Remarkable residents have been announced as winners of the Campbelltown City Australia Day Awards at a ceremony held today at Ingleburn.
This year, awards were given for four categories, including the 2019 Citizen of the Year award which went to founder of Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown, Ricardo Lonza.
The 2019 Young Citizen of the Year award was presented to Angelina Arora, considered to be an environmental scientist and innovator at the age of 16 years.
Sportsperson of the Year was awarded to young athlete, Damita Betham, 12, and the Dharawal Men’s Aboriginal Corporation took out the honours for Community Group Initiative of the Year.
“It is an honour to award such caring, thoughtful and innovative people with the awards and recognise the meaningful contribution that they make to our community,” said Mayor George Brticevic.
“Their devotion to improving and sustaining the natural environment and finding effective solutions to environmental issues is inspirational to us all,” Cr Brticevic said.
“I would like to congratulate everyone nominated for the awards for leading by example and generously devoting their time and energies to supporting local causes and charities in our community,” he said.
The ceremony included an address by Australia Day Ambassador – athlete, global adventurer and accessibility advocate Nicholas Gleeson, a citizenship ceremony, the cutting of the Australia Day cake and a damper morning tea supplied by Ingleburn Country Women’s Association.
2019 Australia Day Ambassador Nicholas Gleeson.
Mayor George Brticevic, 2019 Citizen of the Year Ricardo Lonza and Australia Day Ambassador Nicholas Gleeson.
About Campbelltown City’s 2019 Australia Day Award winners:
Ricardo Lonza – Citizen of the Year
Ricardo Lonza, of Ruse, is a wildlife rescuer and a strong advocate for the protection of wildlife, especially Campbelltown’s koalas. Mr Lonza is the founder of Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown, a volunteer group which offers a 24-hour support and rescue service for sick and injured wildlife which are found or reported in the community. Mr Lonza patrols known koala areas where the marsupials attempt to cross roads and sadly many are hit by cars. He also raises awareness about koalas which have been killed while crossing the roads and highlights these deaths to advocate for more action to help and protect the koalas and to encourage motorists to drive carefully in areas where koalas are known to visit.
As a result of his efforts to highlight the importance of protecting Campbelltown’s koala population, the NSW Labor Party has made an election promise to establish Sydney’s first koala national park on a 4000ha site at Smiths Creek Reserve, stretching from the Georges River bushland at Glenfield to Appin, if it wins the March 2019 election. The promise will see the home of Campbelltown’s koala population declared a national park and ensure its protection.
Young Citizen of the Year Angelina Arora.
Angelina Arora – Young Citizen of the Year
Angelina Arora, 16, of Glen Alpine, has invented a toxic-free and biodegradable plastic. The plastic is made completely out of waste, from discarded prawn shells and silk cocoons that are thrown out, and decomposes 1.5 million times faster than conventional plastics, completely breaking down in 33 days on average.
The Sydney Girls High School student started her science project because of her concern about plastic pollution and her desire to improve an environmental issue and to make the world a better place.
Some of the other research Angelina has done includes examining more than 80 samples of different species of fish for micro plastics which could potentially be entering our food chain, causing endocrine disorders in humans.
Angelina also came first at the national BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Awards with the Innovator to Market prize. This allowed her to attend the “Olympics fo science”, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, in America. There, she became the first Australian to come fourth in the world for environmental engineering as well as win a comprehensive scholarship to Arizona State University.
Angelina is also a volunteer with Young Scientists of Australia to inspire and encourage other young people, especially women; is a leader in her school’s social justice and sustainability groups and is involved with Rotary clubs. Angelina is currently working with NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes, Opposition spokesman for education Jihad Dib and the NSW Education Standards Authority to encourage school students to show leadership in the community. She is also involved in exploring ways to implement more resources into STEM subjects and introduce much more science in primary schools.
Sportsperson of the Year Damita Betham.
Damita Betham – Sportsperson of the Year
Damita Betham, 12, of Rosemeadow, broke two state records in the 200m and 400m at the 2018 2XU NSW All Schools Track and Field Championships in September. Her new record in the 400m is 58.20s and in the 200m, it’s 25.30s. The previous record holder in the 200m was Rosemary Hayward who set the record 25 years ago (time of 25.80s) and who went on to represent Australia at the Commonwealth Games.
Leading up to the championships, Damita, who attends Ambarvale High School, also won two gold, one silver and two bronze medals at the NSW Combined High Schools Athletics Championships.
Damita has competed for Campbelltown Collegians Athletics Club since 2014.
She also won three gold medals competing for NSW Little Athletics in Auckland, New Zealand, at the Trans-Tasman Challenge in January 2018.
Damita is currently training for major competitions in 2019, including the NSW and Australian Junior Championships, the Little Athletics State Multi and the Little Athletics State Championships.
Mayor George Brticevic, members of the Dharawal Men's Aboriginal Corporation and Australia Day Ambassador Nicholas Gleeson.
Dharawal Men’s Aboriginal Corporation – Community Group Initiative of the Year
Dharawal Men’s Aboriginal Corporation is based in Airds and works with schools to develop and build Aboriginal Yarning Circles. These projects support children and young people from all cultural backgrounds to learn about the Aboriginal culture through the making and use of the yarning circles. The men volunteer their time to create the circles.
The men’s group also supports Aboriginal men and boys of all ages who may be experiencing difficulty in their lives and encourages them to “stay on the right path’’. The group operates with little or no funding and is committed to growing and achieving positive outcomes for Aboriginal people.
The men’s group shows strong leadership in the community and members are quiet achievers who often go unrecognised for their contribution to the wider community. The group also supports a number of community events, not just Aboriginal community events, and often runs barbecues and tea and coffee stations at events.