Australia Day in Katherine has once again been marked with an array of awards recognising outstanding citizens and influential events from 2019.
More than a dozen finalists were honoured at the Katherine Town Council's Australia Day Awards ceremony this morning in front of a large crowd of family, friends, emergency service officers and RAAF Base Tindal personnel, including Wing Commander Tim Ferrell.
Activism, leadership and community contribution were common themes among the finalists and winners of the annual award.
Citizen of the Year
Colleen McTaggert, the organiser of Katherine's Debutante Ball, a leader and an integral part of the community was named the 2020 Citizen of the Year.
The winning announcement was the second time Mrs McTaggert was called to the stage as she was also named a finalist in the Community Event of the Year.
"Colleen is someone who has passion for Katherine, and has become an integral part of the community from the time she was a little girl," the Mayor of Katherine Fay Miller said.
Mrs McTaggert also plays key roles in the Katherine South Primary School council, Katherine Show Society, the Katherine Athletics Club and St Joseph's Catholic College.
Up against David and Angela Flood who run Muay Thai sessions for disadvantaged youth in the community and Warren Walters, Mrs McTaggert said she was "shocked" at the announcement.
"I moved to Katherine when I was 12 with my family, I grew up here and spent a bit of time away, but this is the place my husband and I came back to to raise our family," she said in her acceptance speech.
"A lot of people complain about [Katherine], but if you really get in there and help in the community in every way you can see what a great place it is."
She said the Debutante Ball, which rallied 22 young debutantes and their partners into dedicating countless hours of free time into learning dances, filled a gap in a town where sport takes the crown.
"There is not a lot on offer in Katherine other than sport for kids and a debutante ball, while a lot of people think it's an archaic, sexist thing.. It is not. The students I see learn respect from each other, learn to commit to each other and learn about all those other people in the community that help them."
Young Citizen of the Year
The Young Citizen of the Year was this year awarded to Sharon Jennings.
She was up against eleven-year-old Tait Green, a selfless volunteer and a St John Ambulance cadet, and Lanna Lalim who represented the Northern Territory as an ambassador at the Peace in the Pacific Study Tour in Hawaii and more recently won a spot on the Country to Canberra 'Power Trip' where she will meet inspiring politicians and CEOs.
Ms Lalim also represented her school, St Joseph's Catholic College, at the Curious Minds Project in Canberra, was Dux of her school and also completed the Bronze and Silver Duke of Edinburgh Award.
Announcing the award, alderman Elisabeth Clark described Ms Jennings as a determined and committed resident, who "gets things done".
"Sharon is a committed Katherine local who goes out of her way to support a thriving sporting community. Aside from her full time job, Sharon spends all of her spare time coordinating training, attending club meetings and advocating for sporting clubs in Katherine," Mrs Clark said.
"As part of her involvement with the Katherine Rugby Union, Sharon started up the women's rugby sevens... she engaged the community, coordinated registrations and insurances to ensure Katherine women's rugby was a legitimate women's sport.
"Sharon volunteered hours of her time to organise a regional rugby sevens tournament, which brought people together from across the region. She is a massive asset to the community, she has so much drive and determination and should be commended for keeping the sporting culture in Katherine alive."
While the Ms Jennings was not present to accept the award herself, in an acceptance speech, her mother said she would have been "blown away" by the honour.
Community Event of the Year
With global emissions reaching record levels, many Territorians taking a stand against fracking and a national crisis which saw unprecedented fires sweep through southern states, it was no wonder the youth-led School Strike for Climate won the 2020 Community Event of the Year.
The event garnered widespread support from the community as students called on the government to decrease emissions, switch to 100 per cent renewables and stop fracking.
Last year's winner, Katherine Isolated Children's Services' Playgroup in the Park, was once again up for the award along with the 2019 Debutante Ball.
In accepting the award, recent Katherine High School graduate Charlotte Pickering thanked the community for its support and took the opportunity to spark action on climate change at a local level.
"Climate change is a very prevalent issue... so I hope we can see more events like [School Strike for Climate] in the future," she said.
Senior Citizen of the Year
With no other contenders, Cathy Highet was named Senior Citizen of the Year.
It is the first year a senior has been recognised at the ceremony. The new category awards a person over the age of 60 for "noteworthy" achievements.
For more than 40 years, Mrs Highet has been heavily involved in the Katherine community, alderman John Zelley said.
She worked as a nurse at Katherine Hospital, has long been a volunteer officer for St Johns Ambulance, a leader for the Airforce Cadets, a key player in the Katherine Show and over the last 19 years has developed a passion for youth focused issues, Mr Zelley said.
Cathy has an extremely kind heart and those who know her will testify to this.John Zelley, Katherine Town Council alderman.
"If you live in a community you should give to the community, because it gives a lot to you," Mrs Highet said as she accepted the award.
Fifteen Katherine residents joined 27,400 people from more than 160 countries in becoming Australian citizens today during the Australia Day ceremony.
As is tradition, Katherine Mayor Fay Miller congratulated each new citizen, saying Australia Day is about acknowledging and celebrating the contributions of every Australian.
"Australia is one of the most successful multi-cultural countries in the world," she said, "from our Aboriginal and our Torres Straight Islander people who have been here for over 65 thousands years to those who have lived here for generations, to those who have come from all corners of the globe to call our country home."
"Today is a very important occasion for all people who have made Australia their home, especially for the 15 people here in Katherine."
Student Citizens of the Year
Donna Coolwell, Abbey Cowan, Mia Harris, Archit Subedi and Cameron Small were named Student Citizens of the Year.
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