Maitland Electorate Events

Over the Christmas break the Maitland electorate was bursting with achievements, and I am so proud and honoured to represent such a talented and generous local community. I would like to share with members some of those achievements and acts of generosity and kindness. Recently I attended the Australia Day celebrations at Maitland Park, where 42 people became new Australian citizens and the Maitland Citizen of the Year and Young Citizen of the Year awards were announced. Beverley Steggles was awarded Maitland Citizen of the Year and was recognised for her tireless and wide-ranging volunteer work in the community, particularly for her work with Grandparents as Parents. Sammy Seth, a wonderful young woman, was named Maitland's Young Citizen of the Year and was recognised for her passionate advocacy for young people in her role as ambassador for the Multicultural Youth Affairs Network.

I also congratulate the other Maitland of the Year finalists: Anthony Milburn, Carol Connaughton, Craig McGregor, Danny Phillips, Donna George, Eileen Garry, Geoff Winsley, Georgina Grine, Joe Gollan, Kevin Short, Max Fitzpatrick, Patricia Munton, Paul Clyne, Peter Hodgson and Tony Grace. I also congratulate Young Citizen of the Year finalists Brittany and Kimberly Simmons, Grace Ahrens, John Leao and Laurie Mexon. The sheer number of nominations shows the strength of community spirit we have in Maitland. An estimated 6,000 people made their way through Maitland Park that day to congratulate our finalists, our award winners and our new Australians. I thank Maitland mayor, Councillor Peter Blackmore, OAM, Councillor Henry Meskauskas and the Maitland Australia Day Committee, as well as all the other councillors and council staff who ensured that the Maitland community welcomed our new citizens, acknowledged the remarkable achievements of local people within our community and reflected on our nation's history in such a positive and enjoyable way. I thank the ambassador for the day, Ms Tanya Wilks.

Before Christmas my office was a collection point for Share the Dignity's "it's in the bag" campaign. I am extremely grateful to local community members who donated more than 170 bags filled with hygiene products, cosmetics, sanitary items, et cetera, to give to people who are less well off. Abby Rawlings is a local woman who told her family and friends to donate a bag instead of buying her a birthday present. Abby's friend Kate Moore kindly delivered all her donated bags to my office. I am so grateful to the many individuals and businesses that donated including Castle Personnel Services. It just shows how incredibly generous members of the Maitland community are. It is nice to be able to reach out to people in our own backyard who need help and support. I thank the entire nation-wide Share the Dignity volunteers who raise funds and bring awareness of the daily challenges that homeless women face each day in our community.

Another issue in my electorate is how to keep young people active, energised and engaged with our community. It is often hard to provide them with activities that give them a sense of purpose. There has been some antisocial behaviour in Woodberry in my electorate, but I am so proud of how the community has addressed it. It is easy to beat the law and order drum, but in the spirit of community the Woodberry citizens and the many caring community groups who serve them are working together because they know they cannot "arrest" their way out of these issues. The Maitland Neighbourhood Centre ran Boredom Busters, which involved more than 150 people over three days of the holidays. Program coordinator Naomi Rees described local community worker Leanne as a Pied Piper driving around the suburb, collecting young people and encouraging them to participate. Reverend Doug Morrison Cleary and many other community workers were involved and it was a great opportunity for everyone to get together. Reverend Doug is starting a get-together for local people in the skate park on Wednesday afternoons in March and Maitland Youth Development Officer Bron Dyason is beginning work to empower young people to help each other with drug and alcohol issues. She is also providing mental health support to students at Francis Greenway High School. In addition, Aboriginal elders Leon Hammond, Aunty Dawn Field and others are doing a lot of work with local Indigenous group the Red Belly Blacks. There are simply too many things going on in Maitland to mention them all in the short five minutes we are allotted each week. I could go on for hours. I will update the House next week about all of the fantastic things that are happening in Maitland.

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