A woman dedicated to raising funds for charity and linking the Hunter's homeless with services, a young climate change campaigner and a group that works to promote inclusivity in Newcastle have been recognised in the city's annual Australia Day awards.
For her work with the highly successful Hunter Homeless Connect Day and organising the Divas on the Green golf day for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter and Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation, Michelle Faithfull was named City of Newcastle's 2020 Citizen of the Year.
The Bar Beach resident said she was "honoured" to receive the award, announced by Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes at Civic Theatre on January 26.
"Losing my first-born daughter, Jessica, over 30 years ago at four months of age opened my eyes to the importance of community and supporting each other," Ms Faithfull said.
"Bringing people together for a common cause has certainly become a passion of mine, and apart from honouring my daughter's legacy, it has taken me on the most amazing journey of connection.
"The people of Newcastle have been very supportive of my activities here over the years and I am absolutely honoured to receive this award in a community I adore. I hope that I can inspire others to bring their communities together, because the rewards are priceless."
In the past 10 years Ms Faithfull has helped to raise more than $180,000 for charities including $90,000 for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, $65,000 for the Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation and $20,000 for the new Ronald McDonald House family room in John Hunter Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.
Cr Nelmes said Faithfull's commitment to improving the lives of others had earned her the city's top Australia Day honour.
"Until today, Michelle was one of Newcastle's unsung heroes, so the City of Newcastle is thrilled to recognise her tireless efforts to assist those in our community who are doing it tough," she said.
"Michelle embodies everything that is good about the human spirit. Resolutely committed to improving the lives of others, she has contributed to many great organisations. The Citizen of the Year award is a fitting honour for her dedication to bettering our society and I hope the recognition helps her continue that endeavour."
For her instrumental work in the national Student Strike 4 Climate movement, New Lambton High School student Alexa Stuart, 16, was named Newcastle's Young Citizen of the Year.
Miss Stuart has collaborated with peers, senior climate campaigners and SS4C's national organising team since attending her first rally as a 15 year old in 2018.
"Alexa is an inspiring young person who has maintained excellent academic grades while leading her peers amid the climate emergency that the recent bushfires have brought to national and world prominence," Cr Nelmes said.
"At such a young age she has represented the SS4C at meetings with local members of parliament, unions, university staff, local businesses, and spoken about climate change at her high school and local church. At last September's global strike she gave an inspiring speech in front of 10,000 people and has played a major role in writing the national SS4C constitution."
Newcastle Pride, the organisers of the highly successful Newcastle Pride Festival, was named the Community Group of the Year.
"I would like to sincerely thank the City of Newcastle and the anonymous community members who submitted the nomination," Newcastle Pride president Lee-Anne McDougall said.
"We still have a lot of work to do but It gives us hope that change is happening as we keep striving for equality, acceptance, inclusion, to be no longer invisible, and for the freedom to love whoever we choose to love without judgement, as everyone deserves."
Ms McDougall paid tribute to the "talented and passion people" who were part of the 2019 committee: Ivan Skaines, Ed Abbott, Jay Bellamy, Hellen Richards, Sally Franco, Debbie Hanson and Dr Geoff MacFarlane.
After two instalments of their annual event, Newcastle Pride will move to develop a Youth Pride Tribe in 2020 to focus on events for LGBTIQ young people, featuring a Queer Youth prom. The festival returns August 14-30.
"I'd like to congratulate Newcastle Pride on their fantastic festival and for providing an inclusive, vibrant and fun environment for all LGBTIQ residents to build social connections and experience a community free of discrimination," Cr Nelmes said.
The winners of the 2020 Lake Macquarie City Awards will be announced at a function on Saturday, February 8.