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Hawkesbury’s 2023 Citizen of the Year

Keith Acton was honoured as 2023’s Citizen of the Year at Hawkesbury’s recently held Australia Day Awards, a ceremony that awarded exceptional members of the Hawkesbury community.

Other winners on the day included Gemma King for Young Citizen of the Year, Scott Hinks and Rochelle Miller for the Local Hero Award, Kurrajong Nursing Home Auxiliary for Community Organisation of the Year, Melissa Crane for Sportsperson of the Year and Windsor High School Thursday Lunchtime Interest Group for the Arts and Culture Award.

The possibility of Keith receiving a Citizen of the Year nomination never occurred to him until one of the teachers at Wisemans Ferry Public School, where he works one day a week for groundskeeping and maintenance, handed him a folded up piece of paper. “I opened it at home – it was an email from the Council saying I’d been nominated,” he said.

“I told my wife and she said that I should accept the nomination. I went into Hawkesbury Council and said that I would be attending with three guests, and I didn’t expect anything at all on the day. All of a sudden on the day, I heard my name being read out for Citizen of the Year, and that was an absolute surprise.”

Since moving to the Hawkesbury in 2003, Keith has become a highly involved and motivated member of the local community. A neighbour introduced him to the Wisemans Ferry RFS Brigade, and he took the opportunity to join in 2007 as a chance to help the local community.

He became a member of the Lower MacDonald RFS in 2015, and is currently the President and Equipment Officer of that Brigade while retaining dual membership at both Brigades. In addition to the positions in the RFS and Wisemans Ferry Public School, Keith is the Vice President of the Wisemans Ferry ANZAC Day Services committee and assists elderly and less able community members with a variety of tasks.

Keith was heavily involved with providing support with his brigades in the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfire period, working to protect a huge portion of the Hawkesbury.

He recalls: “One particularly memorable moment from that summer was when I went with the Wisemans Ferry RFS up to the Bilpin Fruit Bowl – that was an enormous fire up there, which was quite terrifying. But thankfully we were able to put out and extinguish a number of fires.”

Citizen Of The Year Australia Day 2024,

During the 2021 and 2022 Hawkesbury floods, Keith used his extensive knowledge of the Hawkesbury community to work with the RFS and SES to help those affected by the rising waters. “I know the people, I know how to get to places and where food relief needs to go,” he says.

“It’s part of what you do when you volunteer for an organisation like the RFS; you’ve got to be active, you can’t pick and choose what you’re going to do.”

Keith feels incredibly grateful to have won the Citizen of the Year award. He says: “I’m deeply humbled that people in the area would look at what I’ve done and consider it worthy of nomination in the first place. All I do is help my neighbours, that’s what you try to do. When they’re sick, when they can’t mow their lawns or clean their roof gutters, why not do it?”

Though extremely honoured to receive the award, Keith stresses that he couldn’t have won it without help. He says: “Our community is what keeps me doing it.

The people we help are friends or co-workers – they’re all people that would go out and volunteer. It’s a camaraderie in that sense, and we’ve got a very resilient community. And if you can give a little bit, if everyone just gives a little bit, the world will be a better place.”

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