Hills Shire Citizens of the Year – We are in Good Hands

By BEV JORDAN
MERCEDES DURANTE, a dedicated volunteer with numerous organisations has been named The Hills Shire Council’s Australia Day Hills Shire Citizen of the Year.

Honoured at the same ceremony last week were council’s youngest ever recipient,12- year-old Scarlet Bradatsch (Young Citizen of the Year) and one of the area’s longest-serving volunteers, Shirley Purser (Senior Citizen of the Year) who turned 91 on Australia Day.

The Lisa Harnum Foundation was awarded Community Group of The Year and Chris Jones received the Environmental Citizen of the Year Award during a special award ceremony at the Pioneer Theatre on Wednesday, January 19.

Hills Citizens Of The Year 2022 Hills Shire Citizens Of The Year - We Are In Good Hands
L + r): lisa harnum foundation founder aileen mountifield, mercedes durante, chris jones, scarlet bradatsch, mayor peter gangemi, deputy mayor mark hodges, councillors jessica brazier and reena jethi and senior citizen of the year shirley purser.

Mercedes Durante from North Kellyville who volunteers with The Hills Women’s Shed and Positive Vibes Foundation, and is also a Board Member, actively supports programs promoting good mental health. She is also a St John Ambulance volunteer and President of Norwest Sunrise Rotary Club.

She told the Hills to Hawkesbury Community News: “I was so shocked when I got the phone call telling me about my nomination. I was so happy to be a finalist. That was enough for me. I am so honoured to be named Hill Shire citizen of the year. I am happy that the good work of the groups I am involved with has been recognised. I couldn’t choose a better country to live and raise my family, I am a very proud Australian.

“ Young Citizen of the Year Scarlet Bradatsch was in Year 6 at Kellyville Public School when she decided to do some research during the lockdown last year and put a presentation together about women’s rights and gender inequality.

A keen footballer herself (she plays for Kellyville Kolts Soccer Club) she sent the presentation to the Football Federation of Australia where it was well-received.

She also wanted to help women and children impacted by domestic and family violence and in the second lockdown Scarlet, with the help of four friends, filled 150 backpacks with school supplies to donate to The Sanctuary – The Hills Women’s Shelter.

Sagarika Venkat received a Highly Commended award in the Young Citizen category. Senior Citizen Shirley Purser from Castle Hill has dedicated her life to The Hills community with a long list of volunteer achievements including charter member of the Zonta Club of Sydney Hills, a founding secretary and current co-chair of Western Sydney International Women’s Day Committee and executive member of Red Cross Castle Hill Branch.

The great grandmother runs a volunteer sewing group making a bra support she designed for breast cancer patients who’ve had a mastectomy.

“I got so many lovely messages on Facebook (after the award),” said Shirley. “I felt very humble receiving the award because I know there are many people like me who spend time giving back. I am one of many seniors who are still volunteering and contributing to the community. You are never too old to volunteer, it certainly keeps your mind young.”

Highly Commended Awards For Senior Citizen of the Year were also presented to: Lesley Lawson, John Love and Jacqueline Matthews.
Aileen Mountifield who founded the Lisa Harnum Foundation said: ““LHF has now been serving the Hills community for close to eight years, supporting women and children experiencing domestic abuse, all without government funding. To receive this recognition for the work that LHF carries out is a true honour. Both myself and our two caseworkers feel very blessed and are immensely proud of the support that LHF provides.”

Highly Commended Awards were presented to: Soroptimist International The Hills, Hills Bulls Sport Club and Castle Hill RSL Youth Band
Chris Jones is a member of the Cattai Hills Environment Network and a long-time volunteer at the Environment Centre at Annangrove. At the Centre, he has helped to establish various gardens that educate the public about gardening and the environment.

Hills Shire Mayor, Dr Peter Gangemi thanked the winners and finalists for all their hard work in the community.

“They’ve worked hard despite the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and are dedicated to making this region the best place in the world to live. I thank them for their kindness, generosity and their unwavering support to others. “

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