Katherine's Citizen of the Year Awards: 2023 Citizen of the Year is Cecilia Johns.
Announced at the Katherine Town Council Australia Day Awards ceremony at Godinymayin on Friday, January 26, Cissy Johns has been named Katherine's Citizen of the Year.
Cissy Johns is an inspiration and a fabulous role model for Katherine's youth. She advocates fiercely for all people, regardless of gender, race or sexual preference and promotes the betterment of Aboriginal people's health and well-being.
She has represented her family and community at the New York Marathon, volunteers as a sports trainer and at community events, is a NAIDOC Committee Member and works with young people and families to promote better health and living.
In 2021, the bubbly Katherinite was selected into the squad of the Indigenous Marathon Project (IMP), established in 2009 by world marathon champion, Rob de Castella.
At the time, going from no prior training to suddenly running long distances was a daunting task at first, especially after being diagnosed with a serious illness.
"I found out I have rheumatic heart disease at the age of 30," Ms Johns said.
"The message I want to push is that no matter what chronic diseases you have, you can still participate and live a happy and healthy life.
"It's something I want to prove and my big aim throughout this program.
"Going from not doing any long distance running, to basically diving into training, at first I thought five kilometres was the scariest thing ever.
"Now I'm able to run 21km. It's been unbelievable.
"(Our) coach kept pushing us, telling us to trust the process and follow our natural breathing pattern. It's a big stepping stone."
Originally earmarked to take part in the New York Marathon, the 2021 NAIDOC Sportsperson of the Year had to swap the US for Alice Springs in October 2021 after Covid ruined the IMP's travel plans.
But with her participation in the London Marathon, the dream of running in a large-scale event came true - thanks to a lot of hard work.
In 2022, Ms Johns shared a late night Katherine running video with her followers on social media, highlighting the effort she has been putting in to achieve this goal.
"You see all the posts and it's all glamorous and look at us doing our thing with our medals - but it's hard work and you have to earn it," she said.
"This marathon business is actually tough work.
"It is no stroll in the park - and if you want it, you have to go hard for it.
"You have to keep pushing, even if you're dry-retching and sore and hurting - you have to keep pushing."
Fellow Katherine marathon runner Kelly Rosas who joined the young Indigenous woman as pacer on some of her training runs, said she was proud of Ms Johns' achievements.
"Cissy is an inspiration to all of us to not give up on your goals and dreams or let obstacles stand in your way," Mrs Rosas said.
"I have loved every minute of running with Cissy from the conversations and commentary as we hit the long runs in the dark to just having someone to share your own goals with that gets it.
"We have had so many laughs and no doubt tears along the way, and I am proud of her tackling another marathon 12 months after her midnight marathon in Alice Springs as the road to this one has been tough.
"There are days you want to not run but you just get it done, which is hard in the heat and humidity whilst juggling the demands of life and working.
"Cissy really inspires me and I look forward to the runs we do together as I know it's always going to be fun.
"She motivates us all to have a go and get out that door regardless of how fast or slow we are."