Citizen of the Year award recipient Daman Shrivastav upon finding out he had won via the steamed presentation.

The inaugural City of Whittlesea Community Awards were presented in an online ceremony on Wednesday, celebrating immense contributions to the community.

The awards, which replace the Australia Day Awards after council declared it would no longer officially mark the holiday, provided an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate residents across five categories: citizen, senior citizen, young citizen, access and inclusion citizen, and sustainable environment citizen or group of the year.

City of Whittlesea administrator Peita Duncan, a member of the Whittlesea Community Awards Committee, praised the efforts of all nominees and said the committee assessed nominations based on how they demonstrated values that reflected the City of Whittlesea’s vision of being ‘A Place for All’.

“It’s wonderful to see so many people in our community giving up their time to help others,” she said.

“This level of community spirit is inspiring. We were pleased to recognise a small group of these wonderful people in our first community awards program.”

Out of nine finalists, the citizen of the year went to Daman Shrivastav, a South Morang resident whose charity DD’s Kitchen provided free meals and food to international students locally and across Victoria during the pandemic.

Chair administrator Lydia Wilson presented the award to Mr Shrivastav and his daughter who joined the virtual ceremony live.

“Through his volunteer work, which goes back a long way, and spans more than one continent, Daman has had an especially significant impact in the City of Whittlesea during the pandemic,” she said.

“DD’s kitchen worked overtime during the pandemic providing free hot meals to stranded international students and anyone else in need.

“The DD kitchen team also provided much-needed supplies to the Shepparton and Ballarat communities during their lockdowns – how amazing really – and they even launched a YouTube channel to provide cooking tutorials to children and young people while they were stuck at home. What an absolutely amazing effort over many, many years, not just the pandemic.”

Senior citizen of the year was awarded to Shoukry Sidrak for his contribution to the community over more than two decades, including volunteering at Whittlesea Community Connections, offering companionship through the community visitors’ program and providing free sustainability assessments to local businesses.

The young citizen award went to Rudra Sekhri, for leadership and vision in his contribution to Thomastown Youth Council, ‘Youth Leading the World Congress’ and Mill Park Library Makers Club.

Sustainable environment citizen of the year was won by Hansikaa Sharma, for her commitment to inspiring others to join her in tackling environmental issues, from presenting to her school about the importance of Earth Hour and National Water Week to establishing a litter clean-up group and advocating against the use of helium balloons and palm oil.

Lynne Harris, of Bundoora, won the access and inclusion citizen award for her work helping create opportunities for people with disabilities to participate over the past 30 years.

Ms Wilson said while it was a shame to have only a short, online ceremony, the efforts of the community were incredible.

“You can really see from the presentation that so many people are the heart and soul of our community and really make the community so rich in relation to community support and looking after one another, so we really thank you all,” she said.

To find out more about the community awards, visit whittlesea.vic.gov.au/communityawards.

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