Flying ace Matt Hall has been named Lake Macquarie's Sports Star of the Year for his outstanding performance on the world stage.
The veteran RAAF pilot, who won the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in September, was among the high achievers recognised for their excellence at Saturday night's 2020 Lake Mac Awards.
"My passion for aviation started here in Lake Macquarie, and now, all these years later, this award has made it all worthwhile to represent the City doing something I'm still passionate about," Hall said.
This year's awards were expanded to include 11 categories, including two new awards recognising achievements in arts and creative production.
Rhonda Finlay, who has dedicated countless hours to a range of initiatives assisting Aboriginal welfare and education, as well as Wangi Lions Club, received the 2020 Ambassador Award.
Lake Macquarie Mayor Kay Fraser, who presented the award, noted the years of effort Ms Finlay had put into the community.
"What an incredible woman, and a very fitting ambassador for our City," she said.
Fishing Point artist Tracy Thomas took out the Lake Mac Artist and Creator Award following ongoing success in Australia and overseas. Thomas, a former winner of the International Emerging Artist Award whose work has featured on the side of a building in Dubai, said she was honoured to receive this latest accolade.
"I hope this award brings more awareness to arts in the community. I want to inspire other people, and especially young mums, because we really can achieve great things," she said.
Cerebral Palsy Alliance volunteer Amelia Coleman took out the Young Citizen of the Year Award for her work with children with and without disability. Judges couldn't separate rising athletics star Ashlyn Blackstock and soccer prodigy Riley Pockett, with both sharing this year's Rising Sports Star Award.
"The fact we had joint winners in two categories this year really shows how difficult it was for the judging panel to make its decision. Across the board, we were all impressed with the quality of entries and the stories behind each one," Cr Fraser said.
Northern NSW Football CEO David Eland won the Sports Leader Award and Lake Macquarie Sustainable Neighbourhood Alliance was named Community Group of the Year.
Lake Mac Awards 2020 winners
A tireless volunteer, Rhonda has been involved in a host of groups, activities and initiatives designed to make the community a better place and help those in it. Rhonda has been particularly active in the field of Aboriginal welfare and education, and has been involved for more than 15 years in Wangi Lions Club.
Sports Star Award
A former RAAF fighter pilot, Matt won his maiden Red Bull Air Race World Championship in 2019. He is the only Australian to have competed in the championship, participating in eight seasons of racing and amassing 30 podium finishes. Matt's team - Matt Hall Racing - is based in Lake Macquarie, helping raise the profile of the City and the sport for thousands of fans worldwide.
Young Citizen of the Year Award
From a young age, Amelia has pursued a career in paediatrics, leading to numerous paid and unpaid positions supporting children with and without disability. As a Cerebral Palsy Alliance volunteer, Amelia generously offers her skills as an occupational therapy student to better the lives of children and adults living with disability. She has gone above and beyond at various children's camps to support participants and their families.
Volunteer of the Year Award
Eduardo Leon (Cerebral Palsy Alliance)
Eduardo, aka Eddie, is a passionate volunteer for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance who has worked for many years with children with cerebral palsy. The speech pathologist has used his professional skills to help implement multiple programs aimed at making children's lives happier, helping them communicate and developing social and problem-solving skills.
Community Group of the Year
Lake Macquarie Sustainable Neighbourhood Alliance
The Alliance provides coordination, governance, resourcing, capacity-building, marketing and communication for and on behalf of the Sustainable Neighbourhood groups across Lake Macquarie City. It fosters sustainable neighbourhoods and a healthy local environment, driven by volunteers who in the past financial year alone contributed more than 9300 hours of work worth almost $300,000.
Artist and Creator Award
Tracy's art hangs in all corners of the globe, with its contemporary textures, layering and finishes appealing to the imagination. As a recipient of the International Emerging Artist Award in Dubai, her art has been reproduced on the side of an 11-storey building in Dubai's shopping precinct. Tracy's aim is for her art to lift and inspire and to create calm, peace and interest within those who view it.
Arts Leader Award (joint winners)
Via her Ruma Art Gallery and Supplies, Helene provides art supplies for western Lake Macquarie artists, and art classes for children and adults. Students have excelled under her expert tutelage, with people of all ages, abilities and cultural backgrounds welcomed. As well as selling her art, Helene has regularly donated works for schools and community fundraisers.
Saretta, an Aboriginal artist from the Wonaruah Nation, produces critically acclaimed art reflecting the style of traditional sand engravings found throughout Wonaruah country and the Hunter Region. Saretta has produced a vast body of work for private and corporate customers, and was a pioneering board member of Yarnteen, which aims to build Aboriginal involvement in business.
Environmental Leader Award
Nico has championed environmental and community initiatives in western Lake Macquarie for many years, serving as Chairperson of the Toronto Area Sustainable Neighbourhood Group for the past seven. He has helped promote the phase-out of single-use plastics in Toronto's CBD and has established partnerships with other local community groups.
Sports Leader Award
David is Northern NSW Football CEO, an organisation based at the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility at Speers Point and boasting almost 66,500 registered players. David's tireless work for Northern NSW Football has boosted the facility's ongoing success and growth, helped attract funding and built its positive profile in the local community.
All Abilities Sports Star
St Paul's Catholic College student Thomas Webster has excelled at State and international level in athletics, taking out many coveted titles over more than a decade of competition. He is a valued member of his school community, respected by staff and student alike.
Rising Sports Star Award (joint winners)
Ashlyn's athletics achievements peaked in 2019, with gold medals and records across various events at regional, State and national level. A member of the Athletics NSW Target Talent Program, Ashlyn's career highlights have included Under-16s women's discus gold at the Athletics Australia Track and Field Championships, and Under-16s women's shotput gold at the Combined High Schools Championships.
Riley's skill on the soccer field was demonstrated last year when he was selected to play in the Bill Turner Cup Under-15s competition, squaring off against opponents three years his senior. His maturity and humility on the field also bely his young age, and helped earn his Westlakes Wildcats Under-12s team the 2019 Blackshaw Award for Sportsmanship, Fair Play and Team Spirit.
International Children's Games Fair Play Award
Rilee was an outstanding member of Team Lake Macquarie 2019 and competed in swimming events. As a senior team member, she provided encouragement to every other athlete on the tour and always displayed respect for coaching and management staff. Her interaction and support of athletes from other nations demonstrated an impressive sense of fair play.