Australia Day 2020: Citizen of the year Helen Peake named among Murray Bridge award winners

Murray Bridge's citizen of the year has spent her life encouraging people to take pride in the rural city.

On Australia Day, the city showed its pride in her.

High school public relations coordinator Helen Peake was given the honour in recognition of her efforts to ensure students gained a thorough education about the world and its history.

She has led overseas exchanges and a tour of World War I's western front, started an annual peace walk across Murray Bridge's 1879 road bridge and secured funding for a war memorial at the school.

She has also been recognised by Rotary International as a Paul Harris Fellow for her charitable generosity.

Ms Peake said she had been part of the Murray Bridge community all her life and considered it the best place in the world.

"It has been a great delight to watch many young people come through Murray Bridge High School, to work with them and see them go on to lead exceptional lives," she said.

The judges had a difficult time choosing Ms Peake from a field which also included anti-violence campaigner Shawn Hicks, schools ag competition convenor Zoe Jones, orphanage founder Sally Lockwood, mental health expo organiser Cathy Smith, Analise Gates, Hilda Blackett and Denis Hicks.

Young citizens

Young citizen of the year awards were given to Air Force cadets Luke Ratzmer and Lara Yarrow.

Each has attained the rank of Leading Cadet, having been involved in more than 25 activities.

Luke has represented South Australia at shooting and participated in Anzac Day ceremonies and the cadets' recent freedom of entry march in Murray Bridge.

Lara also joined the march and has participated in dawn services at Mannum.

Volunteer

At 84 years of age, Murray Bridge's volunteer of the year has shown he still has plenty to give.

Maurice Wegener leads a team of council volunteers who remove graffiti around the district.

He had also given years of service to many community organisations, council chief executive officer Michael Sedgman said, including 18 to Neighbourhood Watch, 15 to the Country Fire Service, 10 to the Callington hall committee, six to the Murraylands Men's Shed and five to a Murray Bridge carers' group.

"Maurice is a much-loved treasure of the community," Mr Sedgman said.

"His infectious good nature is guaranteed to bring good cheer wherever he goes, which is far and wide, as he is out volunteering for the community almost every day of the week and has done so for decades.

"In a time when reliable volunteers aren't easy to obtain, Maurice is an incredibly valuable person in our community."

Sporting awards

Two new awards were given out for involvement in sport: one for an outstanding sporting achievement and one for sports administration.

The first award went to Barbara Smyth, winner of a silver - in the team event - and two bronze medals - overall and in ladies' doubles - at the 2019 darts World Cup in Romania.

She was also part of the first South Australian team to claim a medal, silver, at the national championships in 37 years.

The second award went to long-serving Murray Bridge Golf Club official Ken Graetz.

As well as serving 25 years on the club's committee, nine as captain and five as president, Mr Graetz has served as secretary-treasurer of the Murraylands Golf Association for 22 years and reached thousands of junior and senior players through tournaments and coaching programs.

Mayor Brenton Lewis encouraged more locals to support the club.

The council had previously given junior and senior sports person of the year awards, but the age criteria had led the likes of Opals basketballer Ally Wilson to win the "junior" award.

Community awards

Wellington Progress Association members accepted an award for the event of the year: the town's annual strawberry fete.

The fete was established in 1962 to raise funds for the completion of the town's hall, and continues to raise funds for its maintenance through food, stalls, music, entertainment and bowls of the delicious fruit.

Also nominated were Cars and Coffee Murray Bridge, the Murray Bridge Riverfront and Christmas Festival, Murray Bridge Marathon, Murray Bridge Parkrun and the National Historical Machinery Association's 2019 rally at Sturt Reserve.

Winner of an award for the community initiative of the year was the Mypolonga History Group for the farmers' market and car boot sale it ran to celebrate Mypolonga Institute's centenary.

More than 25 stall-holders set up for the occasion and many past residents returned to see it.

The other nominee was Trees for Life's Stepping Stones into Nature program, which introduced new Australians to local flora and fauna.

Speeches

Keynote speaker at an Australia Day breakfast at Sturt Reserve was Bill Denny AM, a retured Lieutenant Colonel in the Australian Army and veterans' advocate.

January 26 was about reflecting, respecting and celebrating, he said.

That meant taking pride in Australia's past, he said, but also recognising that aspects of that past such as the Frontier Wars - between European settlers and Aboriginal people - had been regrettable.

"Those years are as much a part of our national story as Waltzing Matilda and Ned Kelly," he said.

A welcome to country was given by Clyde Rigney junior, who encouraged people to think about what Australia Day meant to them personally.

"Australia Day is always a very challenging day, particularly for its first peoples," he said.

"Everyone has a different understanding of what sharing in the history of Australia is.

"I spend the day with my three kids and we talk about these things."

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