Outstanding locals honoured in 2022 Australia Day Awards


Wednesday, 19 January 2022


Twelve outstanding locals have received Australia Day honours, including Robyn Downham (Founder of River Cares Group Inc.) who was named ‘Citizen of the Year’ in the 2022 Australia Day Awards on the Central Coast. 

Council Unit Manger Community and Culture, Glenn Cannard said the annual awards are a chance to recognise the achievements of individuals who have made a positive contribution to the Central Coast community. 

“I would like to congratulate our nine winners and three highly commended recipients on receiving this honour and thank them for their ongoing contributions to our community,” Mr Cannard said.

“Our Citizen of the Year for 2022, Robyn Downham is undoubtedly a worthy recipient of this award and epitomises the true meaning of community spirit, through committing her time to founding and running the River Cares Group Inc.

“The community of Spencer have been impacted by bushfires and floods for the past two years, leaving many people in the local community feeling overwhelmed and isolated.

“Under Ms Downham’s leadership, River Cares Group Inc. has led several initiatives that positively impact the communities along the Hawkesbury River, which includes successfully raising funds for a number of defibrillators positioned along the river. 

“Perhaps the biggest job that Ms Downham and the River Cares Group Inc. have undertaken is the development of the Spencer Community Led Emergency Management Plan, which aims to help the community better prepare and recover from a variety of natural disasters that affect them, whilst also building crucial connections between community members and emergency services that are key components for a disaster resilient community.

“It is this level of care and commitment to support the local Spencer community and help them better prepare for natural disasters, that makes Ms Downham a worthy recipient for our 2022 Citizen of the Year Award.”

Council Administrator, Rik Hart said Australia Day awards honour the amazing achievements and work of a diverse group of individuals who have made outstanding contributions to our local community.  

“It is with great pleasure that I congratulate each of the award winners, as well as all of those who were nominated,” Mr Hart said. 

“To be recognised for your work and contribution to the local community at such a level, is a great achievement and something all winners and nominees should be proud of.

“Although many of us are still experiencing challenging times due to the ongoing pandemic, it is important that we continue to recognise those making outstanding contributions within our community and undoubtedly positively impacting the lives of many locals.

“In turn, I would also like to pay special acknowledgment to the Coast’s Indigenous community, the Darkinjung people, who play an extremely important role in shaping the future of our region.

To watch the Australia Day Award winner announcements, visit Council’s YouTube channel.  

A brief biography of each of the Australia Day 2022 award winners for the Central Coast is included below:

