Celebrating community excellence

The new footbridge opened on June 18 (Woodend Landcare).

Zoe Moffatt

With the new year well and truly underway, Macedon Ranges council is pausing to recognise and celebrate inspirational people and groups who continue to make contributions to the community.

The Riddells Creek 72 Hour Emergency Team won the connecting communities award for its work to understand emergency management and to research assets and vulnerabilities impacting the town’s disaster resilience.

In 2023, the team developed strategies to address the gaps in support in the first 72 hours after an emergency, and through this coordinated getting an automated external defibrillator (AED) for public access.

Riddells Creek Neighbourhood House community development manager Lisa Linton said the award gives recognition by residents and emergency agencies to the community leaders who have stepped up and volunteered their time and experience to the project.

“The work of the team is vital in ensuring that our community is better prepared for any emergency and able to look after ourselves in the aftermath, in collaboration with emergency services and council,” she said.

Woodend Landcare, previously ‘Friends of Five Mile Creek’, took home the healthy people and environment award for almost three decades of work within the community.

The group has been instrumental in restoration, and to date the group has planted more than 30,000 native trees, shrubs and ground covers.

Last year, they also oversaw the construction of a new pedestrian bridge over Five Mile Creek, thanks to a bequest from ex-president Jo Clancy.

Woodend Landcare president Peter Yates has been involved since 2003 and said the award is great recognition for all the work they’ve done over the years.

“We know the community, 99.9 per cent of them, absolutely love what we’ve done and what we continue to do,” he said.

“We want to preserve and enhance the natural vegetation around Woodend. [For example] Black Gum is endangered… so we want to enhance the habitat for it to continue to survive and regenerate.

“Our biggest problem at the moment is probably ivy… Our first working bee for the year is on February 4, and it’s going to be entirely removing ivy from hundreds of trees it’s growing up.”

The last award, the business and tourism award, was given to Interval Art for its inclusive art-based activities that bring joy, hope and excitement while creating connections and opportunities.

Beginning as a home-based business in 2018, Nicholle Gallus used her 25-plus years of experience in social services to run group projects in primary and secondary schools in collaboration with Bounce Back Project Ready.

During COVID, Interval Art was adapted and run as an online art program, which was followed by a move into a portable building in New Gisborne. Further relocation to a larger premises is also planned for 2024.

Ms Gallus said she was very surprised to receive the award, but felt encouraged and like people want to help her along the journey.

“I love small businesses because it’s easier to set the direction,” she said. “My heart has always been about building a community in business, and a small business allows you to have that relationship with people.

“[The business has] been kind of taken in different directions… COVID hit so I had to redesign [the business] quite quickly. Being creative and open to change, enabled it to adapt a lot.

“I’m very excited for the new studio, it’ll have more facilities… I’m leaving another job I’ve been doing two days a week to expand.”

Macedon Ranges council chief executive Bernie O’Sullivan congratulated this year’s community award winners.