A Small But Needed Reform to the Australia Day Awards Process

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Last night saw the Governor of South Australia Kevin Scarce and Chair of the Australia Day Council Cr. Michael Henningsen conduct South Australia’s Australia Day Awards. It was a wonderful ceremony in which Local Government plays a central role. I’d like to see one small but significant reform to the process of determining the winners.

I’ve been the Chair of Unley’s Australia Day Awards Panel since being elected Mayor in 2010. It is an interesting process. Our winners are then submitted along with the winners from each Local Council area to the Australia Day Council who then select the State winners (the awards last night). I believe the process requires the following small reform.

Shortlisted nominees should be interviewed.

Currently outstanding individuals are nominated by other people who have been so inspired by the impact the person they are nominating has had on their lives or the community. Often but not always, this nomination is done without the knowledge of the nominee.

As with many nominations or application, the success or failure and the outcome often relies very heavily on the quality of the application.

As Chair of Unley’s Australia Day Award Panel I’ve seen some some fantastic applications but I’ve also seen many lacking. Consequently the nominee is at a disadvantage. This can be truly unjust. The rules stipulate that the panel can only make a decision based on the contents of the application. Whilst within the bustling community of Unley’s 38,000 people the Awards panel are not always able to know the nominees, we often do, having come into contact with them because of our own roles in the community. So our frustration is exacerbated when we know of a person or event that does not appear to be represented adequately by the nomination before us.

An interview with a shortlist of outstanding applicants would enable the panel to inquire further of the individuals and the events successes so as to enable a more robust process that clearly determines our local champions for the year. It would add that extra layer of depth and integrity to the entirety of the process. It would mean more work for the panel but when you are talking about an awards of this magnitude in which you are celebrating, recognizing and shining a light on our communities exemplars, surely that time and effort is justified.

The winners were:

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South Australia Community Event – Jointly won by HATS (Clare Valley) and Koidomo Nohi Japanese Festival (West Torrens)

South Australian Young Citizen of the Year – Zac Cordo (Riverland)

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South Australian Citizen of the Year – Peter Ansell (Coorong)

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The Minister for Education’s Award for Languages and Culture – Laura Clemow

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Women Hold Up Half the Sky – Tam Boakes

Local Governments are front and center in the process of determining the recipients of the first three awards whilst the last two are made by referral of a State Government Minister’s committee.

I’m looking forward to Unley Australia Day tomorrow. We are making about 60 people new citizens and then for the first time holding events and activities afterwards. Councils are at the center of Australia Day.

Categories: Lachlan Clyne - Personal Life

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