Community the winner at 2019 Merri-bek Awards (media release)

Council has recognised individuals and community organisations for their outstanding service and commitment to Merri-bek over the past 12 months at the 2019 Merri-bek Awards.

Award winners were announced at a special ceremony on 1 October at Coburg Town Hall, with Merri-bek Mayor Councillor Natalie Abboud on hand congratulate the winners.

“The Merri-bek Awards is our chance to recognise those individuals and organisations who have enriched our community and inspired their peers,” said Cr Abboud.

“These people have helped to make Merri-bek a better place and it gives us great pleasure to be able to thank them for their hard work.”

Cr Abboud said the number of nominations were up this year and of such high quality that Council had also awarded a number of high commendations to recognise more people as part of the awards.

“I congratulate all of this year’s nominees, high commendation recipients and winners and I hope that this year’s Merri-bek Awards have inspired others to create and even more wonderful community.”

The 2019 Merri-bek Awards were presented to:

  • Senior Sergeant Kate O’Neill, Mayors Police Leadership Award;
  • Olive Way, Collaborative Partnership Award;
  • Jessica Schwientek, Contribution to Arts and Culture;
  • The Northern Badminton Club, Contribution to Sport;
  • Tongberangi Ngargga Inc, Community Event of the Year;
  • Tamara Veltre, Honouring Women in Merri-bek Award;
  • Annette Sax and Kimba Thompson (joint winners), Lisa Bellear Award for Contribution to Reconciliation;
  • Prateeti Sabhlok, Youth Contribution Award;
  • John Englart, Environmental Sustainability Achievement Award;
  • Eric Kelly, Volunteer of the Year; and
  • Mellem Rose and Debra Dean (joint winners), Access and Inclusion Award.

High commendations were awarded to:

  • Spanish Play group, Collaborative Partnerships Award;
  • Benny Tancredi, Contribution to Sport;
  • Amnesty International, Community Event of the Year;
  • Karen Anderson and Catherine Connolly, Honouring Women in Merri-bek Award;
  • Nightingale Housing, Environmental Sustainability Achievement Award; and
  • Vicki Kennedy, Volunteer of the Year
  • Jacqueline Hannigan, Volunteer of the Year

Members of Council's various citizen advisory committees, formed to help guide Council in their decisions on a range of important matters, were also recognised for their service.

More than 200 people attended the awards, with guests enjoying refreshments after the ceremony. The event was held in line with Council’s Plastic Wise policy, with no use of single plastics in an effort to respond to the climate emergency that Council declared in 2018.

Northern Badminton Club accepting award

Founders of the Northern Badminton Club accept their award from Cr Abboud for Contribution to Sport.

Award Winners

Senior Sergeant Kate O’Neill (Mayor’s Police Leadership Award) truly understands and influences the frontline members of the force with key focuses on victim centric practices, diversity and inclusion and partnerships with the community.

Olive Way (Collaborative Partnerships Award) is Brunswick Uniting Church’s place of welcome for all who want to use it outside of the traditional Sunday mornings. Olive Way has created a place in which community’s different needs are met and this is vital to ensuring inclusion, social connection, and in building capacity, confidence and strengthening relationships.

Jessica Schwientek (Contribution to Arts and Culture) is the Director of NOIR darkroom, a creative arts hub. This space goes above and beyond to facilitate exhibitions by first time/emerging/established artists, groups and curators all run on a volunteer basis.

The Northern Badminton Club (Contribution to Sport) - Naz, Sana and Zavi established the club in 2019. It provides women and girls with the opportunity to play badminton in the northern suburbs of Merri-bek, helping new migrants integrate in to the community through sport.

Tongberangi Ngargga Inc (Community Event of the Year). The Merri Creek Day Gathering was created with the aim of harnessing music and dance to bring the community together. Over 500 people attended to learn about and celebrate Aboriginal culture and reconciliation in an inclusive and open manner.

Tamara Veltre (Honouring Women in Merri-bek Award) is a mentor and support for women, a community builder, an advocate for and creator of green space, community bee keeper, and someone that sees hope and opportunity in our municipality.

Annette Sax (Lisa Bellear Award for Contribution to Reconciliation) is a Taungurung woman, artist, story teller and entrepreneur who has been working in early childhood education for almost 30 years. Kimba Thompson (Lisa Bellear Award for Contribution to Reconciliation) is the director of the Black Dot Gallery, operating since 2011 as a contemporary Indigenous Artist-run space to showcase contemporary and traditional artworks from world Indigenous cultures.

Prateeti Sabhlok (Youth Contribution Award) has lead the development of adult synchronised swimming classes. These are the first synchronised swimming classes to ever take place on a regular basis at Brunswick Baths and it is run solely by Prateeti who manages the coaching, bookings, advertising and grant applications.

John Englart (Environmental Sustainability Achievement Award) has been active in Climate Action Merri-bek since 2012. He represented Climate Action Merri-bek and the Climate Action Network Australia as an accredited NGO observer to three UN Climate Change conferences. He embraces advocacy at a local level and is a founding member and committee member of the Upfield Corridor Coalition.

Eric Kelly (Volunteer of the Year) is a volunteer in Merri-bek’s L2P learner driver mentor program. Since 2011, he’s supported 17 learners dedicating many hours not to mention showing an amazing amount of patience and mentorship.

Mellem Rose (Access and Inclusion Award) has worked extensively to advance the interests of people from the LGBTIQA+ community living with a disability through organisations like Spectrum Intersection, Merri-bek Council and the State Government. Debra Dean (Access and Inclusion Award) presents the human side of the Disability Discrimination Act. As a long-term member of the Disability Advisory Committee, Debra contributed on enumerable council strategies, plans and activities based on evidence and personal experience as a woman with a disability.