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Awards presented to community heroes

Awards presented to community heroes

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

A CFA volunteer and netball umpire, retired GP, 14-year-old cultural ambassador, volunteer bus driver and 11 year-old cigarette butt litter campaigner have all received awards for helping to make the City of Whittlesea an even better place to live and work.

The 2022 City of Whittlesea Community Awards recipients were announced at the Community Festival on Sunday 19 March.

Deborah Azzopardi was named Citizen of the Year, Mark Beeby received the Senior Citizen of the Year Award, Young Citizen of the Year was presented to Hanskiaa Sharma, Steven Kim Huat Lim received the Access and Inclusion Citizen of the Year award and Tanya Sharma was presented with the Sustainable Environment Citizen of the Year.

Administrator Peita Duncan said there were 27 nominations across all five categories.

“We were delighted to receive nominations for so many very worthy people who are doing wonderful things in our community,” she said.

Ms Duncan thanked the City of Whittlesea Community Awards Committee for their work in reviewing nominations and selecting the winners.

“As a committee we were so impressed by calibre of the nominations which really highlight the strong community spirit here in the City of Whittlesea – it really is quite heart-warming, and especially wonderful to see so many young people stepping up to make a difference so early in their lives,” she said.

“My congratulations to our award recipients and to all those nominated, and on behalf of the community – thank you for helping to make the City of Whittlesea a better place for everyone.”

2023 Community Award recipients

Citizen of the Year: Deborah Azzopardi

Deborah has been an Epping CFA member for over 20 years, having attended thousands of call outs to provide support to fire, road rescue and much more. Deborah has received medals for her contribution to the 2009 bushfires, a National Service Award and been named fire fighter of the year. She actively supports and trains other CFA members for the Epping CFA, and is also a peer support officer, providing support and counselling to CFA members. Deborah not only supports our local community, but also travels interstate to support other communities in crisis when needed. In addition to her duties with the Epping CFA, Deborah is a first aid trainer and also a committed L2P volunteer, supervising young learner drivers while they gain their required 120 hours of driving experience. Deborah is also a regular on the local netball scene, where she has umpired for more than 20 years – if you’ve ever played netball in the northern suburbs, you have probably had Deborah as your umpire at some stage.

Senior Citizen of the Year: Mark Beeby

Mark worked as a local GP in the City of Whittlesea for 41 years before his retirement in November 2022. His commitment to ensuring the community was taken care of was paramount during his career. Mark’s work spanned palliative care for people in their homes, caring for multiple generations of the same family, continued care for people once they moved into aged care and training the next generation of doctors and ensuring everyone was treated with respect and care.  

Young Citizen of the Year: Hansikaa Sharma

Hansikaa is 14 years old and is the young ambassador of Sanskriti community group, helping with the running of the not-for-profit organisation which supports women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Hansikaa also initiated a number of community support projects, including leading and working with classmates to make over 100 handmade Christmas cards which she personally delivered to each of the 102 residents at the Meadowglen Care Community, as well as making over 100 packs of toothpaste and toothbrushes that were donated to local charity Big Group Hug. Hansikaa also volunteers her time as a literacy and numeracy tutor through Whittlesea Community Connections, volunteered during Homelessness Week, is on the Whittlesea Youth Advisory Committee, Whittlesea Youth Environment Action Group and Australian Youth Climate Coalition. 

Access and Inclusion Citizen of the Year: Steven Kim Huat Lim

Steven has volunteered with Whittlesea Community Connections for over three years as a volunteer bus driver, driving three days a week, from 8am-4pm. Steven provides this important service to vulnerable members of our community, driving them to medical appointments, shopping, or to social groups. Steven was also a valuable member of the Whittlesea Community Connections team during the COVID lockdowns, volunteering three times a week in the organisation’s Emergency Relief response, that included providing transport for older residents for crucial medical appointments or delivering meal packages or material aid. Steven is also very active in his local community, helping neighbours and fostering connections to prevent isolation of those living alone. He is a member of the Whittlesea Neighbourhood Watch and a foster carer and volunteer with the Second Chance Animal Rescue and Hospital. 

Sustainable Citizen of the Year: Tanya Sharma

Tanya is 11 years old and initiated an education campaign on the dangers of cigarette butt litter. This included getting 237 signatures from locals in support of getting cigarette butt bins installed around local schools, parks and shopping centres. Tanya’s petition was tabled at the Council Meeting in September 2022 and bins are now being installed at locations including PRACC, Mernda shops and at TRAC in Thomastown. Tanya is also an active and passionate member of the Youth Environment Action Group and has been involved in a number of other environmental activities, including World Environment Day, tree planting and the “Balloons No More” campaign.