Latrobe City announce award winners

Proud: The 2023 Latrobe City Citizen of the Year, Nicholas King, speaks to the crowd on his journey.



CITIZENS, events and services in Latrobe Valley community were recognised at the 2023 Latrobe City Australia Day Awards ceremony last week.

The ceremony in the Gippsland Performing Arts Centre in Traralgon began at about 1:30pm, with five different awards were to be announced: the Community Service of the Year, Community Event of the Year, Young Citizen of the Year, Senior Citizen of the Year and Citizen of the Year.

First, Latrobe City Mayor, Cr Kellie O’Callaghan, announced a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) recipient, who was unfortunately unable to be there on the day – Maree McPherson.

Ms McPherson has contributed to many community organisations and committees within the community, not only in Latrobe City, but also throughout Gippsland.

“We offer our congratulations to Maree (McPherson) for her OAM in recognition of services to community organisations,” Mayor O’Callaghan said.

The first of five awards to be presented was the 2023 Community Service of the Year, which had seven nominees.

The eventual winner was the Country Women’s Association Latrobe Central Group for their Family Violence Refuge Starter Kits Program.

The CWA Latrobe Central Group began fundraising, collecting more than $15,000 worth of items, gift cards and cash, which allowed them to establish the program.

This money was able to provide basic household items for kitchens, bathroom and laundries for 26 families, as well as continue to hold the capacity to help 100 more families.

“This is an absolute honour and I’m really happy to be accepting this award on behalf of all the branches of the Latrobe Central CWA Group,” said CWA member, Sam Soutar.

“We thought about how we could do something for the community…we saw this idea – it came from Facebook.”

CWA Latrobe Central Group was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but continued to power through the struggle that everyone in the community were facing.

“The local community overwhelmed us…the public just went crazy and we got way more stuff than we thought,” Ms Soutar said.

“We had to get extra storage, we had to hire a truck to take the stuff from Kmart, none of that was in our planning.

“On behalf of the branches of the Latrobe Central CWA, thank-you for this honour, we are very privileged to receive this.”

Next up was the 2023 Community Event of the Year, which was awarded to Club Astoria Morwell German Club’s 20th Oktoberfest, among three nominees.

The 20th Oktoberfest was organised over 10 months and supported by 50 volunteers from the committee and the club.

Club Astoria Morwell also celebrated its 65th birthday in 2022.

“For those that may not know, the Morwell German Club was established in 1957 and will celebrate its 66th birthday this year,” Morwell German Club president, Giselle Scorse, said.

“We have around 150 members ranged between the ages of 20 to 94 years old.

“Last October marked the significant achievement at the 20th Oktoberfest in Morwell, which was extremely well-attended by the community and enjoyed by all.”

The final three awards of the afternoon were individual honours, the first being 2023 Latrobe City Young Citizen of the Year.

The recipient for this award was William Morgan, for his contributions to the Kickback Program.

The Kickback Program is a group for young Aboriginal people who are at risk of offending, and is used to promote social relationships with the Victoria Police, Youth Justice and other organisations.

Mr Morgan has shown outstanding leadership and drive to embed cultural knowledge into more young people who participate in the program, in an attempt to give them the confidence to be a part of the community,

“Being a young person in the community, I’ve been able to help the other Indigenous youth in the community, that are like me,” Mr Morgan said.

“I want to try an get involved in being a better person in the community.

“I thought I’d be stuck down the wrong path, but with a helping hand and opening my eyes towards a brighter future, I got the opportunity to do something I love – working in the community.”

The penultimate award was the 2023 Latrobe City Senior Citizen of the Year, which had three nominees.

Presented with the award of the 2023 Latrobe City Senior Citizen of the Year was Peter Keenan, the captain of the Morwell Fire Brigade.

Mr Keenan has spent 47 years with the CFA, ensuring fire safety and preparedness is up to standard.

“I’ve been in Morwell all my life – 72 years,” Mr Keenan said.

“My parents taught me that community needs volunteers, we all need to get out there and help one another.

“I have been a member of the CFA for 47 years, and being the captain of the brigade is a great honour.

“We didn’t have a captain for 63 years because the CFA ran us (Morwell Fire Brigade).”

Mr Keenan was voted to become the first captain of the Morwell Fire Brigade around 18 months ago.

It all came down to the 2023 Latrobe City Citizen of the Year, which was a two-horse race.

When the time came, it was Nicholas King who was announced as the 2023 Latrobe City Citizen of the Year.

Mr King has dedicated his career and countless volunteer hours to his community as an educator of at-risk youth.

He was the major driver behind the construction of the Haunted Hills Mountain Bike Park, recognising a need for kids to be social, active and safe in the community.

“It’s so fantastic to be here and congratulations to all of the nominees and award recipients today,” Mr King said.

“It’s a fantastic effort to see so much volunteerism in our community and I encourage everyone in the room to support your local organisations and get behind your community organisations in Latrobe City.”

Mr King expressed his love for mountain biking, which began from a very young age.

“I used to ride my bike to primary school …sometimes I would beat the bus to Traralgon High School, even though I lived in Glengarry,” he said.

“We formed the Gippsland Mountain Bike Club in 2008, we currently have 155 members from our community.

“In our organisation, we’ve had hundreds of members come through and we’ve had lots of different events.”

Mr King thanked all of the people that helped him get to this position including friends, mentors, family and councillors.

“If you haven’t been out there to check it out, please go out for a ride or walk, I encourage you to do that,” Mr King said.

The Haunted Hills Mountain Bike Park is open from 6am to 9pm everyday, and is suitable for most bikes, or even for walking and being active.

Congratulations to all award recipients and nominees for their tremendous contributions to the community.

Long-standing: Morwell Fire Brigade captain, Peter Keenan, was awarded the 2023 Latrobe City Senior Citizen of the Year.
Young leader: William Morgan (second from left) presented with the 2023 Latrobe City Young Citizen of the Year Award.
Put on a show: Member for Morwell, Martin Cameron, Latrobe City Mayor, Kellie O’Callaghan (third from left), and Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Renee Heath (right), award Giselle Scorse from Club Astoria upon winning the 2023 Community Event of the Year.
Outstanding: Latrobe City Deputy Mayor, Dan Clancy and Latrobe City Mayor, Kellie O’Callaghan, award Sam Soutar from the Country Women’s Association Latrobe Central Group with the 2023 Community Service of the Year. photographs tom hayes