Three sets of people – all associated with Ballan – have taken out the 2021 Moorabool Citizen, Young Citizen and Event of the Year.

Moorabool Business Awards chair David Nickels, charity founder Keeley Johnson (pictured) and the Winterknits arts event have been formally recognised in an Australia Day ceremony at Bacchus Marsh Community Hall in front of a COVID-safe crowd limited to 100 people.

The panel deciding the awards included Mayor Tom Sullivan (West Moorabool), Cr Paul Tatchell (Central ward) and Cr Ally Munari (Woodlands).

** Mr Nickels moved to the shire nine years ago and served as Ballan Chamber of Commerce President in 2015 and later as head of the Moorabool Business Awards.

In 2016 the bus operator joined his wife’s travel agency.

According to Council he has donated bus transport to seniors and football groups in Ballan and has also raised funds for the local hospital, pony club, kindergarten, Scouts, CFA and many others.

He has also supported the Ballan Jockey Club, Ballan Golf Club as well as the Gordon and Bacchus Marsh footy clubs.

“(When the pandemic hit) Dave chose to offer something back to the community by supporting the people of Ballan, Gordon, Greendale and surrounds by delivering medication to those in need,” Chief Executive Derek Madden said.

“He also transferred people to and from medical appointments, bringing them into town for banking, shopping, and more.

“He also assisted with the delivery of food and groceries.”

Certificates of appreciation were also handed out to three other nominees for the top honour:

** Kat Barlow – a Bacchus Marsh woman working to improve the lives of families caring for sick or special needs children. She has also worked extensively on the Bacchus Marsh says No to Toxic Waste campaign.

** Karen Pinder – a Darley woman who volunteered to stitch free masks for needy locals during lockdown, often working until the early hours at the height of the pandemic.

** Jackie Tabone – who co-ordinates foodbank operations at The Neighbours Place, a Bacchus March-based combined-churches project that helps disadvantaged people.

** Keeley said she was “very honoured” to have been chosen at the Young Citizen of the Year.

At age 13 she founded a Ballan-based charity which provides iPads to children – like herself – with communication disabilities.

The inspiration for Keeley’s Cause came after her experience navigating the education system with autism.

“Keeley has raised much needed funds to help distribute iPads to many within the Shire to help create equality education outcomes to learn, communicate and interact in mainstream and specialist schools,” Mr Madden said.

“Her empathy and compassion in assisting others sets a remarkable example for others.

“Keeley has been presented with a number of awards over the past year for her work and advocacy for children and their families with special needs, for her selflessness in ensuring no one is left behind, and in creating equality and inclusivity to people with disabilities.

“She ensures the inclusion of those less fortunate with disabilities and encourages them to be all they can.”

After a challenging 2020, Keeleys Cause is now finalizing a ‘Fluoro for Neuro’ Fun Day at New Gisborne on Sunday April 18. Mum Sharon Murphy said fundraising activities would include a colour run, car show and rides.

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** The Winterknits event warmed the main street of Ballan during lockdown and saw trees, seats, posts, bins, gates and more decorated with crochet and knitted objects.

Local artists Carmel Hunter and Lou Callow accepted the award on the group’s behalf.

But the event achieved much more than this.

“It encouraged locals and visitors to Ballan to walk the main street and enjoy the bright colours, humour and creativity along the street,” Mr Madden said.

“A treasure hunt was developed to provide a family activity over school holidays, and to give families relief during COVID19.”

Participants were encouraged to recycle, reuse and repurpose knitted items.

This resulted in many of the displays being created from donated garments, or items collected from second-hand shops, saving them from landfill.

“The event showcased what Ballan has to offer, encouraged regional tourism and supported local businesses,’ he said.

“While most events were cancelled due to COVID-19, this event was conducted in a COVID safe manner from the beginning.”

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Ballarat Federal Labor MP Catherine King attended, along with State MPs Michaela Settle (Buninyong Labor MLA), Steve McGhie (Melton Labor MLA) and Stuart Grimley (Western Victorian Justice Party MLC).

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Representatives from Bacchus Marsh Performing Arts Headquarters provided music including the national anthem.

** Meanwhile Eynesbury’s Annette Butterworth is the City of Melton’s Citizen of the Year after her volunteer work for kinders and the BusyFeet Melton program for children with special needs.

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Image: Supplied

Gabrielle Hodson
Author: Gabrielle Hodson

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