The City of Mount Gambier is pleased to announce the 2024 Citizen of the Year recipients. Citizen of the Year will be awarded to Richard Harry, Senior Citizen of the Year will be presented to Kevin Douglas, Young Citizen of the Year will be awarded to Luke Thomson, the Community Event of the Year will be presented to the Mount Gambier Community Christmas Lunch and the Active Citizenship Award will be given to Julian Mattay. Awardees will be formally acknowledged at the Australia Day Breakfast and Awards event at the Cave Garden/Thugi on Friday 26 January 2024.
The annual awards recognise individuals and community groups that have made selfless contributions to the community during the past year, and in some cases, over many years.
“This year’s award recipients are some of the unsung heroes within our community who volunteer their time to make Mount Gambier a better place. I thank them for their dedication and assistance to improve the lives of others,” City of Mount Gambier Mayor Lynette Martin OAM said.
Mount Gambier man Richard Harry was a founder of the Limestone Coast Prostate Cancer Support Group (LCPCSG) after his own prostate cancer diagnosis in 2010.
“When your treating specialist tells you you’ve got the big ‘c’ it frightens the living daylights out of you,” Richard, a husband and father of two said.
“I ended up having a radical prostatectomy after my diagnosis, but during that time I was trying to find out more information and wanted to talk with other men about why they had chosen particular types of treatment. However, the closest support group was at Murray Bridge.”
After his surgery, the retired dairy farmer and business owner joined with the Rotary Club of Mount Gambier West to facilitate a public meeting to discuss the viability of establishing a local support group.
“We had urologist Professor Villis Marshall come down from Adelaide to speak to us and we also had members of an Adelaide based support group address a crowd of about 150 people,” Richard explained.
Following the meeting, LCPCSG was formed in October 2010 with Richard appointed at the helm as chair.
“At the inaugural meeting we decided it wasn’t just to be a men’s group, because any cancer impacts the whole family and we wanted to include the women as well. I think we had 20 odd families at that point in time.”
The group provides support, compassion and understanding to men and their families following a prostate cancer diagnosis.
“Over the years it has been interesting to see that we have a transient membership, some people need information and assistance early in the piece, they have their treatment, they find out it’s not always a life sentence and they get on with their life and they walk away from the group. Others have stayed on; they enjoy the camaraderie of a group of guys that have been through the same sort of thing.”
The LCPCSG’s functions evolved to include fundraising and lobbying government for equipment and resources.
“We joined with WIN Television to be part of their annual golf charity event which raised funds for us to be able to provide $15,000 to upgrade the chemo chairs at the Mount Gambier Hospital.”
“People are there in those chairs for a number of hours when they receive chemo and we thought that it wasn’t just men with prostate cancer that were benefiting from this, it was women with breast cancer, it was kids with childhood cancers such as leukemia, it had a whole community benefit.”
Richard says community groups and organisations from throughout the region got behind the group to support its endeavours to provide support to men diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“We worked with the Male Bag Foundation, WIN TV, Bendigo Bank, Limestone Coast Councils, Naracoorte Area Health Advisory Council and local individuals and businesses to raise $198,000 to purchase a portable Transperineal Biopsy machine in 2019. The machine is used by visiting urologists in Mount Gambier and Naracoorte and reduces the need for men to travel to Adelaide or Melbourne for the procedure,” Richard said.
I think we have got an absolutely magic community, we work together, it’s not just our community in Mount Gambier, it’s the whole of the Limestone Coast and I feel so privileged that we live in such a caring area. – Citizen of the Year Richard Harry.
Alongside Federal Member for Barker Tony Pasin, Richard was one of the driving forces behind the appointment of a part time specialist prostate cancer nurse in the Limestone Coast in 2020.
“We were trying to get a nurse for the Limestone Coast nurse as the only prostate nurses at that time were based in Adelaide. We were happy when Tracy Bryant was appointed by the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. She has more than 100 clients across the region and provides information and support to help men come to terms with living with prostate cancer.”
The 79-year-old is also an active member of the Limestone Coast Radiation Treatment Working Group, established in 2022. The group circulated a petition which garnered 16,000 signatures and an additional 4,000 digital signatures in support of establishing a radiation treatment centre in the region.
“We are the only state in the country that doesn’t have a radiation centre outside of a capital city. Why should Mount Gambier, the largest city outside of Adelaide, not have something like this?” Richard questioned.
