Community spirit shines at annual awards ceremony

Riverina Police Superintendent Bob Noble, Tumbarumba Citizen of the Year and Senior Constable Mick Jones, and Senior Constable Peter Thomson.

The Tumbarumba community showed up in large numbers for an Australia Day celebration at the Creekscape on Tuesday morning.

Tumbarumba held its own Australia Day event this year, with its own crop of nominees and winners. It was organised by the Tumbarumba Rotary and Lions Clubs, with support from the Snowy Valleys Council.

Broader Snowy Valleys awards were handed out in Tumut earlier in the day.

The Tumba event kicked off with an address from Councillors Julia Ham and Bruce Wright, who both acted as MCs of the event. A Welcome to Country was then performed by Uncle John Casey (Ganj Jargiar Goodjagen) and Aunty Lorna Casey (Gudang Mirree). 

The National Anthem and iconic song ‘Home Among the Gum Trees’ was sung by Jessica Griffiths, supported by Noelene Haslett and a Choir.

Riverina Police Superintendent Bob Noble acted as the Australia Day Ambassador for Tumbarumba, giving a talk about the ongoing discussions surrounding Australia Day and what the occasion means to him.

“For me what it means to be Australian, in overwhelming part, is to enjoy rights and freedoms which citizens of many other countries would not dare to dream,” he said.

Superintendent Noble reflected on the last 12 months and the array of Covid restrictions that were put in place, something he said he never imagined having to enforce in his career.

“The bright point among all this is … is that while the above mentioned and other measures were drastic and perhaps never anticipated, what I also could not have anticipated was the way the community not only accepted the stringent enforcement of these measure by the police, but they wanted it and they trusted us to undertake this task,” he added.

Superintendent Noble said that during the bushfire crisis last summer, he saw “first hand” in Tumbarumba how much the community trusts local leaders, such as the police force and RFS. 

Following his speech, nominees for the Tumbarumba Citizen of the Year Award were called to the front, each given a certificate and recognised for their individual contributions before a winner was announced.

The nominees for Tumbarumba Citizen of the Year.

This year, the honour went to Senior Constable Michael Jones, who was recognised as a “local hero” for his role in leading the community meetings and guiding Tumbarumba residents throughout the dreadful days of the bushfires and the following days, weeks and months until recovery began.

Senior Constable Jones has been a police officer for over 20 years, first coming to Tumbarumba in 2015. He was recognised as being a vital part of the community, both in his role with the police and outside of this, with his wife Sharon and three daughters now considering Tumbarumba their home.

“I’m blown away by this,” Senior Constable Jones said, accepting the award. “We don’t join the cops for awards or acknowledgement of anything.”

“The day we drove in here, Sharon fell in love with the place and so did the kids, and it’s just felt like home since day one.”

Brandon Shore was this year’s Tumbarumba Young Citizen of the Year.

Next to be awarded was Young Citizen of the Year, which went to Brandon Shore, recognised for his strong leadership qualities and maturity that extends well beyond his years.

Mr Shore is the Secretary of the Tumbarumba Rotary Interact Group, and a member of Cycle Tumbarumba, and was recognised for his “outstanding” work in both roles. 

Senior Citizen of the Year went to Ron Beehag for his tireless work during the 2019-20 bushfires.

Mr Beehag, as a volunteer firefighter with the RFS, lost a large part of his property and still hopped on a truck and visited others in the area to ensure their safety and wellbeing. He is also an important part of St Jude’s Anglican church, having been active and involved for many years. 

“His dedication to his community is obvious in all his actions,” said Cr Julia Ham, announcing the award, presented by Superintendent Noble.

Ron Beehag was this year’s Tumbarumba Senior Citizen of the Year.

Other nominees for Tumba Citizen of the Year were Joanne Scobie for her work with BlazeAid; Alan French for his leadership as Captain of the Tumba RFS Brigade; Christine Cameron for her tireless work during the fires; Ian Pratt for his endurance during the bushfires; Owen and Cathy Fitzgerald for their efforts in getting the Rail Trail up and running; Father Brancik for his tireless work during the bushfires; Jacinta Bradley for her work in the agricultural industry and her work with dogs; Peter Thomson for his work during the bushfires; and John Symons for checking on others during the bushfires.

Next to be recognised were the various community groups across the Tumbarumba Region, with The Tumbarumba to Rosewood rail trail committee selected as this year’s winner.

The trail was officially opened in April last year after years of hard work, negotiations, submissions and reports, led by Owen Fitzgerald.

“The fact that this is the first Rail Trail in NSW is a remarkable achievement and reflects the efforts and numerous frustrations experienced by this group,” Cr Ham said. 

“The result of their predictions, work efforts and site promotion can be seen by all. 

“It will be the benchmark for any future rail trail development.”

The Tumbarumba to Rosewood Rail Trail Committee was awarded Community Group of the Year.

Winner of the Best Event category went to the Tumbarumba Garden Club’s open garden weekend and Spring Flower Show, which went ahead despite the challenges of Covid-19.

“The weekend was a terrific success with over $11,000 being raised which has all been distributed into community groups chosen by the people who own the showcased garden,” Cr Ham said. 

“The weekend attracted many visitors to town injecting money into the local community and bringing new people into our lovely area.”

Other nominees in the community group and event category were Danny Brennan and Team; Nigel Grant Contracting; the NSW RFS Tumbarumba Brigade; Save Tumbarumba Shire; and the Rotary Club of Tumbarumba.

The winner and sole nominee for the best sporting event went to the Tumbarumba A Grade netball team. 

Led by Bridget Rhynehart, the team kept their drive and focus throughout the Covid lockdown and bushfire recovery to prevail and win the Wagga B Grade Netball Premiership.

“Throughout the season, obstacles were encountered by the team which tested their commitment and tenacity. The team overcame these issues and gave the community something positive to focus on and celebrate,” Cr Ham said.

Following the Tumbarumba awards, Snowy Valleys region awards were handed out.

Snowy Valleys Region Youth Citizens of the Year Aaron Tuilau, Edward Smith and Arthur Smith.

Recognised as the Snowy Valleys Region Youth Citizens of the Year was Aaron Tuilau, Edward Smith and Arthur Smith who heroically saved a drowning man at the Tumbarumba Swimming Pool in December 2019.

“To save a person’s life is quite outstanding, so congratulations,” Cr Ham said to the boys, who each received a number of certificates and a medal.

The boys were in shock to receive the award, not expecting it at all and not even knowing they had been nominated. Derek Smith, Edward (Tim) and Arthur’s Dad, said it was a very proud moment for their family.

Rudy Kopecny and Nigel Grant Contracting were also recognised, each winning a Service to the Community Achievement Award.

The event closed with a song from Jessica Griffiths and a barbecue cooked by the Tumbarumba Lions and Rotary Clubs. Community members enjoyed the beautiful weather in the Creekscape, sharing lunch together and catching up with neighbours and friends.