Blue Mountains: Australia Day

March 03, 2020

The Blue Mountains has recognised the achievements of its citizens at its annual Australia Day event. I was very pleased to be joined by the Leader of the Opposition for that day as we took time to reflect on our local heroes and their achievements. One was Winmalee High teacher Madeleine Sheehy, who was celebrated for her dedication as a drama teacher—a position she has been in for more than 20 years; she won't like me saying that! In her time, she's fostered a love of performing arts in so many students both in Winmalee High and the local primary schools. My son is one of those whose love of drama was fostered under her steady gaze and encouragement. One of her most ambitious projects followed the 2013 bushfires. It was a verbatim piece which took real words from real people and turned them into a play. She devised with her students straw hats, thongs and toothbrushes, which, for those of us from the Winmalee area, very much summed up some of the things that happened during those fires. Students interviewed many people involved in the bushfires and created a fantastic dramatic stage production. We're all thrilled to see Madeleine reluctantly be on stage herself without a character to get her award.

We have many worthy senior citizens in the mountains. John Wakefield was awarded Senior Citizen of the Year for his work with the Rotary Club of the lower Blue Mountains. A former police officer and a Rotarian of many, many years, including as a former district governor, John has continuously advocated for child protection policy both in Australia and abroad and has made an extraordinary contribution not just to our community but more widely. Coralie Richmond was also awarded a senior citizen award, for her work as a dedicated teacher and advocate, along with Greg Chidgey, who walked—wait for it—2,654 kilometres from the Blue Mountains to Cairns and raised $26,000 for multiple sclerosis. He did this on his own, pulling his belongings in a little trailer behind him when the car that was going to support him dropped out at the last minute. The photos of him doing this with injuries, which of course happen to anyone walking that sort of distance, show an extraordinary feat. The money that he's raised for multiple sclerosis will be very much appreciated.

The Blue Mountains Environmental Citizen of the Year award went to Margaret Baker for her work in documenting and preserving our precious Blue Mountains ecosystem, which is under really serious threat as a result of the fires. The Community Achievement of the Year award was given to the whole of the emergency services in the Blue Mountains to recognise their tireless work during the fires. And it was a treat to see the entire Springwood District Basketball Association under-16 women's representative team celebrated as the young citizens of the year. Congratulations to all of those who received awards and thank you to every one of you for the daily commitment you make to the Blue Mountains.