The annual Yass Australia Day Award breakfast saw several well-deserving members of the community recognised for their contributions to the town and its people.

Yass Valley Mayor Allan McGrath said we are so fortunate that so many wonderful individuals have chosen to call Yass Valley home and make the region a better place to live by tirelessly giving their time.

“There’s a saying that no one has ever become poor by giving,” he said. “So, I can only assume that our 2022 Australia Day Award recipients have lived very rich lives, and it’s been wonderful to recognise them at our annual Australia Day breakfast, particularly after another challenging year.”

Federal Member for Eden Monaro Kristy McBain was in attendance and shared some words on this year’s Australia Day theme – Reflect, Respect and Celebrate.

“The theme of this year’s Australia Day I think is important for us all to think about,” she said. “Australia Day really is a time for us to reflect on where we’ve come from, and where we should be going as a nation.”

Australia Day Ambassador Bob Turner, Federal Member for Eden Monaro Kristy McBain and Mayor Allan McGrath (Photo: Richard Glover)

“Reflect that we are part of the longest continuous culture across the world, in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

“Congratulations to all of the award winners today because they are what makes our communities really special and each one has a unique story and what their contribution has been to this area.”

Our Australia Day Ambassador this year was Bob Turner of Canberra Cannons fame. This is Bob’s 26th year as an Australia Day ambassador for the New South Wales Government.

Bob is best known for guiding the Canberra Cannons and the Newcastle Falcons to multiple successes, resurrecting the famous Sydney Kings and introducing the Singapore Slingers to the National Basketball League.

Still to this day, he is among only a handful of coaches to have ever won more than one championship guiding Canberra Cannons to back-to-back titles in 1983 and 1984.

Bob spoke about the Australian colloquialism of ‘Having a go’ and how it resonated with him throughout his basketball career and life upon moving to Australia nearly 50 years ago from the United States.

“’Have a go’ – What a great line. What does that mean?” he asked the crowd. “I always love a challenge that’s kind of in my nature but ‘have a go’ has really resonated with me as an Australian ism.”

“But it also suits me for what I believe Australia’s all about,” he said.

Mayor Allan McGrath appeared to share the sentiment and said these awards are all about people that are prepared to have a go and go that little bit extra.

The Individual Community Service Award selection panel had some difficulty in reaching a conclusion in their selection and Allan said it’s probably the first time that the Individual Community Service Award has gone to two people.

Tom and Jack O’Dea were both recognised with an Individual Community Service Award for their special efforts to look after the Yass environment.

Deputy Mayor Jasmin Jones, Tom O’Dea, Jack O’Dea and Bob Turner (Photo: Richard Glover)

The father and son have spent many hours clearing rubbish around the town and maintaining Hatton’s Corner Nature Reserve. Their community spirit and civic-minded approach haven’t gone unnoticed by the Yass community, especially Jack, who is only six year’s old!

The not-for-profit, Remount, was awarded Community Group of the Year for its unwavering commitment to helping veterans experiencing stress or anxiety related to their service. Founders Marina and Ben Maguire ran the charity out of pocket, from their cattle farm in Bowning, for the first two years.

(Photo: Richard Glover)

Still to this day, they donate their time, farm and horses so no one pays to come to Remount and no one is paid to deliver Remount. Since 2016, Remount has helped more than 300 veterans, first responders and their families through equine therapy.

Volunteers give their time alongside their full-time employment and run the programs mostly on weekends. This is a truly special group of people who give so much to Yass Valley and our veterans.

Remount volunteer Marina Maguire accepted the award on behalf of the group.

(Photo: Richard Glover)

“Why we do Remount is to say thank you, to those who serve our country and have sacrificed so much,” Marina said. “It’s only right that we give back.”

“We should all be so proud of this community effort and the volunteers we should all be so proud.”

William ‘Billy’ Beck was awarded Young Citizen of the Year for his dedication to mentoring young people in rugby, touch football and basketball in Yass Valley.

While completing his Certificate III in Arboriculture and his Arborist Diploma, as well as playing rugby league and touch football, Billy remained committed to assisting local junior sporting teams.

Billy has volunteered his time to coach, train and coordinate junior players in the Yass Minor Rugby League, Yass Touch Football and Yass Basketball on weeknights and weekends, during summer and winter.

Deputy Mayor Jasmin Jones, Mayor Allan McGrath, Billy Beck and Bob Turner (Photo: Richard Glover)

To do this, Billy also completed the NRL Junior Coach and League Safe courses. Billy is an excellent role model to all and demonstrates the importance of giving back.

Deputy Mayor Jasmin Jones said this year there was only one nomination for Senior Citizen of the Year and she couldn’t think of a better person to receive the award.

Senior Citizen of the Year was awarded to Gwen Warmington, who has helped the Yass community in so many ways.

Since moving to Yass in 1952, Gwen’s contributions have spanned local government, active community service, fundraising and social activities.

Mayor Allan McGrath, Gwen Warmington and Bob Turner (Photo: Richard Glover)

Her most significant contributions have included establishing an aged care service under Gwen Warmington Lodge and assisting young people via the Andalini Special Education Unit.

Gwen has also been involved with the Yass Municipal Council, Southern Tablelands County Council, South Eastern Regional Council, Yass Memorial Swimming Pool, Yass Repertory, Yass Ball, Yass Community Aid, Yass Woollenwealth Festival, Yass Home Help Service, Can Assist, Yass Music Club, Yass Pre-School, Yass Public School, President of Yass Probus Club and Yass Quota Club. Even now, Gwen can still be seen on the main street selling raffle tickets to raise funds for Yass Valley Aged Care services.

In light of Bob’s passionate speech Gwen said simply “give it a go”.

“When I’ve always felt something needed to be done or I could help, I’ve always given it a go,” she said.

Barry O’Mara was named Citizen of the Year for his tireless dedication to the Yass Valley community. Always putting those in need first, Barry has helped raise thousands of dollars for local people facing serious medical conditions.

He was an active member of Yass Valley Can Assist, which helps locals access vital cancer treatment, for many years before playing an instrumental role in establishing the Yass Valley SPIN (Supporting People in Need) Foundation.

Barry’s vision was to help people facing a wide range of medical conditions. Outside of his charity work, Barry has been heavily involved with local sporting and social groups and the Rural Fire Service.

Deputy Mayor Jasmin Jones, Mayor Allan McGrath, Barry O’Mara and Bob Turner (Photo: Richard Glover)

Most recently, Barry helped organise a special Christmas light display at Yass Showground to cheer up the community after a long year with COVID-19

In his humble acceptance speech Barry thanked his family for standing beside him throughout 40 years of working in the community.

“I cannot accept this award as an individual,” he said. “I’m lucky to be a member of a very dedicated team of peers, called the Yass Valley Spin Foundation.”

Barry said it’s not often that you get an opportunity to start a foundation from scratch anywhere let alone in a small town like Yass.

But when founding members Donna Luff, Yvonne O’Mara and Barry floated the idea of a foundation that could help people in need, the community rallied behind them and 20 members joined SPIN within a week forming the foundation as it stands today.

“Without the support of the community, the foundation doesn’t operate,” Barry said. “We look forward to working with the community going forward with more events to bring our community together.”

By Brianna O’Rourke