More accustomed to giving than receiving, Ed Ahern of Byron Bay received one of the greatest accolades of his life when he received the Byron Shire Citizen of the Year Award at the Australia Day celebrations last Wednesday.
A philanthropic businessman, Mr Ahern who has lived in Byron Bay for 30 years, said he was humbled, but proud to receive the award.
“This award is not just for me but for those who care about their town, the people and the community,” he said.
Byron Shire councillor Ross Tucker, who conducted the official Australia Day ceremony (Mayor Cr Jan Barham was absent), said Mr Ahern had inspired others in the community to give of their skills and time.
Cr Tucker said Mr Ahern had provided food and meals through his businesses to assist community events and charitable organisations.
“His integrity and generosity are beyond question and there are very few charitable organisations which have not been the recipient of his support.”
Some of Mr Ahern’s individual contributions to the community include the employment of a person for an entire year to clean up around Byron Bay; he is a founding member of the African Leaf Organisation which supports 17 orphaned children in Nairobi, Kenya; a $5000 donation to the Rainforest Rescue/Green and Clean team; supporting local youth through employment opportunities and board member and past president of Byron United.
Cara Maku, 17, of Mullumbimby received the Young Citizen of the Year award.
Cara is a committee member of the Brunswick Valley Historical Society; a participant in St John’s Youth parish; a member of the Byron Shire Youth Council; a performer in the Byron Bay Theatre Company; a member of the Mullumbimby High School debating team and a student on the school’s representative council.
Joan Ball and Jean Platt were both awarded the Senior Citizen of the Year award.
Mrs Ball has been involved with Red Cross since 1966 and has also worked for more than 15 years at the Anglican Opportunity Shop as well as assisting with the preparation and delivery of meals for Meals on Wheels.
She is a Lilac Lady at Mullumbimby Hospital and assists the Anglican Minister at regular church services at Coolamon Villa in Mullumbimby.
Mrs Platt has been active in community work for more than 45 years and some of the organisations she has supported include Girl Guides; Brunswick Heads Meals on Wheels; Lilac Ladies Mullumbimby Hospital; assisting the mentally and physically challenged and providing reading assistance at the Ocean Shores Primary School.
And if that is not enough, for the past three years, she has co-reared her great grandchildren.
The Senior Sports Person of the Year is Deanne Thompson who has represented Mullumbimby High School in soccer, Futsal and women’s football.
The Environmental Volunteer Project of the Year was won by the Mullumbimby Community Garden and the Homeless and Community Breakfast won the Community Event of the Year.
A long-time member of the Lions and Rotary Clubs and the Variety Club, Trevor Watts took out the Volunteer of the Year award.
In his address, Australia Day Ambassador to the Byron Shire actor Simon Westaway said Australia was an exciting place.
“We have fantastic freedom here, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and the freedom to do what we want,” he said.
“Many countries in the world do not have this.
“We are a nation that continues to be strong and safe.”
Cara Maku and Helen Brown delivered the Australia Day address and Member for Ballina Don Page also spoke.
A Welcome to Country was given by Yvonne Stewart and the National Anthem was led by the Byron Bay Scouts choir.
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