The City of Wollongong’s 2017 Australia Day Award winners have been announced at a function held on Thursday 19 January.

The Illawarra Academy of Sports featured heavily among the award winners with Cyclist and 2016 Illawarra Mercury Tobin Family Award Winner Chloe Heffernan winning the Sports Achievement Award and Pistol Shooter Alyssa Norris winning the Young Citizen of the Year Award.

Illawarra Academy of Sport General Manager Shannon Fraser said, “to have two of our current athletes win both the Sports Achievement and Young Citizen of the Year, is an outstanding achievement.”

“The IAS focuses on developing the holistic athlete both on and off the sporting arena, delivering programs for Talented young athletes within the Illawarra Region to not only achieve excellence through sport but become respected young ambassadors for the community, the Illawarra Academy of Sport and our valued partners.”

“Awards like these for our athletes show that the work that we do with them is not just allowing them to pursue excellence in their sport, but we are also producing better community citizens.”

Wollongong City Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery OAM said, “It is an honour and a privilege to present each of these outstanding citizens and groups with our Australia Day Awards. Every one of them has made an amazing contribution to our city.”

Background on 2017 Award Winners

Sports Achievement – Chloe Heffernan

Cyclist Chloe Heffernan is a member of the Illawarra Academy of Sport (IAS), and competes at a state, national and international level. Chloe is the winner of the 2016 IAS Illawarra Mercury Tobin Family Award, which recognises excellence in junior sport in the Illawarra. Among her many achievements, Chloe competed and won gold in the 2016 Oceania Track Championship Pursuit. She is also a volunteer who has raised funds for Zonta’s Biggest Morning Tea, Vinnies Winter Appeal, sun protection awareness and Caritas.

Young Citizen of the Year – Alyssa Norris

Corpus Christi Catholic High School Student Alyssa Norris (aged 14) is an active volunteer for various community groups across the Illawarra. Each week she volunteers at the KidzWish Sports Academy program, supporting and encouraging children who are sick, disadvantaged or living with disability to participate in sports. From October to March, she also volunteers fortnightly in the Sailability Program to assist people of all abilities to get into sailing. Alyssa is a full patrolling member of Windang Surf Club, and part of the Youth Rookie Program. At school, she belongs to the Interact Club, which is a social justice club that raises money for local charities.

Citizen of the Year – Robyn te Velde

Robyn te Velde is an Illawarra-based business woman, and the founder and creative director of Highlights on Mental Health (HOMH). HOMH raises awareness and vital funds for mental health, and works to reduce the stigma attached to mental health issues while promoting personal development. HOMH’s highest profile event is the Illawarra’s Top Model, which was launched in 2015, and continued to grow in 2016. Robyn has also had a long career in the beauty industry, working as an award-winning, internationally acclaimed hairdresser, salon owner, and mentor to hundreds of others in the field.

Senior Citizen of the Year – James Powell

Born and raised in Helensburgh, James (Jim) Powell has been a member of the Stanwell Park and Helensburgh Surf Life Saving Club since 1958. A former horticulturalist with a passion for plants, Jim has been involved in lobbying for numerous local environmental conservation projects. He is also Vice President of the Helensburgh and District Historical Society. In addition to his voluntary work, Jim has served the community of the Helensburgh District in the NSW Fire Brigade since 1974, retiring in January 2016. During his 40 years of service, he was involved in the devastating 2001 Christmas Day bush fires, and recovery efforts following the 2003 Waterfall train disaster.

Community Group Award – Wollongong Ambassador Program (IRT Group)

When Royal Caribbean cruise ship Radiance of the Seas sailed into Port Kembla Harbour on 30 October 2016, its 2000 passengers and 900 crew were welcomed by a team of more than 300 volunteers. Organised by the IRT Group in partnership with Destination Wollongong, this group was critical to the success of the cruise ship visit. Volunteers assisted as welcomers, Gong Page 3 of 3 Shuttle bus guides, visitor information assistants, and tour guides. As well as members of the broader community who participated, many of the Ambassadors were IRT residents who were encouraged to be part of the initiative to increase their sense of purpose and reduce social isolation. This successful program continues to operate for cruise ship visits during 2017.

Arts & Cultural Achievement Award – Wollongong Botanic Garden Florilegium Artists

The Wollongong Botanic Garden Florilegium Artists are a group of established artists who regularly exhibit throughout Wollongong, Sydney and the Southern Highlands. Members Helen Moon, Sandra I’Anson, Lee To, Janet Barlow, Heather Trott and Dawn McCrae have donated 23 original botanic artworks to Wollongong Botanic Garden. These works are based on plants found within our area, and provide both an artistic and scientific contribution to the Botanic Garden’s conservation work and plant identification. The group also offer regular workshops and training for interested artists, and donate funds raised from the sale of cards and prints towards the Botanic Garden’s work in preserving threatened plant species.

Outstanding Achievement or Innovation Award – Professor Gordon Wallace

Professor Gordon Wallace is one of Australia’s leading scientists, and is based at the University of Wollongong. He was recently awarded the prestigious 2016 Eureka Award for Science Leadership in Australia, and has received international recognition for his work in electro materials science, chemistry and engineering research. Gordon is a highly sought-after speaker in the media for his work including on the Bionic Bra and 3D-printing parts for human bodies. His reputation has attracted hundreds of researchers and students to Wollongong, from every corner of the globe.