MEDIA RELEASE - Selfless local residents and newest citizens share the spotlight at Sutherland Shire Council Australia Day celebrations

A diverse array of local volunteers and service organisations have been heralded for their selfless contributions to the community, sharing the spotlight with more than 150 of the Sutherland Shire’s newest Australian citizens as part of Sutherland Shire Council’s annual Australia Day awards and citizenship ceremony.

Hundreds of local residents gathered at the Pavilion Performing Arts Centre to recognise the civic-minded efforts of each of the award recipients, acknowledging their work across such fields as youth mental health, charity work, pollution prevention and environmental conservation.

Sutherland Shire Mayor, Councillor Carmelo Pesce, praised all the award nominees and winners, saying the awards provided due recognition for local volunteers whose incredible efforts often flew under the radar.

“The Sutherland Shire Australia Day awards program provides a special opportunity to recognise on the tireless efforts of our local volunteers and to highlight the impact of their work in making our community such a remarkable and supportive place to live,” Mayor Pesce said.

“We have such an incredible culture of volunteering here in the Sutherland Shire and we are blessed to be home to so many individuals who set out to make a difference simply because they can, not because they are seeking a pat on the back for their efforts.

“This years award recipients are shining examples of this spirit of selflessness, and I am delighted to be able to acknowledge the amazing work that they do making a difference in the lives of those around them.”

This year’s award recipients were drawn from a wide array of individuals and service organisations, each nominated for outstanding contributions made through their work or volunteer efforts across the following categories: Citizen of the Year, Young Citizen of the Year, Community Group of the Year, and Environmental Citizen of the Year.

“These people and groups make the Shire a better place to live through innovative initiatives that often benefit less privileged and vulnerable people in our community or contribute to the preservation of our natural environment,” Mayor Pesce said.

“I am incredibly fortunate that I get to see the impact of the incredible work that our local volunteers do almost every day in my role as Mayor, but it is an absolute delight to be able to provide our award recipients the public recognition they so richly deserve.

“I would like to thank everyone who submitted a nomination for helping to shine a light on some of the truly extraordinary work that is being done across the Sutherland Shire. “

Mayor Pesce said he was also overjoyed to be able to confer Australian citizenship on more than 150 local residents in his role presiding over Council’s annual Australia Day citizenship ceremony.

“It is always a pleasure to lead citizenship ceremonies and meet with residents who are united by their commitment to the Australian way of life and their love for living in this beautiful part of the world,” Mayor Pesce said.

“Sutherland Shire residents take great pride in their cultures, and many of our new citizens have been living and contributing to our community for a long time. Today, we openly welcome them as Australian Citizens.”

Please see the following 2024 Sutherland Shire Australia Day Award winners:


Citizen of the Year
Blakey Johnston

Blakey Johnston has been an unwavering source of inspiration and support for Sutherland Shire community over the past three decades, particularly in the realm of youth mental health. Notably, Blakey's remarkable 40-hour surf challenge raised widespread awareness about mental health issues and generated funds for local youth support programs.  As the owner of the Cronulla Surfing Academy, Blakey has taught countless young surfers, nurturing their passion for the sport. His personal challenges, including 100-mile runs in the national park, serve as a testament to his determination. Blakey’s commitment in the realm of youth mental health and surfing is unwavering and makes him an exemplary local hero.

Young Citizen of the Year
Jenson Wade

At the tender age of 7, Jenson Wade is a keen environmentalist. During COVID he became particularly interested in waste in our local waterways and started a social media campaign to encourage people to pick up their rubbish and prevent pollution. Jenson organised a clean-up in partnership with So Shire of an area of the Woolooware Shared pathway overflowing with rubbish. He enlisted friends, local businesses and promoted the event on Facebook. This led to 30 volunteers collecting 162kg of rubbish from the area. The first 7 years old to speak at a Council meeting, Jenson was successful in persuading the Council to manufacture and install new bins by the end of the year. He is already working on his 2024 plan.

Community Group of the Year
Sutherland Shire Toy Restoration Centre

The Sutherland Shire Toy Restoration Centre in Jannali is a group of retirees who volunteer their time to sell and repair toys that have been donated by the community. 100% of the shops profits made through the restored donated toys goes back into several community groups for distribution to underprivileged families in Sutherland Shire. All the volunteers working for this the Sutherland Shire Toy Restoration Centre in Jannali generously give up their own time to support the shop and community.

Environmental Citizen of the Year
SSC Community Nursery volunteer propagation specialists

A group of four dedicated and passionate volunteers whose specialised knowledge and experience helps support the SSC Community Nursery team in production planning, propagation and identification of new plant species is aiding in the perseveration of native flora. The team collates and logs a record of seed availability that assists in maintenance of outstanding display beds within the nursery. The propagation of new and endangered plant species contributes towards to the reintroduction of native plant species across the Sydney metro area to maintain a healthy plant population.