Honouring Tamworth's best for Australia Day

A LONG-time community service volunteer and a high-achieving teen were named as Tamworth's citizens of the year at the Australia Day civic ceremony on Saturday.

Shortly after the huge festival cavalcade swept along the street outside, a slightly smaller crowd of about 70 people gathered upstairs for the occasion in the Tamworth Regional Council chambers.

Doreen Goddard was announced as the Citizen of the Year and recipient of the George Nethery Medal, and former Tamworth High School student Rhianna Smith was proclaimed Young Citizen of the Year.

The Mitchell Brady Encouragement Award, in honour of the 16-year-old who passed away in 1999, went to young achiever Elizabeth Plane.

The civic honours occurred on a weekend chock full of announcements, including the inclusion of local recipients in the Australia Day Honours List, the presentation of the Golden Guitars on Saturday night, the naming of the busking competition winner and, late last night, the announcement of this year's Country Music Queen and Princess.

Just before the citizenship awards were announced, eight new Australian citizens and Tamworth locals were officially welcomed by the community.

The town crier, Errol Bourne, who was also a nominee for Tamworth's Citizen of the Year, welcomed them all to the proceedings.

Tamworth Regional Council Australia Day Committee chairman Kevin Squires oversaw the event and mayor Col Murray spoke about the meaning of the day.

Addressing the eight citizenship candidates, Cr Murray said citizenship was a badge to be worn proudly.

Tamworth's Australia Day ambassador, Greg Grainger, an award-winning documentary maker and travel journalist, then spoke about his wife's journey to becoming an Australian citizen.

He also spoke briefly about newly awarded Australian of the Year, Ita Buttrose, a fellow journalist of his from yesteryear. 

The awards portion of the ceremony started with the announcement of the Mitchell Brady accolade, which winner Elizabeth Plane received because of her community service, fundraising efforts and musical accomplishments.

A student at Tamworth High School, she has held various positions with the school’s Interact club, which she joined in 2010.

She also volunteers with the RSL Women’s Auxiliary to sell Legacy badges, as well as with Clean Up Australia Day.

Elizabeth said her volunteering efforts wouldn’t have been possible without the support of her family and local residents.

She plans to continue her community work while focusing on her studies in the next few years.

Rhianna Smith’s Young Citizen of the Year award came from her focus on fundraising for cancer charities since a young age.

Rhianna and her family were struck by tragedy when her sister was diagnosed with leukaemia a few years ago.

But rather than dwelling on it, she raised more than $21,000 for groups like CanTeen, Camp Quality and Ronald McDonald House.

While her sister has been in remission for the past 12 months, Rhianna has continued to tirelessly work to raise funds for the charities while also finishing up her studies and becoming a cancer support “buddy”.

“The charity groups aren’t just charities – they’re my family and support group,” Rhianna said.

“I’m happy to give back to them.”

Over the years she has been a junior and senior Girl Guide, soccer coach, SRC member, prefect, blood donor and a volunteer at Ronald McDonald House.

The 18-year-old said the award was very unexpected and she was shocked by it all.

Next year she will begin social work studies at university.

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