Members of the working group presented the petition to state parliament in May 2023 and Richard, Lachie Haynes and Dee Carmody fronted the independent review parliamentary committee that followed in June 2023. As a result, the State Government is currently undertaking a feasibility study to assess the need for a radiation treatment facility for the region. This work is expected to be completed by mid-June 2024.
“I am hoping like crazy that we can get a treatment facility here. If successful, it will reduce the anxiety around travel costs and family commitments for up to two months at a time while in Adelaide or Warrnambool, Victoria for the radiation treatment for standard cancers.”
Richard was formally recognised for his advocacy work when he was presented with the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia’s Max Gardner Award for Distinguished Service in 2021.
Beyond his dedication to raising cancer awareness, Richard has had a long term involvement with the local CFS; he received a Paul Harris Fellow for his involvement with the Gambier Lakes Rotary Club between 1992 to 1997; and was involved in Scouts from 1976 until 1992, serving as a leader for Port MacDonnell and then a district leader.
Richard was humble when told he had been awarded the City of Mount Gambier 2024 Citizen of the Year Award.
“I feel very honoured, but I still feel there are a lot of people out there that do a lot more than me,” he said.
“I am just a cog in the groups that I’ve been involved with, I am just part of it. It takes a lot of people to bring these things together.”
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in Australian men and Richard has some advice to all men over 50 - get a PSA test.
“Fellas, get yourself tested. I’ve seen some good men die with it, and it’s not pretty. We don’t want that happening, and why should it? If we can do something about it, let’s do it, it’s a simple blood test at the doctor these days.”
Kevin Douglas has been a well-known personality in the Mount Gambier community for more than 50 years. Affectionately known as KD to many, the 72-year-old once fronted local classrooms as a teacher, coached local football teams and has been behind the microphone as master of ceremonies at many sporting events and presentations in addition to volunteering his time extensively throughout the community.
Born in the Riverland and raised in Adelaide, Kevin moved to Mount Gambier in 1974 for his first teaching post at Grant High School. His career in education spanned 45 years as a Physical Education (PE), Mathematics and Geography teacher throughout the region, including Allendale East Area School, Millicent High School, Mount Gambier High School and the district office before he retired in 2016.
“It’s not a job that can be taken lightly, because you really are putting down a foundation for a lot of kids,” Kevin said.
Grant High School Deputy Principal David Thomson attributed the introduction of the Vocational Education and Training (VET) program at the school to Kevin.
“His teaching methods were innovative and engaging, designing and delivering the work related studies program which gave young people disengaged from traditional education a pathway to work,” Mr Thomson said.
Kevin is proud of his legacy within the local education sector and was honoured in 2007 when Grant High School dedicated an area of the school as the Carol Lock/Kevin Douglas quadrangle in recognition of his service.
“That was huge to me,” he said.
“Even just recently I went to get the bus from the school for the Mount Gambier Community Christmas Lunch and they said, ‘yeah, it’s down by KD’s shed’. I said, ‘you still call it that?’ I haven’t been there for 20 something years, but they still call it that. That hits home a bit that you’ve made an impact at the school.”
Sport has played a huge role in Kevin’s life, whether it be playing a game of footy for South, West Gambier, Kongorong or Western Border Interleague, or coaching.
“Right from being a youth, my Mum Thelma ensured my brother and I played a lot of sport, and I believe it is so important. It has so much more to offer than potentially getting a kick on Adelaide oval - the responsibility, the organisation, the punctuality, all those social skills that are so important, the teamwork, the friendship, they are all the benefits of playing sport,” he said.
Over several decades, Kevin also volunteered his time to chair panels for local tribunal boards, including soccer, basketball, baseball, softball and football.
After hosting a sports show on local radio 5SE for the best part of a decade in the 90s, Kevin was in demand as a master of ceremonies around the region for various events. That included presentations and special events on race days at the Mount Gambier Harness Club, trotting evenings at the Mount Gambier Greyhound Club, sports nights and charity fundraisers.
“I loved every minute of it. Out at the trots if they had a presentation, I’d grab the microphone and do it right. I am not a professional at it, but I am someone who took some pride in doing things right,” he said.
In recent years, Kevin established a ‘Catch for Cash’ fundraising initiative at the Mount Gambier Greyhound Racing Club to raise money for local charitable organisations.
“When COVID hit, I thought there has got to be a way I can see my greyhound run, so I got a handler’s licence to be able to go and catch and box. Normally handlers get a bit of pocket money, $5 to $10 for going around to catch the dog and walk it back. I didn’t need that, so we started a ‘catch for cash’ jar for donations to raise money for local charities and I think we’ve raised about $28,000 now.”
