Inspirational citizens honoured

Published on 29 January 2024

Award winners Catherine Gordon, Satria Arbai, and Edwina Ricci and Jodie Murphy, on behalf of the Language of Friendship event.

Maroondah’s most remarkable community members were celebrated at an Australia Day event held at Ringwood Lake Park on Friday 26 January.

Mayor of Maroondah, Councillor Kylie Spears, announced the 2024 Citizen of the Year, Young Citizen of the Year and Community Event of the Year during a special awards ceremony, where 60 people also received their Australian citizenship.

“The annual Maroondah Australia Day Awards are a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge outstanding individuals in our community who, through their dedication and passion, have made positive contributions to our community and to the lives of others,” Cr Spears said.

“Through these awards, we are able to celebrate those who generously give their time and energy to our community, yet seek no recognition for their work. I sincerely thank and congratulate all of our award recipients and nominees for their extraordinary achievements.”

Each year, our community is invited to nominate an individual or community group for the Maroondah Australia Day Awards, in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the community.

This year’s recipients have been honoured for their remarkable impact on Maroondah and the wider community.

Citizen of the Year

Catherine Gordon was named 2024 Citizen of the Year. She has been a dedicated and tireless volunteer for the Maroondah Volleyball Association and wider community for many years. Catherine is a driving force in the growth of participation at all levels within Maroondah Volleyball and has also been involved in many programs, activities and fundraisers.

Catherine is passionate about inclusiveness and has been instrumental in ensuring the sport is equally accessible for all and promoting community engagement and social inclusion. She has coordinated regular sitting volleyball activities, increased cultural participation, held LGBTQIA+ events and is actively looking to develop wheelchair volleyball.

“I started our first-ever VolleyAll program, a full inclusion program for volleyball that can be played at the grassroots, everyday level for a child who has a disability, whether it’s physical or mental. That’s been a great program. I’m very passionate about getting all kids in our community involved,” Catherine said.

Young Citizen of the Year

Satria Arbai received the Young Citizen of the Year award for his passion and dedication towards advocating for disability rights. He has worked hard to raise awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by young people with a disability within the school community at Ringwood Secondary College.

Satria’s active involvement in the student-led Ringwood Activists for Disability (RAD) group and presentations delivered to students have challenged misconceptions about people with a disability and promoted the importance of inclusiveness.

This advocacy has helped to improve the visibility of people with a disability within the school community and has made Ringwood Secondary College a more inclusive and supportive environment.

“At school, I had the opportunity to run a workshop on how to interact with someone with a disability and I also ran a project with the Ringwood Activists for Disability there. It made me feel really happy that I got to do something for the community,” Satria said.

“I’m proud of our social media account educating people about disability and how to become a better ally for people with disability. It’s really great.”

Community Event of the Year

The Language of Friendship event was awarded Community Event of the Year. The sold out ‘Language of Friendship’ workshop was held at Eastland in February 2023 with over 700 bookings.

Presented in partnership with URSTRONG, Maroondah Positive Education Network and Communities of Wellbeing, the event showed parents how to support children to create healthy, feel-good social connections while using the ‘language of friendship’, including friendship tools such as a friend-o-meter to rate friendships as healthy or unhealthy, friendship facts, friendship values and skills to talk through ‘friendship fires’ and disagreements.

URSTRONG’s whole-school friendship strategy was also recognised for improving the social climate in schools across the world by connecting over one million children, parents and teachers with the common language of friendship.

Edwina Ricci accepted the award and said “The event was inspired by some research we did in 2019 … and was the extension of the ‘language of friendship’. The language of friendship is simple and easy to implement, and is a really important way for students to manage their own relationships, to be self-determined and have the language and skills to understand that friendships change and that’s okay.

“It’s four or five years down the track now and [the need] is still there, so that’s a sign of something that is sustainable and having a great impact,” Edwina said

Congratulations to our deserving recipients and nominees.