Australia Day awards

Australia Day, 26 January, is a community celebration. It is a day for acknowledging national and local spirit and celebrating the contributions individuals and groups make to the fabric of our community. 

The categories for the awards are:

  • Citizen of the Year
  • Young Citizen of the Year
  • Volunteer of the Year
  • Community Group of the Year

Awards were presented at a ceremony in the Slim Dusty Centre.

2021 Australia Day Award recipients

Council is proud to announce the following award recipients:

Citizen of the Year – Stafford and Dianne Everson

For over 40 years, Dianne and Stafford Everson, born and bred Macleay Valley residents, have contributed to the lives of Macleay Valley people.

Largely unrecognised for their charitable support of many groups across the shire, Dianne and Stafford have grown Eversons Food Processors from scratch, employing hundreds across the shire over many years.

They have never wavered in their support of various charities, community and sporting groups as well as individuals in need during challenging times.

Throughout the bushfires they arranged food drops to the upper Macleay, donated and supported to the local SES groups, and ensured that their 200 staff were kept employed even during the worst of the drought.

Despite any challenges they face personally or professionally, and within the context of 2020 and its issues, Dianne and Stafford have never wavered in their support of their staff and our community.

Young Citizen of the Year – Keely Lawrence

On top of working a full-time job as a veterinary nurse and studying veterinary technology, Keely Lawrence has found time to inspire us all as a champion of young people, the agriculture industry and the Macleay.

As the reigning Miss Kempsey Showgirl, Keely has raised over $17,000 for Dolly’s Dream charity and been named Chief Beef Steward for the 2021 Kempsey Show.

During the bushfires Keely was a front and centre volunteer in the evacuation centre and went on to volunteer with BlazeAid, repairing fences on properties throughout the shire.

Keely is an active member of the Kempsey Cancerian Committee and as a family impacted by bowel cancer, Keely and her siblings have initiated an annual fundraiser for Bowel Cancer Awareness. In 2020, not deterred by COVID, Keely took the fundraising online and still raised almost $3000.

Community Group of the Year – Kempsey-Crescent Head Surf Life Saving Club

The Kempsey-Crescent Head Surf Life Saving Club is celebrating 100 years of service to the Macleay this year.

The club is owned and run by its members, who have given thousands of hours service to protecting our community through the decades. The organisation has a rich history, including many heroic rescues, and has almost 200 members at present. The successful nippers program has attracted many new members to the club, keeping generations safe on our beaches.

At competition level, the boat crews have done the Macleay proud with both state and national recognition, as recently as the 2018-2019 season.

This past season, which was interrupted by COVID-19, members still managed to complete 2104 hours of community service in patrolling and maintaining Crescent Head beach as a safe aquatic zone for residents and visitors.

The Australia Day Committee were very impressed with the nominations for this category and decided to award two Highly Commended Awards for this category.

Highly Commended Awards (joint recipients) – Lilli Pilli Ladies and My Church Kempsey

The Lilli Pilli Ladies started as a small group of friends who had been impacted by cancer in various ways and they wanted to help others. They provide support for those with cancer in the Macleay Valley through popular fundraising events such as morning teas, which they have held regularly over the years. This past year, they designed creative ways to fundraise while keeping the community safe.

My Church Kempsey, also known as the Macleay Coast Church, is an active and vibrant supporter of people in need around our valley, through food donations and fellowship. The popular youth group enables young people to take a break from difficult home lives by providing access to light-hearted fun and religious education. Welcoming of everyone, the group worked throughout 2020 to support many beyond the formal church.

Volunteer of the Year (joint recipients) – Andrew Kirby and Michael Kemp

Andrew Kirby is the type of volunteer who has his hand permanently up and often puts his own business behind the needs of his community.

He is integral to the Hat Head community, volunteering hours of his time with the Hat Head Surf Club and the Hat Head Triathlon Club.

Through the Tri Club he organises races and training, constantly motivating people to adopt a healthy lifestyle. He gives his time to guide and help new members wherever possible.

In August 2020 he coordinated a Dementia Duathlon with a group target of 1000 km of riding and running to raise funds for dementia.

As an RFS volunteer, during the fires he protected the property of others through the night, then would barely make it home for a short sleep before working all day for his own business and repeating the process again for days on end.

Michael Kemp was integral in providing support to his local Wittitrin community during the Black Summer bushfires.

Throughout 2020 Michael continued to support the community by donating funds, materials and labour to build shelters over donated caravans. He personally built five of the shelters and creatively used remaining materials to supply an additional shelter to someone in need.

He has since joined the RFS and has provided initial support and funding to get the newly formed Wittitrin Progress Association off the ground, where he acts as the Communications Officer.

Additionally, through his business, Michael volunteers to speak at our local schools and community events on health and wellbeing.

Lifetime Achievement Award (a special category as nominated by the Australia Day Committee) – Kevin Farrawell

Kevin Farrawell has been a tireless worker for our community over 50 years. Since 1970 he has been a member of West Kempsey Rotary, where he was once the President and was awarded Rotary International’s highest honour, the Paul Harris Fellow Award for community service.

Through Rotary his countless community projects include the Mid Coast Trade Fair, high school science and technology fairs, local park beautification and international exchange programs.

Kevin was a founding member of the Kempsey Men’s Shed and a founding board member of the Cedar Place Nursing Home, the Slim Dusty Heritage Centre and Slim Dusty Foundation. He’s also been a member of countless community committees such as the Business Chamber, the Bush Fire Concert and CBD revamps.

Kevin started Farrawell Aluminium in 1973 and built it into one of the largest employers in Kempsey while ensuring manufacturing was always done in Kempsey. He started Farrawell Powdercoaters in 2000 and is now developing Kempsey’s only new industrial estate in almost 40 years, further expanding local employment opportunities.


Nominations for the 2022 Australia Day awards will open later this year.