Merri-bek Awards 2020
The 2020 Merri-bek Awards took place on Tuesday 8 September in an online ceremony for nominees only.
You can watch highlights of the ceremony here bit.ly/3ikHkb4
Moreland Awards 2020 Winners
- Mayor's police leadership award
High Commendation: Sergeant Andrew McDonough
Winner: Sergeant Christine O’Hehir
For the past 17 years Christine has made a significant contribution to public safety in the City of Merri-bek.
Christine joined Victoria Police in 1988 and has held the rank and duties of a Sergeant for 17 years at the Brunswick Police Station. Christine has been the Brunswick UNI Family Violence Liaison Officer for the past 6 years and this key role is critical to the safety of those members of the Merri-bek Community who are sadly the victims of family violence. Policing and reducing family violence in our community is a key priority for Victoria Police and our local frontline police members.
- Community event of the year award
High commendation: Men of Merri-bek
Winner: North Coburg Food Swap
The Coburg North Food Swap is a monthly event held in Parker Reserve, Coburg North. It plays a crucial social and cultural role in the local community by regularly bringing together residents from Coburg North and the surrounding suburbs to share food, friendship, and conversations.
No one is obliged to bring anything, but everyone is invited to join in the feast and the conversation. Everyone is made to feel welcome. While the event centres around food, and people seek out each other’s gardening advice and recipes, at its heart is a strong sense of community. People share their stories and struggles, show care for each other, make each other laugh, and build friendships; and thus, a strong support network is built that is there for everyone to draw on.
This monthly event enriches the lives of the local community whilst also promoting home food production and sustainable living.
- Contribution to arts and culture award
High commendation: Georgina Imberger
Winner: Josephine Vains
Very soon after the coronavirus lockdown, Josephine had the inspirational idea of providing cello concerts for her neighbours from the footpath outside her house. The first "letterbox concert” (as Josie calls them) was given at the end of March 2020 and Josie has given one every fortnight since then.
The idea was for all the neighbours to gather in the street at a safe distance from each other, or to listen from their front porches, windows and cars. It has since become a regular event that all neighbours look forward to. When restrictions eased (obviously not at this point in time) Josie invited fellow musician friends from neighbouring streets to join her in duets. For many people in the street this has been their first encounter with live classical music, awakening a keen interest in many residents.
In mid-April, the Melbourne Age and The Sydney Morning Herald published a long article about Josie’s Letterbox Concerts and other random acts of kindness during lockdown. Josephine has provided live art at a time when this is so difficult to enjoy.
- Collaborative partnership award
High commendation: Ready, Set, Prep!
Winner: Jen Rae
Fawkner Commons is a project led by Jen Rae, a local Fawkner artist and researcher and is an initiative of Fawkner Food Bowls in collaboration with three resident-led food initiatives, four local businesses and a not-for-profit veggie box scheme.
Fawkner Commons now provides home delivered veggies, bread, dairy, meals and more to 80 to 90 families weekly and also distributes 70 emergency relief food parcels each week. Fawkner Commons is an outstanding example of everything that is great about Merri-bek, with locals volunteering to work together to help feed the community – a true collaborative partnership in a time of great need.
- Contribution to sports award
When a local boy by the name of Ron Sahlberg spent his Saturday afternoons watching the Brunswick Cricket Club play during the 1940s, little did anyone realise that this laid the foundation for what would become a truly amazing 60 plus year relationship with a club he loves and a community he serves.
President of the Brunswick Cricket Club since 1999, the club has grown under Ron’s leadership and commitment to now field 5 senior men’s teams, 3 senior ladies’ teams in partnership with the Carlton Cricket Club, fifteen junior boys’ teams, 3 junior girls’ teams, a Craig Shield representative team and the recent addition of an all-abilities team.
Nazish Khan & Shelley Tait
Through Count Me In Too (CMIT), Nazish and Shelley made a significant impact to the development, integrity and professionalism of sport in Merri-bek. They have supported clubs to design and deliver inclusive and culturally appropriate programs incorporating needs of women including identifying and promoting club facilities available for religious practice and offering halal food at club canteens and events. They have also promoted flexible uniforms to accommodate personal preferences for dress, availability of child-friendly club facilities, supporting women and girls to take up volunteering and decision-making roles within the club to enhance women and girl’s representation and inclusion.
Nazish and Shelley supported 9 sporting clubs in Fawkner and Glenroy and engaged close to 500 women and girls aged between 3 to 75 years into culturally-inclusive sports programs.
- Youth contribution award
High commendation: Arun Sharma
Winner: Jay Mifsud
Jay has spent the last year volunteering with Merri-bek FreeZa and has been a warm and inviting presence to other young people in the Oxygen Youth Space.
Since volunteering with Oxygen, Jay has advocated for other young people of Merri-bek through events and workshops that provide our youth with links to Oxygen services and other amazing services in Merri-bek. Jay has presented at local High Schools such as Coburg High to talk to students about services Oxygen provide and to promote events they might be interested in.
