13 December 2023

Wollongong volunteers celebrated for their dedication to protecting the local environment

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two people with an award

Merilyn House was celebrated for her work with both Rise & Shine and Bushcare. Photos: Wollongong City Council.

Residents who dedicate their time to making Wollongong a great city to live, work and play have been recognised at the council’s 2023 Environment Volunteer Awards.

Wollongong City Council celebrated the people behind some of its most successful programs, such as Rise & Shine, which has seen hundreds of community volunteers rolling up their sleeves since it was first established almost four decades ago.

The program was originally inspired by the late Basil Ryan, who collected 110 bags of rubbish from a spot near his home in West Wollongong using a rope-and-pulley system to lift and load the bags.

An award named in Basil’s honour went to volunteer David Williamson at a ceremony on Friday (8 December), with Dragons Abrest Illawarra receiving the Rise & Shine Community Group Business Award, Jason and Memphis Marshall getting the Citizen Award and Dilys Hoser and Merilyn House both being recognised with Silver Rise & Shine Awards.

READ ALSO Merilyn House has been making Helensburgh’s bush her home for decades

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery celebrated Merilyn’s long-time service to both the Rise & Shine and Bushcare programs.

“As one of the founding members of the Helensburgh Landcare group, Merilyn has been instrumental in battling weeds in the northern suburbs as well as advocating and protecting the city’s history through her work maintaining the Old Helensburgh Railway Station,” Cr Bradbery said.

The success of Rise & Shine has also influenced more council-run volunteer programs to be launched in the area, with the likes of Bushcare, Fiready and Dunecare all working together to rally the community to solve environmental issues.

Bushcare sign

Without volunteers, Wollongong City Council could not run programs such as Bushcare.

“These extraordinary programs bring people together to participate in a range of activities that all contribute to improving our local environment,” Cr Bradbery said.

”This can look like picking up rubbish, planting trees and other native plants, removing weeds, and clearing vegetation and fuel in bushland to create buffer zones that may help to reduce the speed and intensity of bushfires.”

Alan Lowis was named Bushcare Volunteer of the Year, with Steve Higson receiving an award in memory of talented and self-trained botanist Anders Boefeldt, while the Odenpa Bushcare group was honoured with the Community Spirit Award.

READ ALSO Former rubbish dump now thriving as a sanctuary for birds, plants, reptiles – and volunteers

Teresa Nuske was the Dunecare Volunteer of the Year and Cathy Carr was the Fiready Volunteer of the Year after first becoming involved in 2010.

“She eagerly set out to enlist her neighbours to work together to assist in the ongoing reduction of bushfire fuel, an important project that helps prevent and reduce the severity of bushfires,” Cr Bradbery said.

“To this day, Cathy is an active member and has received this award for her commitment to the community and her genuine enthusiasm and community spirit.

“Congratulations to our award winners! I’d also like to say thank you to all of our volunteers who have given their time to make the City of Wollongong a great place to live, work and play. We would not be able to do what we do for our community without this support.”

For more information about these environmental programs, visit the council’s website pages for Rise & Shine, Bushcare, Fiready and Dunecare.

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