Tweed welcomes new citizens and celebrates local heroes

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TWEED SPORTING icon and Paralympian Bill Chaffey has been named Tweed Citizen of the Year alongside a host of other Tweed heroes at the Tweed Shire Australia Day Awards at Twin Towns today.

The Australia Awards were presented today Thursday, January 26, in conjunction with the Citizenship Ceremony in which 50 people took the Oath of Affirmation to become Australian Citizens.

The awards were presented to crowd of about 250 at Twin Towns entertainment venues.

An acknowledgment of Country and address was carried out by Tweed Shire Council Mayor Katie Milne which was followed by addresses from Tweed Shire Australia Day Ambassador Iain Finlay, Federal Member for Richmond Justine Elliot and State Member for Tweed Geoff Provest.

The Tweed’s highest honour, Citizen of the Year, was awarded to Paralympic triathlete Bill Chaffey from Bilambil Heights.

In 2016, a decade on from an accident that left him an incomplete paraplegic, he had the honour of representing Australia at the Rio Paralympics where his did the Tweed proud, finishing in fourth place.

His wins include first place at the 2014 Oceania Paratriathlon Championships in a world best time of 58.22, and the 2014 ITU World Paratriathlon event in Elwood, Melbourne.

In March 2013, Chaffey set a new TRI-1 world best time for an Olympic distance triathlon, his time of 2:08:59 bettered the previous record by 5 minutes.

Mr Chaffey spoke about the injury that left him paralysed and acknowledged the people around him who supported him and his “incredible life in the Tweed”.

“I cannot speak more highly of this region and I feel honoured to live here and to receive this award,” he said.

Kingscliff Business Chamber President and Salt Surf Life Saving Club stalwart Mark Humphries, and long-serving Murwillumbah VIEW club president Shirley Kuhnell, shared the Volunteer of the Year honour.

Shirley Kuhnell and Mark Humphries

Kingscliff’s Paralympic swimmer Kate Wilson and Olympic swimmer Matt Abood were joint winners of the Sporting Achievement category.

Matt Abood and Kate Wilson

Twelve-year-old Lindisfarne Anglican School student Sam Smith was named Young Achiever in Community Service for his efforts in raising almost $8,000 for Tweed charity Kids In Need.

Sam Smith

The Tweed Shire’s Community Event of the Year award was shared between the Kingscliff Lions Club 2016 District convention, the Kids In Need Association Dragon Boat Day, and the Tumbulgum 150 year celebrations.

Winners of the Community Event of the Year award

The ‘Tweed Battle of the Bands’ was named winner of the Arts and Cultural Achievement award.

Battle of the Bands organisers

Mayor Milne said the awards honour some of the many selfless achievers in the community.

“Our award recipients demonstrate there is much to be proud of here in the Tweed,” she said.

“We are lucky to have these outstanding citizens in our Shire but I know there are many more quiet achievers out there giving their heart and soul to the community and environmental causes – you know who you are.

“On behalf of Council I would like to congratulate and thank every one of you for contributing so much to this Shire.

“There are 50 very excited people from 16 different countries who will become new Australian citizens today, I’m sure they will embraced by the community and be made to feel very welcome.

A total of 50 people from all corners of the globe took the Australia Oath to become Australian Citizens including nine from UK and six people from the USA as well as one from Trinidad and Tobago, a country in the Caribbean.

“I also acknowledge this can be a day of mixed emotions for the Aboriginal community and my Thoughts are with you.”

Mr Finlay gave a stirring speech around the meaning of Australia Day and he highlighted the need for Australians to hold on to a “fair go”.

“Australia Day is not a celebration for everyone,” he said.

“There’s a lot of people who were here a long time before. We must acknowledge the great hardships felt because of or presence here,” he said.

“And while we have come along way and the divisions between rich and poor  with widening.

“I would ask people to hold on to the theory of a fair go. It’s a cliche but a very powerful cliche. Australia Day can inspire our future.

“I believe Australia could benefit from project such as the Snowy Mountain Scheme. In which we can take on visionary projects that can carry us beyond, maybe I should say beyond 2000.”