Jay has always advocated for diverse and inclusive spaces that are safe for everyone to enjoy and even helped in the recent Merri-bek City Council video for IDAHOBIT Day. During Covid-19 times, Jay has created, edited and produced short self-care videos of Merri-bek Youth Staff so they could be shared on social media to assist in keeping connected with our youth.
- Volunteer of the year award
Winner: Janet Stephens
Janet has spent close to 30 years tirelessly volunteering for the local Merri-bek community. Over the three decades, Janet has organised countless fundraisers, trivia nights, BBQ’s, luncheons, market stalls, second hand uniform shops, and raffles just to name a few, raising valuable funds to assist both local schools and the broader community.
With close to 30 years serving the Glenroy Lions as a Women’s Auxiliary member, Janet has also devoted countless years volunteering her time and skills to the Pascoe Vale Primary School, Glenroy Secondary College, Westbreen Primary School, Jacana School for Autism and the Glenroy Neighbourhood Learning Centre. Over this period Janet has served at one time or another as President, Treasurer, Secretary, School Council member or general committee member.
"Once you start volunteering, you are not allowed to stop." says Janet. When asked why, she replied that "the work is too valuable, the people are too dedicated to not support and volunteering is the right thing to do, it is a way to give back to the community in which we live."
- Environmental sustainability acheivement award
Stephen Northey established the community group Friends of Edgar’s Creek in 2007. Since its formation, Stephens’ strategic thinking, vision, dedication, hard work and commitment to ongoing community involvement in environmental sustainability has helped restore and protect Edgars Creek. He was instrumental in setting a clear strategic direction for the planning and management of open space along Edgars Creek between Merri Creek and Edwardes Lake. Stephen ensured the Edgars Creek Master Plan was written in collaboration with all stakeholders. Stephen showed dedication to clear strategies and methods for community involvement, fundraising, site preparation techniques, plant selection, planting events, volunteer training and site maintenance.
In 2007, Stephen had a vision and planted the seed which enables suburban bushland to flourish now and into the future.
Anne & Bruce McGregor
When Ann and Bruce moved to Merri-bek in 1976, the Merri Creek trail was overgrown with weeds, loads of rubbish and neglected. They saw the Merri Creek as “a damaged asset that just cried out to be restored, not only for people but also for native birds and animals.”
They were founding members of the Friends of Merri Creek and have continued to be active members for over four decades of both the Friends of Merri Creek and the Merri Creek Management Committee which Ann is the president of today. Without the foresight and commitment of people like Bruce and Ann, the Merri Creek would not be what it is today - a much loved environmental and social space, a valuable habitat for a range of native animals and home to significant indigenous vegetation.
Ann and Bruce McGregor have been instrumental in the restoration of Merri Creek to the valuable environmental and social asset we have today.
- Lisa Bellear award for contribution to reconciliation activities
High commendation: Casey Goodman
High commendation: Melodie Davies
Winner: Speak Up, Speak Out
Speak Up, Speak Out was a pilot initiative funded by the State Government through the Aboriginal Family Violence Primary Prevention Fund.
The pilot included two programs, engaging a total of 26 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander young people aged 9-12 years. All participants attended schools in the Merri-bek and Hume local government areas. The programs focused heavily on connecting the young people to their culture and community and provided an opportunity for the young people to become leaders in their school community. The program also provided leadership and upstander training to the Aboriginal young people, empowering them with the skills and confidence to become leaders within their communities, standing up against discrimination in all its forms.
- Honouring women in Merri-bek award
High commendation: Zavi Fatima & Sana Imran Abdani
Winner: Multicultural Women's Sewing Group
They started from a small group of Somali women who wanted to learn to sew when they were new to the country with no money to buy these necessities. This year, the Multicultural Women’s Sewing Group celebrates its 25th anniversary. They have survived through thick and thin and have developed into a group of women from over 45 cultures who meet twice a week to sew, laugh, learn, connect, create and share.
The group makes a positive contribution to our community by providing a welcoming, comfortable and encouraging environment for all women regardless of their sewing or English language abilities. This is a wonderful group where ‘magic’ happens through coming together in a community where women from all around the world are welcomed and help each other to develop skills. For 25 years, they have been weaving a special kind of social cohesion where inclusion is at the heart of what they do.
- Access and inclusion
Winner: Christian Astourian
Christian is a long-time Merri-bek resident and works tirelessly to champion the rights and interests of people with disability. For over 20 years, Christian has been working full time for the Migrant Resource Centre North West, managing a self-advocacy program for people with disability from migrant backgrounds. He applies his vast knowledge and expertise in cross-cultural awareness and disability to this role. This program was developed by Christian and is extremely successful in helping hundreds of people with disability to find their voice and develop important skills to live more independently in areas such as financial management, sexual health, artistic expression, legal awareness, domestic violence, gender equity and more.
Christian is currently serving (and has served) on several boards, including the Victorian Human Rights Commission, Victorian Disability Services Commissioner Board, Federation of Ethnic Communities Council (Chairperson of Disability Committee), Arts Access Victoria (Vice Chairperson), Cerebral Palsy Network (President) and the Merri-bek Disability Working Group. Most recently, Christian has worked with Council to push for improvements to access to shops and public transport. His influence on these matters has led directly to accessibility improvements made around Jewel Station.