In 2021, Kevin was presented with an Outstanding Service to Industry Award at the Greyhound Racing SA annual awards for his fundraising work and the assistance he provided to the local Quaran Care group.
“I really enjoyed working with the group to make them feel comfortable enough to come and visit the club, join in, and enjoy watching the races on a weekly basis. I assisted one young lad to become a licensed handler and it was a real joy to do so.”
Kevin enjoys using his skills to guide local volunteer organisations to success, including the Mount Gambier Community Christmas Lunch event. From 2020 to 2023 Kevin led the event, which grew to 170 attendees under his guidance and passion for the cause to ensure that everyone involved enjoyed Christmas lunch together, no matter their circumstances.
“Kevin engaged with the whole community to gain support for the event. He has put a structure in place to ensure that it can now continue to run for many years,” Mount Gambier Community Christmas Lunch event organiser Vicki Clark said.
Kevin discovered Sunset Kitchen as a result of his work with the Community Christmas Lunch.
“I would go along and ask people if they would like to attend the Christmas lunch, and then I realised what they did at Sunset Kitchen. I thought that it was fantastic, not making judgements, just providing underprivileged people of all ages with a meal on a Monday and Wednesday night.”
He now volunteers at the kitchen regularly and is grateful for the contribution and support of generous local businesses throughout Mount Gambier.
If there is a genuine need, I haven’t found a business, corporation, or individual in Mount Gambier who will say no, they will do what they can. - Senior Citizen of the Year Kevin Douglas
Kevin has been forced to reduce some of his volunteer work and activities in recent years due to ongoing health issues. He has been battling prostate cancer for the past five years and travels to Adelaide every three weeks for treatment.
“I stay with my son Bradley and my daughter Carmen and my three grandkids Noah, Eli and Xavier. It’s having those people at the end of your bed that is most important,” he said.
He has had 39 radiotherapy sessions and 41 chemotherapy sessions. While he says that the side effects can take a toll, he remains as active as possible within the community.
“I remember my oncologist said once, your positive approach and the amount of activity you do is better than any medication that I can give you.”
“His words are spot on, and I think there is enough research to show that cancer can respond to keeping active. You don’t give up without a fight.”
When asked why he is so community minded, Kevin is solemn. In 2010, at almost 60, he decided to research his father Les’ untimely death. He died in 1956 at the age of 29 in a car accident in the Riverland where the family lived. Kevin was just four years old at the time, and his older brother Gary was six.
“I looked up all the old microfilms, all the old newspapers in Waikerie and Blanchetown at the Adelaide Library because Mum never talked about it (the accident), she was traumatised,” Kevin said.
“I found out that my Dad was secretary of the Waikerie Football Club. Not a good footballer, but a great social person, so one out of two. It also had written in there what the Waikerie community did to fundraise and support Mum, Gary and myself when he died and it has never, ever left me.”
“The Waikerie community held a fundraiser and raised an unbelievable amount of money for the family between 1956 to 1960 which greatly assisted us,” he said.
Kevin said the goodwill displayed during that difficult time for his family astounded him and he wanted to continue to give back to others where he could, both locally and in the Riverland.
“My brother and I went back to the Waikerie Football Club and gave a donation to their junior program,” he said.
“That’s my why, you’ve got to do what you can to help other people in need.”
Mount Gambier man Luke Thomson had been silently struggling with his mental health for a couple years before he decided to speak to a doctor about it in 2022.
The former Nangwarry football coach was subsequently diagnosed with anxiety and depression and plucked up the courage to talk to some friends about it as a guest on ‘The Richo & Toddy Poddy’ podcast which usually focused on sport.
“I guess people were noticing when I was a bit down and my behaviour was all over the place, and they wanted to know why. To be upfront and honest I told a couple of mates about my diagnosis on the podcast, and they were taken aback, and everything really took off from there,” Luke said.
“That little chat between us led to some pretty good opportunities to help raise awareness about mental health and help break the stigma.”
The young father of two started the ‘Let’s Talk’ podcast in 2023 and quickly created a safe space for local people to discuss mental health issues.
“In sharing my story, I have found that more people have opened up. People have come to me and spoken about their own experiences, I have had people that you wouldn’t expect get in touch and it’s really opened up the conversation,” he said.
