PROUD: Citizen of the year Susan Howland.
PROUD: Citizen of the year Susan Howland. Adam Hourigan

Quiet voice leads way in Australia Day awards

FOR more than 25 years, Susan Howland has been a voice speaking above the crowd about making her community a better place, and she has again used her voice after being named Clarence Valley Citizen of the Year.

The advocate for mental health and women's organisations talked about having a discussion on changing the date of Australia Day to one that was inclusive.

Speaking after the awards, Ms Howland said she was proud of her award and the recognition.

"I'm very proud and I think everyone in these groups deserves to be acknowledged,” she said.

"I think the Clarence Valley has a high percentage of volunteers and because of that we do have a wonderful community, so it's great to acknowledge them.

"I'm very proud of the groups, and I think Our Healthy Clarence is actually leading the way.”

Ms Howland said she had seen major changes over the past 25 years, and big improvements in the discussion of mental health.

"People are now talking about it and realising so many people have mental health issues,” she said. "But people realise that you can recover, you can be sick and get better, and if you can't you can get support.”

In her nomination, it was written that Ms Howland had worked tirelessly, generally quietly behind the scenes, to make the Clarence Valley a better community.

As for Australia Day, she said she had nothing against the day, but believed a conversation needed to be had involving everyone.

"I think we need a date where we can say Australia can be open and inclusive and welcoming to everyone... and we celebrate all the good things,” Ms Howland said.

YOUNG CITIZEN OF THE YEAR

Brad Chapman shows off the Clarence Valley Australia Day Young Citizen of the year award.
Brad Chapman shows off the Clarence Valley Australia Day Young Citizen of the year award. Adam Hourigan

IT WAS a long way from his Fine Flower farm home to the tracks of the Kokoda Trail for Young Citizen of the Year Brad Chapman.

Despite training on the hills of his home to prepare physically, it was the mental side of the trek that was the hardest part he said.

"Definitely the mental side, to get you to get up and keep going,” her said.

And it's using this determination that Mr Chapman wants to encourage and inspire people of his age.

"I think young people get a bit of a bad rap,” he said.

"I think a lot of people tend to underestimate them, and if I can inspire them further, that's what I really want to do,” he said.

Mr Chapman, who is this year's McAuley Catholic College school captain, was sponsored on the trek as part of the Kokoda Youth Leadership challenge, and is encouraging others to raise awareness of the sacrifices our diggers made.

"When you see the conditions, you can't begin to understand the sacrifices they made,” he said.

Mr Chapman said he was immensely proud of being named the winner of the award.

He paid tribute to fellow nominee Caitlin Peuser, and said that we would be in good hands with more people like Ms Peuser.

LOCAL HERO

George Priddle and Don Frame were joint winners of the Clarence Valley Australia Day Local Hero award.
George Priddle and Don Frame were joint winners of the Clarence Valley Australia Day Local Hero award. Adam Hourigan

WHEN questioned about what being jointy named Clarence Valley's 2018 Local Hero meant to them, both Don Frame and George Priddle looked lost for words, neither wanting to claim credit for their work in the community.

Mr Frame was rewarded for his work preserving the Copmanhurst community's history and running of the Saddlery Museum, while Mr Priddle was recognised for his work in cleaning up his local community by collecting papers every day and maintaining the Cowper bus crash memorial.

"I never really stopped collecting papers,” Mr Priddle laughed. "When I was at school I was made to pick them up, when I was a teacher I was picking them up and making the kids do it, and no one's told me to stop.”

"I'd love to be out of a job though. If everyone just helped out it would be a big help.”

For Mr Frame, after living away from the Copmanhurst community, he moved back and just wanted the history of the town to be maintained.

And while he had few words to say, former citizen of the year Leone Roberts, who nominated him, said his commitment to helping anyone discover the history of the area needed to be recognised.

COMMUNITY ACHIEVEMENT

Marty Williams and Suzanne Campbell from the Pelican Playhouse with their Clarence Valley Council Australia Day award for community achievement.
Marty Williams and Suzanne Campbell from the Pelican Playhouse with their Clarence Valley Council Australia Day award for community achievement. Adam Hourigan

FOR Pelican Playhouse treasure Suzanne Campbell, there's just something about the South Grafton building.

"I love its history, I love the smell and the character,” she said with a smile.

"It's an old building, but it's a real rarity.”

Alongside fellow committee member Marty Williams, Ms Campbell accepted the Australia Day Community Achievement award and said a resurgence over the past few years had helped bring the building back to life, both in content and appearance.

"We had the building's 50th birthday last year and we've been getting international standard acts coming through and using it,” Mr Williams said.

"And it's been self-perpetuating - the more we get success, and people knowing about it, the word gets out and the business community comes out to support it.”

The theatre is run entirely by volunteers, with Ms Campbell involved since 1980 and Mr Williams and his partner Bronwyn Gell since they moved to the area six years ago.

"It's a place that really unites the community, and the bands we get always say it's the coolest place they've played in,” Ms Campbell said.



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