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First Nations advocate Nathan Towney named 2023 Newcastle Citizen of the Year


A passionate advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, Nathan Towney, is Newcastle’s 2023 Citizen of the Year.

The accolade, presented at an award ceremony on Wednesday 17 January, recognises his leadership as the University of Newcastle’s Pro Vice-Chancellor indigenous strategy and leadership.

A Wiradjuri man, Mr Towney was also pivotal in the successful launch of Ngarrama in 2022 in partnership with Awabakal Ltd and supported by City of Newcastle (CN).

He will oversee the event’s return to King Edward Park on Wednesday 25 January.

Mr Towney said it was an honour to receive the award, which gave weight to the incredible work being done in the community to shift public perceptions and improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“I’m really proud to be part of this community,” he explained.

“Newcastle has been a place of opportunity for Aboriginal people for many years and there are a lot of people who do amazing work across this region.

“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.”

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said Mr Towney’s worthy conferral as Citizen of the Year came at a significant time in the national discourse on indigenous affairs, ahead of the forthcoming referendum to establish a Voice to Parliament.

“Nathan’s a dedicated community leader who is passionate about building positive relationships and creating greater awareness and understanding of the path to reconciliation,” she added.

The 2023 Young Citizen of the Year was awarded to local entrepreneur Dominic May, who founded CoastXP, a unique coastal sightseeing experience.

As well as actively contributing to the diversity of local tourism offerings and Newcastle’s post-pandemic economic recovery, he 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.

In recognition of its work with all levels of government to tackle coastal erosion, Stockton Community Group Inc. took out 2023 Community Group of the Year.

Led by co-presidents Alison Rigby and Melanie Taggart, the volunteer organisation was congratulated on its efforts to highlight erosion at Stockton Beach and call on the NSW Government to “step up and act” through organised campaigns such as the Red Line Rally in July.

Stockton Community Group Inc. continues to advocate alongside City of Newcastle for the implementation of actions under the Stockton Coastal Management Plan (CMP), which was certified by the NSW Government in August 2020.

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