Luke was part of a local committee that raised more than $50,000 for headspace Mount Gambier through the twilight charity football match ‘switch the headspace’ held at East Gambier Football Club in February 2023 for mental health awareness.
I think Mount Gambier as a whole is a good community, people really come together especially when it is for the mental health side of things. - Young Citizen of the Year Luke Thomson
He was also a Swinging with the Stars participant in 2023, raising about $10,000 in funds for the Stand Like Stone Foundation.
In his working life, Luke works at a hotel and supports and mentors youth in his role as a School Services Officer (SSO) at Mount Gambier High School.
“You’re shaping these kids and you get the opportunity to guide them and help them on their way and to move out into the community to find casual jobs, to find an apprenticeship or whatever future they want to explore.”
He is currently studying a certificate four in youth work and hopes to continue to assist young people in the years ahead.
“I think Mount Gambier needs a youth centre, we always hear the kids that are 12 to 18 say that don’t really have that much to do here. We want a centre that brings them all together, whether they are into sports or gaming or whatever it is. Long term I wouldn’t mind being part of a centre that opens up something like that.”
The 29-year-old was surprised when told that he had been awarded the Young Citizen of the Year award.
“I was in a bit of shock, obviously you don’t set out to get these things, but I’m very happy and excited about it."
“This all wouldn’t be possible with the support of my partner Chanelle, and my boys Louie and Zeb," he said.
In 2009 local man Leigh Marcus hosted the first Mount Gambier Community Christmas Lunch at St Martin’s Lutheran Church Hall with 75 people in attendance.
In the years since, several volunteers including Heidi Bates, Liz Rymill, Kevin Douglas and current organiser Vicki Clark have led and facilitated the Mount Gambier Community Christmas Lunch.
“We have a wonderful group of volunteers who give up their own Christmas celebrations to support those less fortunate each year,” Vicki said.
The lunch is held annually on Christmas Day at City Hall. Attendees are provided with a free, three course Christmas lunch along with entertainment and a gift bag of items donated by local community members and businesses.
“The lunch is provided in an inclusive, safe environment to ensure everyone in our community gets the chance to enjoy a Christmas lunch which they may not have otherwise been able to do. We all know everyone needs a helping hand now and then, and that’s why we do what we do,” Vicki said.
It's a very humbling event to be involved with and we are very grateful to have the opportunity to support our community in this way. Christmas is a very hard time for a lot of vulnerable people and if we can take their mind off their woes for a few hours, our job is done. – Mount Gambier Community Christmas Lunch Organiser Vicki Clark
A bus is provided for those who don’t have transport, and taxis for those with disabilities to ensure no-one misses out on attending.
In 2023, the lunch was attended by 170 guests, with approximately 30 takeaway meals provided for those who were not comfortable in a group environment.
Vicki says attendees at the lunch come from all walks of life and from all parts of the community.
“They include people who are vulnerable, lonely or homeless, as well as refugee families who have relocated, or just people who want to share Christmas with others.”
“Over the years we have also had travellers pop in because they had nowhere else to go.”
Vicki attributes the generosity of the local community to the success of the event.
“This event couldn’t go ahead without the generous donations provided by the business community.”
“We also engage the broader community by asking them to donate personal packs for the gift bags. Last year the local community donated 150 personal packs delivered to drop off points in Mount Gambier.”
“Last year the gift bags for adults contained a hand towel, a personal pack containing toiletries, vouchers, chocolates and a book.”
The committee of eight also purchases about 30 toys each year to ensure each child in attendance receives a gift appropriate for their age.
“We had 28 children at the event last year and they each received a bag that contained a soft rug, stuffed rabbit, vouchers, a book, chocolate and lollies.”
“We engage with local schools to support the lunch which gives younger members of our community an understanding of the importance of the event. St Martins Lutheran College provides hand drawn placemats for each attendee and Tenison Woods College makes lolly bags.”
Vicki says the many personal stories attendees share makes the community effort worthwhile.
“Late last year we received a message from a lady who asked how she could donate to the lunch. I called her back and she said she had attended the previous year's lunch as a guest with her three children after fleeing to Mount Gambier as a result of domestic violence.”
“She said she walked in with her children, all a little scared because they knew no-one, but they were welcomed with open arms by the volunteers. It was a wonderful day for her and her children, and one they had never expected to have.”
“She also said her life had since turned around and she wanted to donate some money to help others and that she would never forget that day. When I checked our bank account, she had deposited $200, it brought tears to my eyes,” Vicki said.
