The Newcastle Citizen of the Year was announced at a ceremony on Wednesday morning.
Taking out the top gong was Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advocate Nathan Towney, for his leadership as the University of Newcastle’s Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Stratedy and Leadership.
UON says Mr Towney began his tertiary journey as a young man through the University’s own Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Admissions Scheme and has since dedicated his life to bettering his community and making sure education is accessible to all.
“His passion and community-focused approach has been instrumental to the University’s continued success, leading the University’s Indigenous Education Framework as part of the Looking Ahead Strategic Plan and launching the ‘Stretch’ Reconciliation Action Plan.
“Mr Towney has ensured community, connection and culture are embedded in all University engagements, exemplified through events such as award-winning night of reflection Ngarrama, RAPS in the Region and the Aboriginal Numeracy Gala Day. Last year, Mr Towney welcomed students and staff to his family home in Wellington, in Western New South Wales, during the Ma and Morley cultural experience – which is a true testament to his personal nature,” University of Newcastle said.
Mr Towney says it was an honour to receive the award.
“This is a very unexpected surprise, I feel privileged to receive acknowledgement from a community I love.
“I feel this personal recognition has been made possible by the foundational work of many people who have advocated for Aboriginal people, history and cultures in Newcastle across generations,” Mr Towney said.
Other honours awarded at the ceremony include the Young Citizen of the Year, which went to local entrepreneur Dominic May, who founded Coast XP.
Mr May was particularly recognised for diversifying local tourism offerings and Newcastle’s post-pandemic economic recovery, but also was lauded for his rescue efforts when the crew onboard the fishing vessel ELLIE-K issued a mayday call off the Newcastle coast in July.
Mr May and a group of whale watchers arrived on scene with seconds to spare as the vessel was taking on water, rescuing the entire crew including the family dog.
Stockton Community Group Inc. took home the Community Group of the Year award for their advocacy in efforts to highlight erosion at Stockton Beach.