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Port Stephens honours its top citizens


A registered nurse, a high school captain, a singer-songwriter and a much-loved organisation were among those acknowledged at Port Stephens Annual Awards on Australia Day.

Passionate dementia caregiver and advocate Meagan Ambrose was named Citizen of the Year at a civic reception on Friday 26 January at Riverside Park.

Young Citizen of the Year went to Irrawang High School leader Abby Keeley for her selfless work throughout the community while the Nelson Bay Cancer Patient Transport Group collected the Port Stephens Medal.

Proud Indigenous musician Jacob Ridgeway took home the Cultural Endeavour accolade, with promising star Alice Mitchell deemed Sportsperson of the Year.

The Nelson Bay Civic Pride Group picked up the prestigious Environmental Award.

Mayor Ryan Palmer congratulated all the nominees for their contributions.

“We’ve recognised Meagan as our Citizen of the Year for her extensive contributions to the community,” he said.

“She’s actively involved in various organisations including the Dementia and Memory Loss Activity Centre that she opened in 2022.

“During its first year of operation, the centre provided more than 3,739 hours of respite to 25 clients, earning Meagan plaudits from Dementia Australia for her passion and dedication to this important cause.”

Cr Palmer said the Port Stephens Annual Awards aimed to celebrate the individuals in the community “who go above and beyond in their efforts and contributions”.

“All the nominees are exceptional role models and leaders in Port Stephens,” he explained.

“So, it fills me with pride to be able to acknowledge and recognise their valuable contributions [today].

“These outstanding people and groups are nominated by their peers, making these awards something to be very proud of.

“Our nominees are motivated by their love for our community and their passion for their work.

“It’s a pleasure to recognise their invaluable contributions in making Port Stephens the wonderful place it is.

“On behalf of the councillors and the community – thank you to all our nominees for all that you do.”

The 2023 Port Stephens Annual Award recipients are:

Citizen of the Year – Meagan Ambrose

A registered nurse, community care clinical nurse and Woundcare clinical nurse consultant who is also actively involved in various community organisations.

In 2022, she opened a Dementia and Memory Loss Activity Centre to provide much-needed respite for loved ones and carers.

The centre has already provided more than 3,739 hours of respite to 25 clients in its first year of operation, earning Meagan recognition from Dementia Australia for her passion and dedication to this important cause.

Young Citizen of the Year – Abby Keeley

Abby is a remarkable young leader who continuously gives back to her community through her involvement in various organisations and charities.

As the captain of Irrawang High School and a proactive member of the Council Youth Advisory Panel, Dance Xtreme and Medowie Girl Guides, she’s a true inspiration for those around her.

She’s also working towards her Queens Guide Award and will represent Girl Guides Australia at an International Leadership Program in India in January.

Port Stephens Medal – Nelson Bay Cancer Patient Transport Group

This incredible group of more than 55 volunteers has been providing transport for cancer sufferers to Newcastle and Maitland metropolitan areas since 2012.

With 819 individual trips and more than 88,380km driven, this group has been a lifeline for patients in need of treatment, scans and medical appointments.

Not only do they provide essential transportation, but they also offer emotional support and social interactions, making the journey a little easier for those in need.

Sportsperson of the Year – Alice Mitchell

Alice is a young and accomplished athlete who has been a dedicated member of the Nelson Bay Touch Football Association for more than a decade.

At just 15 years of age, she proudly represented the state of New South Wales in Touch Football.

Alice is also a valued member of the Nelson Bay Netball Association and currently coaches a touch football squad, where she instils important values such as teamwork, confidence, and healthy life choices in her athletes.

The Port Stephens Cultural Endeavour award went to Indigenous performer Jacob Ridgeway. Photo: Tessa Nuku

Cultural Endeavour – Jacob Ridgeway

Jacob Ridgeway is an award-winning singer, songwriter, and performing artist who has used his music as a powerful platform to share his experiences and observations of life as a proud Worimi and Gamilaroi man.

With his debut single Bullyman winning the 2019 National Indigenous Story Award Grand Prize and charting in the iTunes Alternative Chart and All Genres Chart, he has performed alongside some of Australia’s biggest music names and earned critical acclaim.

Jacob also offers a unique creative writing course that uses music to foster creativity, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and practical writing skills in his students.

Environmental Award – Nelson Bay Civic Pride Group

This group is led by Margaret Wilkinson and her dedicated team of volunteers, Rory Milne, Ian Spight, and Judy Washington, have been voluntarily maintaining the gardens in Nelson Bay CBD since 2018.

Initiated by the Tomaree Business Chamber, now Business Port Stephens, this group ensures that the gardens are beautifully planted and maintained, providing a positive and visually stunning feature for both tourists and locals in Port Stephens.

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