As a child Julian Mattay and his family moved to Australia as refugees from war torn Hungary, Europe and decided to settle in Tasmania. He says Australia offered him many opportunities and now, he pays it forward by volunteering his time to local charities and organisations and donates generously to local causes to return the favour to others. For this, Julian is the recipient of the City of Mount Gambier Active Citizenship Award.Julian studied mathematics and physics at university and began his working life with the CSIRO in Hobart in 1966 at the age of 21. Throughout his career he focused on tree growth biometrics, modelling, computer programming and data analysis. Outside of work he would often take on double shifts as an Ambulance Service volunteer on weekends and had also joined the local bushfire brigade before moving to Mount Gambier in 1984 as part of a job transfer.Mount Gambier has since been Julian’s home for the past 40 years. His position at CSIRO was made redundant in 2006 and he subsequently decided to use his free time to help others.“I work with the Rotary Club, Sunset Community Kitchen, the Flying Doctor Service Support Group, the Ryder Cheshire Foundation and with the Books in Homes program,” Julian said.
Books in Homes is a charitable foundation that provides books to children living in remote, disadvantaged and low socio-economic circumstances, ensuring crucial early literacy engagement and the development of reading skills required for lifelong achievement.
As a member of the Rotary Club of Mount Gambier, Julian played a crucial role in establishing the Books in Homes program in Mount Gambier in 2015. From June 2019, Rotary decided to stop sponsoring the program and since then, Julian has personally donated more than $16,000 to keep the program running locally in conjunction with the Mount Gambier Library, providing 2,504 books to 678 families.“I have been passionate about books since I was a child. In the words of Billy Connolly, ‘Books are your ticket to the whole world’,” Julian said.As part of the initiative, each child selects nine new books they would like to have at home, creating a personalised library of their own.“Reading books takes children away from screens and playing games. They can read the books to their parents and their parents can read books to them, it’s a bit of a bonding exercise as well.”
Julian is involved in the program in a variety of ways, in addition to his financial contribution.
“Julian has attended school and kindergarten sites to meet with and read to the children. When the books are ordered and dispatched, Julian is first to put his hand up to offer to help pack the books into backpacks, ready to be given to the children,” Library Children and Youth Services Officer Bec Coates said.
“Julian has engaged with hundreds of families through book giving ceremonies where he personally gifts each child their books. Our community is so fortunate to have Julian, and the children involved in the program are destined for better literacy outcomes as a result.”
As part of his work with the Rotary Club of Mount Gambier, Julian coordinated the barbecue fundraiser at the weekly Rotary Community Market. He continued in this key role for almost 10 years, until the market was closed due to reduced patronage and the impact of COVID. Julian resigned as a member of the club in 2020, but as a “Friend of Rotary” he often volunteers his time to help with fundraising activities.
Julian is driven by a strong desire to help those in the community who need both moral and material support, whether it be young children, the aged, or those who are economically and socially disadvantaged. The 78-year-old provides about $26,000 in donations to the local causes he supports each year.When told that he was to be awarded the Active Citizenship Award for his ongoing community contributions, Julian was surprised and delighted.
I got my phone out and looked at the calendar, it wasn’t the first of April. Quite frankly I was stunned and shocked to hear that I had received this award. – Active Citizenship Award recipient Julian Mattay
The City of Mount Gambier Australia Day Breakfast and Citizen of the Year Awards presentation will be held on Friday 26 January at the Cave Garden/Thugi.The event will commence at 7:30am with breakfast provided by the Lakes Rotary Club of Mount Gambier which is available to purchase for $10.00 for adults and $7.00 for children, with all proceeds donated to Foodbank and local anti-domestic violence programs. Attendees are reminded to bring their own crockery and cutlery.Entertainment starts at 7:30am with local performers Jani Live, Bell Studio of Highland Dance and the Karen Youth Group of Mount Gambier, Yazidi happy boy and the Noh Lah Hay Karenni church group along with family friendly activities such as face painting, a jumping castle, and wildlife demonstrations by Australian Bush Buddies.The event will be interpreted on stage in Auslan, the language of the Australian deaf community. In addition, accessible matting will be laid on the lawn, allowing better wheelchair access for attendees.For those unable to attend the event, the City of Mount Gambier will live stream the proceedings, which can be viewed at facebook.com/cityofmountgambierMedia contact: City of Mount Gambier Media and Communications Coordinator Sharny McLean on 0413 798 327 or firstname.lastname@example.org