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MEDIA RELEASE - Outstanding volunteers recognised at Australia Day festivities

26 January 2018

Two Glenelg Shire residents who have dedicated their lives to volunteering in our community have shared the 2018 Glenelg Shire Citizen of the Year Australia Day Award.

Portland’s Phillip Ruge and Casterton’s Sharron Gill were named joint recipients of the day’s top honour, recognised today in celebrations hosted across the shire.

Glenelg Shire Mayor Cr Anita Rank said both were outstanding individuals who had strengthened their local communities through their tireless volunteer efforts.

Mr Ruge is well recognised as a dedicated and hardworking Portland Cable Tram member, volunteering with the organisation for more than 20 years.

“Phillip has been instrumental in making the Portland Cable Trams the successful tourist attraction it is today,” Cr Rank said.

“He has proved his leadership and passion through playing a significant role in securing approximately $1.6 million in funding to get the project established. The cable trams are now one of the most valuable community assets for the Glenelg Shire and continue to draw in visitors from right across the country.

“Furthermore Phillip has been actively involved with a number of other organisations such as the Portland Apex Club, the Portland Powerhouse Motor and Car Museum and the Cashmore CFA, establishing himself as a strong advocate for the local community.”

Fellow Citizen of the Year Ms Gill has committed her time to volunteering for various groups, clubs and schools throughout Casterton.

“Sharron has been devoted to the Casterton community since she moved to the shire in 1977,” said Cr Rank.

“Just some of her many achievements have included coordinating The Little Nippers Program, assisting in the Paint Casterton Read literacy program, organising school concerts and coaching and umpiring for the Casterton and District Netball Association.

“Sharron is a true community achiever and has helped ensured that grassroots sports continue to grow and thrive in Casterton.”

Hundreds of people joined Australia Day celebrations in Portland, Heywood and Casterton to recognise the award winners and to celebrate the citizenship of nine Glenelg Shire residents.

Special Writer and Associate Editor for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald and former Heywood resident Tony Wright was a guest speaker at the ceremonies in Portland and Heywood.

Other Australia Day award winners included;
Senior Citizen of the Year – Gwen Finck

Mrs Finck has been recognised for dedicating more than 20 years to helping those less fortunate in the local community.
Gwen has been a passionate volunteer with organisations such as Meals on Wheels and Portland Loaves and Fishes, donating her time every week to help prepare and provide essential food, services and goods to those who need it most.

Joint Young Citizen of the Year - Jess Pethybridge
Jess has demonstrated great leadership skills and innovation within the community at such a young age.
She has helped drive membership for the Portland Netball Association during her involvement with the Whitten Project and she has focused much of her efforts on raising awareness of childhood illness as part of her leadership role with Portland Secondary College.

Joint Young Citizen of the Year - James Gray
James has been an outstanding ambassador and role model for local youth through his captaincy at Heywood and District Secondary College.
His passion for student wellbeing has seen him run a full week of activities to promote ‘RUOK’ day, taking time from his studies to give support to those around him. His interest and concern for the community has also seen him personally raised $5,000 for the Make a Wish Foundation as part of the Big Red Family Walk.

Community Group of the Year – Portland Cable Tram
For more than 22 years this community led organisation has dedicated their time, resources and local expertise to enhance the overall visitor experience in Portland.
The Portland Cable Trams have carried over 168,000 passengers, benefitting the local economy with visitors often extending their stay in the shire as a result of their cable tram experience.
The community group has also raised the community profile of the Glenelg Shire, receiving numerous state awards such as the Keep Australia Beautiful 2005 Victorian Tidy Towns Community Pride award and the National Community Link 2002 Victorian Environment Conservation and Heritage award.

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