  • Citizen of the Year (Winner) – Robyn Downham
    In the past two years, the community of Spencer have been impacted by bushfires and floods, leaving many people in the local community feeling overwhelmed and isolated. These were the feelings that drove Robyn Downham to start River Cares Group Inc. Under Ms Downham’s leadership and well supported by Jane McCallum, the River Cares Group Inc. have undertaken several initiatives that positively impact the communities along the Hawkesbury River, with some of these are successfully raising funds for several defibrillators positioned along the river. This also includes the creation of a Community Information Day to raise awareness and build relationships between key community and stakeholder groups on the Central Coast. The Community Information Day brought together Central Coast Council, Uniting Services, RFS, SES, Wildlife ARC, Spencer Progress Association and Central Coast Local Health District and delivered the Community Development and Community Education – Get Ready – Disaster Preparedness Workshops, alongside a series of additional workshops targeting Healthy Ageing as well as supporting creative recovery initiatives. Perhaps the biggest task Ms Downham and the River Cares Group Inc. have undertaken however, is the development of the Spencer Community Led Emergency Management Plan, to help the community prepare and recover from the variety of disasters that pose risk to the community. Thus, building connections with community members and emergency management services which are key components for a disaster resilient community. 
  • Arts, Culture and Entertainment (Winner) – Darryl Davis 
    Darryl Davis is an outstanding member of Gosford Musical Society (GMS), who gives his time freely and tirelessly to assist the members whenever possible. Darryl excels at including as many members as possible in his productions and while directing, mentors’ others as his Assistant Director, providing them with the opportunity for hands on experience. Darryl has been recognised by the Association of Community Theatre, the peak body for community theatre in NSW, and was inducted into their Hall of Fame. This is a significant honour which recognises outstanding and meritorious service to members of theatre groups through NSW.
  • Business Connecting Communities (Winner) – Mitchell Gordon
    Mitchell Gordon established Woy Woy Antiques and Collectables in June 2020. The business was established to assist local charities affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with a percentage of profits going to a different not-for-profit organisation each month. The store has been extremely successful, raising thousands of dollars for local charities. The store also collects dry goods and personal care items for Coast Shelter, as well as offering volunteering opportunities for people living with disability and supports local artists and authors by selling their work. 
  • Business Connecting Communities (Highly Commended) – Christine Mastello
    Christine Mastello strives for everyone in the community to feel cared for and valued and runs several programs through her Southlake’s Incorporated Charity. Christine started this charity in 2013, to help thousands of people in need. One of the initiatives of Southlake’s Incorporated is the Community Hair Project, a locally grown National enterprise. The Community Hair Project provides free haircuts to Aussies doing it tough, partnering with qualified hairdressers around Australia to restore dignity one haircut at a time. 
  • Community Service and Activity (Winner) – Con Ryan 
    Con Ryan has been the driving force in establishing the now celebrated 5 Lands Walk on the Central Coast. From small beginnings in 2006, and due to the determination and motivation of Con, this event has grown each year and now attracts more than 21,000 participants to witness over 700 volunteers provide services and displays on the Coast.  Con as President of the 5 Lands Walk committee, has personally encouraged participation by community groups, schools, businesses, local and state government, tourist organisations, and most importantly our First Nation community. 
  • Community Service and Activity (Highly Commended) – Steev Hassall 
    Steev Hassall is a Manager at the Bateau Bay Neighbourhood Centre, which provides emotional support, meal support, clothing, domestic violence, and financial support, as well as an abundance of activities for children and families in the local community. Steev and Bateau Bay Neighbourhood Centre have been instrumental in adapting their services through lockdown and the COVID-19 pandemic when need has increased exponentially.
  • Environmental Award (Winner) – Debbie Sunartha 
    Debbie Sunartha has been quietly and consistently contributing to the environment on the Peninsula since 2015. Debbie was instrumental in the design and coordination of the Runway Park upgrade in Trafalgar Avenue, Woy Woy and is a key leader in the transformation of a neglected area into a green haven of biodiversity, habitat, and shade. As a founding member of Grow Urban Shade Trees (GUST), Debbie has helped plant over 600 street trees in Umina, Ettalong and Woy Woy. Debbie recently funded and project managed a park upgrade in Australia Avenue Umina, with the park now a native garden designed to support local wildlife and bees. 
  • Sportsperson of the Year (Winner) – Ryan Green
    Ryan Green is an Under 17’s board and ski athlete at Terrigal Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) and has recently had an outstanding Surf Life Saving Competition season at local, State and National level. Ryan has been one of Terrigal’s most successful athletes for many years and has won the Terrigal SLSC ‘Athlete of the Year’ and the ‘Surf Life Saving Central Coast Athlete of the Year.’ Ryan then went on to represent Terrigal and the Central Coast as a finalist in the NSW Surf Life Saving (SLS) Awards of Excellence. Ryan has come through the Club’s Nipper program and has gone from strength to strength in recent years. 
  • Volunteer of the Year (Joint Winner) – Gail Ransley 
    Gail Ransley has been a volunteer for Meals on Wheels Central Coast for 28 years. During this time, Gail has been delivering nutritious meals to vulnerable clients while also providing them with social interaction and a welfare check; something that has become even more important during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Gail maintains a focus on serving her local community at grass roots level, not only delivering their meals but interacting and checking on the wellbeing of clients. Gail also transports clients who need to attend essential service appointments throughout the Coast.
  • Volunteer of the Year (Joint Winner) – Jenny Cameron 
    Jenny Cameron has been a volunteer for over 25 years at Riding for the Disabled Central Coast. Jenny is a Senior Volunteer at the riding school and one of the coaches responsible for the safe operation of regular weekly horse-riding activities for up to 100 local disabled school children. Jenny, who has represented the Central Coast branch in every role, is a representative for the Hunter RDA region and is also on the State Board of RDA Directors.
  • Youth of the Year (Winner) – Phoebe Sheridan 
    Phoebe Sheridan has just recently turned 17 and is Year 11 at St Joseph’s College, where she excels academically, but more significantly has immersed herself in a range of social justice and advocacy roles. Phoebe’s position on Central Coast Council’s Y4Y group has really sparked the flame for her love of community engagement and helping others. She is involved in her second year in the Y4Y program and was selected on the State Government’s Regional Taskforce in 2021. Phoebe also participated in this year’s UN Global Earth Summit, where she delivered a speech to the world audience.
  • Youth of the Year (Highly Commended) – Jayden Redfern 
    Jayden Redfern is 16 years old and a key member of the Terrigal Surf Life Saving Club. In 2021, Jayden was named Terrigal Surf Club’s Youth Volunteer of the Year and Youth Club Person of the Year. Jayden’s service and volunteer work within surf lifesaving, school and other areas of the community is beyond outstanding. He is an ambassador for the future of the Central Coast and was chosen to represent the NSW Government Regional Youth Taskforce, where he works with NSW government and local members to develop strategies that support young people on the Central Coast. 



Average: 5 (1 vote)


Add new comment

Last updated : Thu 20 Jan 2022