Local heroes honoured at Parramatta’s Australia Day Awards
Written by Darryn Capes-Davis on 18 January 2020
City of Parramatta Citizen of the Year Mike McSweeney speaks with Darryn Capes-Davis and Lord Mayor Clr Bob Dwyer.
The City of Parramatta has named local paramedic and volunteer Kevin McSweeney its 2020 Citizen of the Year in recognition of his decades of community service.
Born and raised in Telopea, Kevin is a full-time NSW Ambulance Inspector and is a founding director of the Michael Hughes Foundation. The Parramatta-based charity aims to increase survivability of cardiac arrest by teaching the public how to perform CPR and use defibrillators.
Having served as a first responder for 19 years, Kevin is passionate about educating the community, as well as mentoring at-risk youth.
This year’s Australia Day Local Awards were presented by City of Parramatta Lord Mayor Cr Bob Dwyer and Australia Day Ambassador, opera star and singing coach, Amelia Farrugia. The awards ceremony took place at Rosehill Gardens on Friday 17 January.
“It is an honour to celebrate and recognise the many dedicated individuals and groups who generously devote their time to provide valuable support and services to others in our community,” Cr Dwyer said.
“Each and every nominee has contributed to making our City a better place, so on behalf of the entire Parramatta community, I thank you for your hard work and commitment.
“I would also like to acknowledge and thank all the City of Parramatta emergency services, including our firefighters, volunteers and SES who have contributed to the recent fire-fighting efforts across NSW. The tireless efforts of our emergency responders is a fantastic example of the selfless dedication and sacrifice of those who serve their community.”
Other 2020 Australia Day Local Award winners include:
Lord Mayor Community Service Award – John Curdie OAM
As the President of Epping RSL sub-Branch for 20 years, John Curdie OAM is a widely respected member of the community, known for his professionalism in supporting those who have served and their families. His commitment goes above and beyond the call of duty – from organising ANZAC and Remembrance Day services to liaising with schools, maintaining memorials and more. John has also made a significant contribution to the surveying profession, both in Australia and internationally.
Lord Mayor Humanity Award – Fouad Nakhle
Fouad (Fred) Nakhle has been a City of Parramatta Community Care volunteer for almost 20 years. He is currently actively involved in three services – Meals on Wheels, Over 55s Leisure and Learning Service support, and Social Inclusion Service home visits. Fouad has a deep understanding of the needs of isolated people in our community and is always willing to lend a helping hand.
Young Leader of the Year Award – Anthony Bolton
In 2019, Anthony Bolton was an HSC student at Redeemer Baptist School with an impressive list of academic and sporting achievements. He regularly volunteers his time to benefit Indigenous communities, church renovation projects or school maintenance. Anthony’s efforts have been recognised through the Premier’s Volunteer Recognition Program and the 2018 Parramatta School Leaders Recognition Event.
Young Citizen of the Year (in honour of David Shakespeare OAM) – Daphne Fong
A Year 12 student at Our Lady of Mercy College in Parramatta, Daphne Fong is the Debating and Public Speaking Leader and works tirelessly in all she does within the College community. Outside of school, she is Chairperson of Toongabbie Rainbow Senior Guides, and has been chosen as one of the NSW UNICEF Young Ambassadors for 2019/20. In this role, Daphne consults with children across the state and meets with politicians and decision-makers to create change and build relationships.
Senior Citizen of the Year – Gwen Ilic
Gwen Ilic is President of her region’s St Vincent De Paul Society, organising fundraisers, hampers and home care assistance for members of the community. For more than 50 years, Gwen has been the primary carer of her quadriplegic husband Voy. Over the years, she has helped him through his rehabilitation and education, while having a career in aged care. Remarkably, she also found time to volunteer at her local parish.
Volunteer of the Year – Heather Sheehan
Heather Sheehan has been a passionate Bushcare volunteer for more than 30 years and leads a group of fellow community members at the Burnside Gollan Reserve, Oatlands. Through her selfless service and dedication to the environment, she hopes to make our little piece of Australia a better place to live.
Sports Achievement Award – Harrison Knight
Sixteen-year-old Harrison Knight, who attends Parramatta Marist Brothers, has been competing in karate since he was five years old. In 2019, he had a successful season in both state and national competitions, including winning a gold medal at the NSW Open Championships in the Junior U18 division. Harrison has also recently started coaching and saw his two teams bring home gold and silver in the National Championships.
Arts & Cultural Award – Avijit Sarkar
Avijit Sarkar is a musician, composer, illustrator, cartoonist, writer and philanthropist who has been contributing to the local area for 12 years. As the Director of Natraj Academy of Performing Arts in Rosehill, Avijit supports many young students, and provides free tuition to seniors. Avijit’s works have been published as books and international anthologies and, today, all proceeds earned from his creative endeavours are given away to charities.
Community Group Award – Harris Park Community Centre & Redeemer Baptist School (joint winners)
Led by Patrick Soosay, Harris Park Community Centre has become known as a safe and supportive organisation that has been a pivotal point of connection for community members and assistance services. Among other activities, the centre provides more than 12 weekly food parcels, caters for school holiday programs and serves at least 3,000 locals every year.
Under the guidance of Headmaster Russell Bailey, the students, staff and members of the Redeemer Baptist School community have supported 15 remote or disadvantaged communities, most recently volunteering their time and raising more than $30,000 in order to complete the Oasis Ministries community facility to serve Indigenous communities in Boggabilla.