Every year the city honours a local as its top citizen. Mal MacPherson is no stranger to honour, it was his title as the magistrate in the local court. While a lot of his life was dedicated to justice, he also had a passion for reforming disadvantaged youth and mental health. He was happy to use his time as Tamworth’s top citizen to trumpet his causes, but there was a bit more to the role than he first anticipated.
MUCH of Mal MacPherson’s life has focused on honour.
No doubt, a lot of the honour Mr MacPherson was accustomed to was suffixed to the end of contrite pleas in the local court where he presided as a magistrate for many years.
But, one of Mr MacPherson’s more recent honours was his tenure as Tamworth’s citizen of the year in 2017.
A shock, a privilege and, indeed, an honour, Mr MacPherson said the role actually gave him an eye-opening and uplifting glimpse into a different side of Tamworth and a renewed appreciation for citizenship.
“The highlight, which I didn’t expect, in the role you get invited to citizenship ceremonies throughout the year,” Mr MacPherson said.
“It opened my eyes.
“These people have really embraced Australia and you know it when they take the oath, they’re not just paying lip service.”
He said it was uplifting to hear the stories of the city’s newest citizens and to see them willing to give back to their newfound home.
“I was involved in a literary group with Eddie Whitham and I get to hear a lot of stories of how new citizens came here and you’ve got to take your hat off to them,” he said.
“They embrace it and they’re actually giving back, it’s uplifting.”
He said the new citizens felt “wanted and appreciated” here and the city deserved a pat on the back, especially coming back from the low-water mark registered more than a decade ago, when accusations of racism were flung at the city.
While there has been an expected bonuses coming with the gig, Mr MacPherson said the role allowed him to champion further some organisations close to his heart, including Youth Insearch and Billabong Clubhouse.
He said a number of partnerships were secured for Youth Insearch, a mentoring program for troubled and abused youngsters, and a visit from NSW mental health minister, Tanya Davies, saw funding secured for a new shed at Billabong Clubhouse.
Tamworth’s next citizen of the year will be named at community centre on January 26. Mr MacPherson encouraged the community to nominate locals for the honour more readily.
“There’s a lot of people in this community who don’t get the accolades they deserve,” he said.
“I’d encourage the recipient to go to as many citizenship ceremonies as possible.”