regina is an extraordinary woman who built Her Cave Incorporated. After having to leave work due to illness, Regina sought out friendship and a place to meet new people on the Central Coast. However, the community lacked this service. Regina found other women who were also experiencing loss, depression, loneliness, empty home syndrome and boredom. So, in the beginning Regina opened her own home to other women to connect and it wasn’t long until she built Her Cave Incorporated located in Kanwal, Central Coast.


Her Cave Incorporated is a place that Regina has made members feel wanted, safe and enjoy the company of other like-minded ladies. Not only does Regina give up her time seven days a week, she oversees the day to day running of Her Cave Incorporated. This includes organising members, running craft classes, set up of donations/collections, applying for grants but most of all being a valuable friend to everyone.


Young Person (Winner) - Anannya Bandaru


Anannya is currently in Year 10 at Gosford High School. She is a part of Elite Leadership Force in her school and is a very kind and empathetic person, passionate about volunteering and bringing a change to the local community. Anannya recently started her own initiative called KalpaVruksha - Zero Hunger Program, where she collects fresh food, toys, books, and non-perishable food items to donate to people in need, including the Woy Woy Community Food Pantry and Coast Shelter. Within this program she has donated cleaning and sanitary supplies, vouchers for single parents, Easter hampers, Mother’s Day drives and donates her own money to Gosford Hospital for Cancer research.


Senior Citizen (Winner) - Robert Mulvey


Robert, or Bob as his friends know him, moved to the Central Coast in 1991 at the age of 58. He immediately established himself as someone who cares about his local community at The North Entrance and its surrounding areas. He joined several community organisations including The Entrance North Progress Association, The North Entrance Surf Club, The Entrance Lions Club, and The North Entrance Land Care volunteers working in cooperation with Central Coast Council. Robert Mulvey is a tireless worker and inspiration to all citizens but especially to the elder members of the community.


At 83 years of age, Robert is still volunteering and has been the President of The Entrance North Progress Association for over 20 years where he has led works to improve local facilities including new children's playgrounds and protection of The North Entrance beach. He also organises the Clean Up Australia event each year along the shores of Tuggerah Lake at North Entrance.

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