Australia Day Awards recipients

The Maroondah Australia Day Awards recognise the achievements of Australians and the contribution they make to the Maroondah community. Awards are presented in three categories:

  • Citizen of the Year
  • Young Citizen of the Year
  • Community Event of the Year.

Australia Day award recipients 2023

On Thursday 26 January, 2023 Councillor Rob Steane, Mayor of Maroondah, announced the recipients of the 2023 Australia Day awards.

Citizen of the Year – Dennis Johnston

Dennis Johnston was named 2023 Citizen of the Year for his long-standing involvement with and contribution to Biala Ringwood, an organisation dedicated to providing support and care for special-needs children.

Starting out in a voluntary capacity more than a decade ago and then joining Biala’s Committee of Management serving in the role of Vice-Chair and later Chairman, Dennis has provided leadership on all aspects of the organisation at board and operational levels.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, Dennis showed impeccable leadership, resilience, care and initiative. Working with the committee, he led the development of ‘Biala in the Home’ as part the organisation’s respite program, ensuring that families continued to receive the support needed during lockdown.

This included arranging toys and other resources to be delivered to homes and maintaining regular phone contact with families.

More recently, Dennis successfully negotiated a share of the proceeds of a substantial Victorian Government grant, ensuring Biala can continue providing much-needed respite service for years to come.

Young Citizen of the Year – Jackson Smith and Alyssa Solidaga

Jackson Smith and Alyssa Solidaga are joint recipients of the Young Citizen of the Year award.

Jackson and Alyssa have both demonstrated exceptional leadership in the community as active members of Maroondah Youth Wellbeing Advocate program - a program that advocates for the inclusion of young people’s voices through various projects and initiatives in Maroondah - as well as being Student Representative Council (SRC) captains at their school.

As Maroondah Youth Wellbeing Advocates they assisted in planning and emceeing Maroondah’s first Student Voice Forum and co-facilitated workshops. Together they also proposed, designed and delivered an interactive workshop about student voice for local Grade 5 students.

Jackson excels in the performing arts and takes on leadership roles both on and off stage. He supports all aspects of his school’s productions and was recently nominated for a Lyrebird Award and a Music Theatre Guild of Victoria award for his outstanding performance.

Alyssa is currently philanthropy captain for her year level and has been successful in the role of philanthropy prefect for her final year of school in 2023. Through her work as philanthropy captain, Alyssa has led the running of multiple charity events raising money for FightMND and Teach Us Consent.

Working alongside each other as Student Representative Council members, they continue to support their peers to take action within their school and to encourage positive change.

Community Event of the Year – Chin National Day Festival

The Chin Festival was the first Chin event to be held outdoors in Maroondah, attracting around 4000 members of the community in a celebration of the 74th Chin National Day.

The Chin people all over the world celebrate this auspicious day in their own way. Cultural troupes from various tribes were brought together on this special occasion to promote understanding, sense of identity and unity.

Held at Croydon Main Street on 20 February 2022, the festival provided the opportunity for all cultures to witness and have a better understanding of Chin culture.

The event was greatly received by many people from different cultures, with many keen to learn more.

Award winners Jackson Smith, Alyssa Solidaga, Kham Liam, on behalf of the Chin National Day Festival, and Dennis Johnston.

Previous award winners

2022 award winners

On Wednesday 26 January, 2022 Councillor Mike Symon, Mayor of Maroondah, announced the recipients of the 2022 Australia Day awards.

Citizen of the Year - Terri Verberne

Terri Verberne was recognised as the 2022 Citizen of the Year for her incredible service and leadership in the community.

Terri has contributed 20 plus years of service to Scouts Victoria, including five years as Maroondah District Commissioner. She is a mentor to over 20 adults and is currently a Group Leader.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, Terri showed impeccable leadership, resilience, care and initiative. From continuing to champion the 600 youth and 130 adults through Zoom meetings, to working on multiple hall upgrades for our young people, Terri epitomises what it means to be a dedicated volunteer. 

Young Citizen of the Year - Lily Van Sui Cer Kingbawl

Lily Van Sui Cer Kingbawl was awarded Young Citizen of the Year for her passion and commitment to supporting the broader Maroondah community.

Lily is an active member in Council’s Youth Services programs and is involved in Eastern Access Community Health’s campaigns to raise awareness of safety over the continued effects of the pandemic.

