Cheryl McAlister has been announced Cowra's 2021 Citizen of the Year.
"Cheryl has been making a positive contribution to the Cowra community for over 40 years through her voluntary work and outstanding service and is a very worthy Citizen of the Year. This achievement is a reflection of her involvement with numerous community groups including the Cowra Eisteddfod, Cowra Family History Group, Cowra CWA Evening Branch and through her work with Aboriginal Youth at Cowra High School," Mayor of Cowra, Cr Bill West said.
Cr West revealed the winners of the 2021 Australia Day Awards at today's presentation at the Cowra Civic Centre alongside Cowra's 2021 Australia Day Ambassador, actor, singer, producer, teacher and film director, Peter Cousens AM.
The Citizen of the Year Award was one of a number of awards made today. The Cowra Nature Based Adventure Playground Committee was named Community Group of the Year, Lowanna Murray was named Young Citizen of the Year and Maree McKay received the Dr Warren Whiley Memorial Award.
Cr West said the Award recipients this year had come from a very strong field.
"We must congratulate all the nominees across all categories for their exceptional contribution to our community; they all deserve our applause and gratitude. The Australia Day Awards judging panel certainly had their work cut out for them in choosing the recipients," Cr West said.
"Amidst the challenges that 2020 brought us, kindness and community leadership continued to shine bright in the Cowra Shire. Our people make our community what it is and the Australia Day Awards is a wonderful way to acknowledge the individuals and community groups who are selflessly helping others in our Shire," Cr West concluded.
Profiles of this year's Australia Day Award recipients follows:
Cowra Community Group of the Year
Cowra Nature Based Adventure Playground Committee
The idea to create an outdoor play area in the Bellevue Hill area of Cowra was first raised at a community meeting in 2015. The dream was to not only provide a safe natural environment, but to stimulate the imagination, creativity and learning of every person that visited. There was much enthusiasm for the project, and the Cowra Nature Based Adventure Playground Committee was formed.
For the past five years, the Committee has worked tirelessly planning, undertaking community fundraising and working with Council to obtain grants to see this project through to fruition, with the official opening of the playground held at the end of 2020. This facility provides a safe, adventurous place for visitors of all ages to explore and enjoy now and for generations to come.
Young Citizen of the Year
Lowanna has been on the Cowra High School Student Leadership team for the past five years and is currently School Captain. Lowanna leads school assemblies, graduation ceremonies and presentation nights. She is also a Peer Support Leader and role model for young people in the broader Cowra community. She has been a member of the Cowra High Junior Aboriginal Education Consultative Group as both Treasurer and Secretary for a number of years.
Lowanna is also a proud Wiradjuri woman and as an advocate of reconciliation, most recently lead the 2020 Naidoc ceremony at Cowra High School and is an integral member of the Wagambirra Dance Group. Lowanna is also a valued member of the Cowra Ballet School as both a student and teacher, contributing significantly to the dance community within Cowra and has also contributed to the School Spectacular since Year 7 as part of the Aboriginal Dance Ensemble and as a member of the Aboriginal Dance Company.
Citizen of the Year
Cheryl has been making a positive contribution to the Cowra community for over 40 years through her voluntary work and outstanding service. Areas that Cheryl has been involved with include Aboriginal Youth, where she has fostered education, cultural and career opportunities for Aboriginal students during her teaching career at Cowra High School and in her own time; the Cowra Eisteddfod Inc. where she has volunteered at eisteddfod sessions for many years and been active on the Committee in executive positions for several years; and the Cowra Family History Group (CFHG) where Cheryl has been a member since 2007 and has held different positions on the Committee.
Cheryl is also a founding member of the CWA Cowra Evening Branch and has been a regular and active member in branch meetings and activities for 23 years. Cheryl is currently Branch Secretary and has volunteered to be a Group Councillor to Central Western Group for at least two terms. Cheryl's affability, knowledge and generosity of spirit make her an outstanding and highly valued member.
Dr Warren Whiley Memorial Award
Maree has had an enormous impact on Cowra's art and cultural scene over many years.
As a Musical Director for the Cowra Musical & Dramatic Society, Maree has brought many successful productions to Cowra, which resulted in her receiving Life Membership in 2009.
Maree has conducted the Cowra Vocal Ensemble since 2003 and produced a variety of shows and concerts in Cowra and surrounding villages. These have included performances at events such as the annual Carols in the Garden, Christmas Street Festival, Breakout Commemorations, Anzac Day and World Peace Bell ceremonies. Maree successfully resurrected the Cowra Vocal Ensemble in 2016 after it had lapsed into recess at the end of 2014, nurturing a committed and loyal membership. In 2020 during Covid-19 restrictions, Maree took it upon herself to learn the technology required to enable weekly practice sessions via Zoom, ensuring the group remained connected during this time.
Maree is the founder of the Cowra Mens' Choir at St. Raphael's Church and is a regular organist for masses at the Church.