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Whittlesea community heroes shine

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Pam Kiriakidis
Pam Kiriakidis
Pam Kiriakidis has worked as a journalist at the North Central Review since 2022, with a particular focus on the City of Whittlesea and stories for the Whittlesea Review. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Media and Communications majoring in journalism and focuses on politics, community, and health with the occasional niche sports story finding its way in front of her.

By Pam Kiriakidis

A group of hard-working citizens aiming to better their communities were recipients of the City of Whittlesea Community Awards.

The winners were presented with their awards at the Whittlesea Community Festival on March 19.

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Deborah Azzopardi was named Citizen of the Year; Mark Beeby, the Senior Citizen of the Year; Hanskiaa Sharma, Young Citizen of the Year; Steven Kim Huat Lim, Access and Inclusion Citizen of the Year; and Tanya Sharma, the Sustainable Environment Citizen of the Year.
Ms Azzopardi, is a long-serving Epping Country Fire Authority, CFA, member who has responded to thousands of calls for rescue, including during the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, which led to her being awarded a National Service Award.

Taking on responsibilities at Epping CFA, Ms Azzopardi is a first aid trainer and learner driver mentor, supervising young learn drivers to gain the required 120 hours of driving experience. 

Ms Azzopardi said she was flattered to be nominated for an award that highlighted commitment and helping others. 

Coming from a strong family line of dedicated volunteers, Ms Azzopardi said her need to help others was passed on from her mother who was a volunteer at St Vincent’s de Paul Society.

“I just like to bring out the best in people that I possibly can bring out,” she said. 

“When you see it, it just comes naturally. My husband … is a volunteer in the [Victoria State Emergency Service], SES, and my daughter and granddaughter are in the SES.

“[There’s] three generations of us now, all thanks to mum.”

Mr Kim Huat Lim, a dedicated volunteer at Whittlesea Community Connections, was proud to receive the Access and Inclusion Citizen of the Year award.

Since 2019, Mr Lim has volunteered to drive vulnerable members of the community for three days a week to medical appointments, social groups and shopping.

Mr Lim said interacting with community members was ‘meaningful’ as he was able to build rapport with clients from diverse backgrounds.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Lim spent his time volunteering for the organisation’s Emergency Relief response to help older residents travel to medical appointments, and delivered meal packages and material aid.

“It is very rewarding and fulfilling to be able to assist the elderly, disadvantaged and vulnerable especially during the COVID lockdown, when access to essential and vital services were restricted,” Mr Lim said.

Mr Lim recommended that others consider volunteer work in their own communities.

“I encourage everyone to get involved in some form of voluntary work. This was very new to me when I started four years ago, and it has given me a better perspective of myself and the community at large. It has been an invaluable experience,” he said.

“My parents have instilled upon me to always help others in need and to do it wholeheartedly.”

City of Whittlesea administrator Peita Duncan said there were 27 nominations across five categories and thanked the City of Whittlesea Community Awards Committee for their work in reviewing the nominations.

“We were delighted to receive nominations for so many very worthy people who are doing wonderful things in our community,” she said.

“As a committee we were so impressed by the calibre of the nominations which really highlight the strong community spirit here in the City of Whittlesea – it really is quite heart-warming, and especially wonderful to see so many young people stepping up to make a difference so early in their lives.

“My congratulations to our award recipients and to all those nominated, and on behalf of the community – thank you for helping to make the City of Whittlesea a better place for everyone.”

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