Lily is strongly connected to her Chin (Myanmar) culture and is a Chin Cultural Liaison, supporting many young Chin students and their families. Lily is also an active member of the Chin Family Strengths and Project Advisory Group with Foundation House. She has recently become the Assistant Secretary of the Youth Department in the Australia Chin Community - Eastern Melbourne Inc.

Lily also volunteers her time at the Victoria Chin Baptist Church, teaching Sunday school to children.

Community Event of the Year - The Ringwood Eisteddfod

The Ringwood Eisteddfod was one of the very few community competition events able to take place in 2021. With a large span of awards in performing arts as well as music, the Eisteddfod provided the opportunity for over 700 community members to participate.

Not just an event for young aspiring musicians—the Ringwood Eisteddfod offers awards which are open to any age, encouraging an inclusive opportunity to compete in skill level, not just age.

As lockdown hit in June, rather than cancel, the Eisteddfod committee worked around the clock to quickly modify performance schedules to be COVID-19 safe and fit with the rapidly changing regulations. All the sections of the event were delivered “in-person”; a rare and epic effort in this current climate.

2021 awards winners

Citizen of the Year - Anupa Shah

Lachlan is an outstanding young person who gives 100 per cent to every opportunity he is given. Lachlan was one of the Heathmont College school captains for 2020 before he finished his VCE.

Lachlan is a current member of the Maroondah Youth Wellbeing Advocates program which provides two-way engagement between Council and young people. Lachlan has shown maturity in providing feedback on important Council documents and is always willing to share his opinion in a respectful manner. Lachlan also created a wellbeing project at school as part of the Maroondah Student Wellbeing Action Teams project.

Lachlan MC'd the 2020 Maroondah Youth Awards, has been involved in multiple video projects with Council, and is following his passion for working with people by studying a Bachelor of Youth Work in 2021.

Community Event of the Year - Glen Park and Eastland Food Relief Collection Services 

Glen Park Community Centre offers a food relief frozen meal distribution service for those doing it tough. However, the COVID-19 restrictions during 2020 have impacted the service, in particular the travel restrictions imposed under Stage 4 limited the ability to move around freely and safely.

Glen Park Community Centre pivoted its Order and Collect service to provide food relief meal distribution, to help keep those in need fed during the challenging time for Victorians.

The Centre partnered with Eastland and launched the Eastland Order & Collect service in May, allowing customers to place an order directly over the phone at any participating Eastland retailer and collect on the same day from the convenience and safety of their car through the Eastland Valet area. A no contact option was implemented for those travelling by public transport via a separate collection point in the Valet area. This was a first for both Eastland and Glen Park Community Centre.

This partnership has allowed Glen Park to be able to connect with people in need who may not have known about or had access to Glen Park Community Centre previously, enabling more members of the community who may be struggling to gain support and easier access given Eastland’s proximity to public transport.

Since the service launched almost 350 meals have been distributed to Maroondah residents in need and will continue to support the Maroondah community post this pandemic.

All award winners - 2009 to 2022

Year Community Event of the Year Young Citizen of the Year Citizen of the Year
2022 Ringwood Eisteddfod Lily Van Sui Cer Kingbawl Terri Verberne
2021 Glen Park Community Centre & Eastland Lachlan Kennedy Anupa Shah
2020 Winter Shelter Ben Voogd Averil Embury
2019 Ringwood & District Historical Society Prateeti Sabhlok Ian Barnes
2018 Ringwood Secondary College Georgia Read Dr Graeme Lorimer
2017 Ringwood East Bendigo Community Bank Hau Za Cin Kip Gen Jill Cowie
2016 Maroondah Schools Anzac Service Ashley Cooke Ian Ware
2015 Croydon Toy Library Emily Roberts Gretta Fuller
2014 Women’s Health East Stacey Cadman Anne Hubbard
2013 Maroondah Relay for Life Esther Loughnane Peter Feeney
2012 Maroondah Community Remembrance Day Ceremony - Youth Voice for Peace Frances Rowlands Peter McArthur
2011 Maroondah Education Coalition, Aquinas College & Audio District Maroondah FReeZA Group Beth Purcell Terri Verberne
2010 Ringwood Football Club James Andrews Tony Hart
2009 Monkami Centre Michael Higgins Jenny Newman