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Winners of the 2021 Clarence Valley Australia Day Awards were the Rebuild Nymboida Community – Nymboida Recovery Team, with Gray Stride, Fiona Passmore and Pamela Denise (absent was Georgia Foster-Eyles) accepting the Community Achievement award, Scott Campbell won the Local Hero award and the Clarence Valley Citizen of the Year recipient was Hayley Talbot. Kalani Ives, recipient of the Young Citizen of the Year award was unable to attend the ceremony. Image: Emma Pritchard.

Clarence Valley acknowledges great community members

Emma Pritchard|

 They embody the selfless spirit of compassion and have demonstrated incredible acts of bravery, dedication and inspiration.
In front of a proud and appreciative audience, Hayley Talbot, Scott Campbell and the Rebuild Nymboida Community – Nymboida Recovery Team, were recognised and honoured with Australia Day Awards for their contributions to the Clarence Valley community. 
Nominated twice for Clarence Valley Citizen of the Year, most recently in 2019, Ms Talbot was announced as the 2021 winner by Clarence Valley councillor Karen Toms at an official ceremony at the Grafton District Services Club on January 26.
With an impressive portfolio of community contributions including running a free volunteer safe space in her hometown of Yamba where young women are encouraged to call in and enjoy a relaxed atmosphere and campaigning against mining in the Clarence Valley, Ms Talbot also successfully acquired a grant to plant 5000 native trees and help establish new koala corridors for the critically endangered species after the areas around Ashby, Mororo and Iluka were severely ravaged by bush fires.
Thankful to be honoured, Ms Talbot shared her award with her family and her community and took the opportunity during her acceptance speech, to voice her truth, which she described as an incongruous time for celebration and mourning, on Australia Day.
“I’m grateful to be honoured for my contribution, but in good conscience I have to say, we should be doing this on another day,” she said.
When asked if she was an advocate of changing the date of Australia Day, Ms Talbot said she was.
Ms Talbot revealed she was unable to stand at the lectern wholly with joy in her heart, knowing the neighbours she is called to love are shattered apart by a day that is considered a day of mourning for many Indigenous people.
Ms Talbot also praised her fellow nominees.
“This morning we are reminded that through it all, there are good people everywhere doing good things and it is right to uplift and honour these stories to inspire others to action and to elicit change,” she said.
As Lawrence RFS Captain Scott Campbell came forward to receive his Local Hero award from Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis amidst a stirring round of applause, his ever selfless and humble character shone through as he stepped up to the microphone, admitted with a smile that he didn’t have a speech prepared, and spoke fondly of the late Bruce Green who he described as a “pillar of our community.”
Looking down at his award, Mr Campbell said the bush fire season of late 2019 and 2020, was one the community will never forget.
During that time, Mr Campbell put his life on the line to assist the residents of Nymboida when a lightning strike started a catastrophic firestorm in the Liberation Trail area west of the rural village.
On November 8, 2019, Mr Campbell responded to a triple-0 call and went to the aid of residents who were trapped on a property.
As he and the remaining resident evacuated, they became trapped in the firestorm when Mr Campbell’s vehicle broke down.
Determined to get himself and the resident to safety, Mr Campbell managed to get the vehicle started again and after taking the resident to an awaiting ambulance, he selflessly continued assisting residents in need.
“The Clarence Valley as a whole suffered 80 per cent damage during that fire season and there were so many impacted communities, families and volunteers,” he said.
Holding up his award, Mr Campbell emotionally acknowledged the RFS and declared “this is for us”.
He also welcomed the new Australian citizens and encouraged them to join the RFS.
Within days of the Nymboida firestorm which destroyed more than 90 properties, the Rebuild Nymboida Community – Nymboida Recovery Team was formed by Gray Stride, who was also nominated for the Local Hero award, Georgia Foster-Eyles, Fiona Passmore and Pamela Denise.
As the group was announced as the recipients of the Community Achievement award, another loud round of applause filled the room.
The Rebuild Nymboida Community – Nymboida Recovery Team provided emergency accommodation, food, water and garbage disposal services for the rural community who were trapped behind the fire front.
“It was such a desperate situation,” Ms Denise said following the catastrophic fire.
“We were just stepping up and doing stuff that needed to be done.
“There were over 100 people from our community doing things to help one another and we were all completely shattered.
“What was incredible was all the people in our community did something to help and I feel we’re accepting this award on behalf of all of us.”
Kalani Ives was the recipient of the Clarence Valley Young Citizen of the Year award.
Often described as the most dedicated teenager in the Clarence Valley, the 15-year-old trains each day and is determined to become the next Indigenous Ironwoman.
She was unable to attend the ceremony last week.