Andrew Downes, Captain of Gerringong’s Rural Fire Service (RFS) Brigade, has been chosen as Kiama’s Australia Day Citizen of the Year.
The announcement said, “Andrew was nominated for his devotion to duty within a volunteer-based organisation that directly benefits all our local communities.”
He has been an active RFS member for more than a decade, and Gerringong’s Captain since 2017.
“I found out about the award at the end of what had been a bad week for our firefighters, so it really gave me a lift,” he says.
“There has been a commitment from everyone in the RFS, not just those out fighting fires but those behind the scenes. I see this award as being for everybody.”
At 32, Andrew is much younger than the usual for a Citizen of the Year.
In his real job, he works for ANSTO at Lucas Heights as an engineering technician, keeping the particle accelerators going.
His family has been in Gerringong for well over a hundred years, and he can’t imagine living anywhere else.
Andrew hopes the award will encourage other younger people got get involved in community service organisations.
“There are lots of things you can do as a volunteer – keep looking until you find the one that suits you.”
Kiama resident, Olivia Deans, has been named as Young Citizen of the Year, for her achievements in the sport of karate.
Now 20, she took up the sport when eight years old, and has an impressive list of accomplishments, including representing NSW, and a gold medals at the national and international level.
“I was really surprised and very proud when I was told I had been nominated for this award,” says Olivia.
“I’m delighted Andrew has been made Citizen of the Year, as he is doing such an amazing job for the whole community.
“This year, more than ever, people will be celebrating the real strength of Australia – the way community pulls together to help.”
Apart from her sporting commitments, Olivia is studying primary teaching at Wollongong University as well as being an art support worker for people with trauma and disability.
She grew up in Kiama, including going to the High School, and hopes her award will help to promote inclusion on all levels.
The Community Group of the Year has been shared by the Kiama Red Cross (whose efforts often feature in The Bugle) and Jamberoo Touch Association.
The latter was established in 1984 as a social competition and has grown to 900 senior and junior players. It now manages a 51-side summer competition, 32-side winter competition and more than 100 juniors.
Unusually, no Senior Citizen of the Year was awarded this year.
The awards are presented at the Australia Day ceremony at Minnamurra Public School Hall, from 8.30am.