Australia Day Awards

The annual Baw Baw Shire Australia Day Awards ceremony honours and acknowledges individuals and groups who have made a noteworthy contribution during the current year and/or given outstanding service to the local community over a number of years.

Congratulations to our 2022 Australia Day Award recipients.

Click on the drop down boxes to see the recipients for each category. 

Citizen of the Year

Krista Mountford

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Krista has only lived in the Baw Baw Shire for the last 3 years, but has already made a huge impact in the community. Krista has organised 12 charity events over the past 6 years and has raised over $65,000 for charities including GERF-Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund, Ovarian Cancer Australia and the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Together with Baw Baw Food Relief, Krista organised the Reverse Advent Calendar event, where over 400 Christmas hampers made by community members, businesses and organisations, and provided to those in need. She has also played a key role in the organisation and delivery of the Baw Baw Soup Kitchen.

Krista is an active member of her son's school, Ellinbank Primary School. She is a member of the School Council and on the Sustainability/Grounds Committee and Fundraising Committee, raising funds to transform the school gardens.

In 2019 Krista began a local group called, Gippsland Wellness Women, as a way to connect local women to meet up for walks, catch ups and support to local women, particularly in the last two years throughout the pandemic.

Krista does all of this whilst also being a hands on Mum to two young sons, Riley and Connor, and loving wife to Andrew. She is also studying full time at TAFE Gippsland, in a Certificate IV in Leisure and Health and working casually Fairview Village as part of their Lifestyle Team.

Young Citizen of the Year

Alan Valenzuela

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Alan is a great support of music events and is the first person to put up his hand to volunteer his time as a presenter, performer or host or even a humble stagehand: and roadie; always with a smile and can-do attitude. In between COVID lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, Alan has been working with a production company in Melbourne doing sound and stage production work for a range of venues and events.

Alan writes and records his own music and through networking with other musicians and industry professionals at every opportunity. Alan is passionate about his music and about learning and developing new techniques and skills to help develop his knowledge and creativity and this is evident in the music he is creating.

Alan is an informal leader in the school community and is always supporting his peers in projects and provides a voice to student ideas to the school and teachers.

Community Group of the Year

Baw Baw Soup Kitchen

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Baw Baw Food Relief has been operating in the Baw Baw Shire for the past 19½ years. They have 950 families registered for assistance providing access to wholesome food each year. The centre is staffed by volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure the shelves are full of food so vulnerable residents can ‘go shopping’.

In March 2021 several groups and associations met to discuss how best the group can serve the growing demands of the population growth in the Shire. The group consisting of Baw Baw Food Relief – Warragul, The Crossing Food Relief – Drouin, Frankie’s Community Kitchen, Warragul Community House, Apex Club of Drouin and the Lions Club of Warragul worked together to deliver the new program: The Soup Kitchen.

Over the 13 week pilot program, over 100 people came together from each group to warm up soups, quiches and other delicious foods to provide for residents. Pilot was a success with plans to continue the program into 2022.

Special Recognition Awards

West Gippsland Healthcare Group

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The WGHG were nominated for the pivotal role they continue to play in supporting the local community with response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In mid 2021, WGHG set up a Vaccination Clinic at the Goods Shed in Warragul, a central hub to provide vaccinations to the community of Baw Baw Shire.

Then another massive undertaking, setting up the COVID testing facility at Lardner Park when the COVID outbreak in Baw Baw commenced. While there had been much contingency planning, the facility was set up in less than 24 hours, testing hundreds of patients per day whilst continuing to care for a surge in patients at the hospital site. By providing this community service, WGHG gave thousands of people the opportunity to be tested in their own cars, with a record 638 tested in just one day!

A range of staff were re-deployed to Lardner Park from reception, administration, payroll, environmental services, education, nurses, nurse unit managers even the Director of Clinical Operations – the list goes on, everyone took their turn to man the fort. All the staff put themselves at risk in the front line facing a pandemic to do their part for their community.


Olivia's Place

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Olivia's Place is Baw Baw’s leading pregnancy and early parenting charity with the mission of “supported parents, thriving children, and connected families.” Olivia’s Place gives support to families experiencing pregnancy and early parenting, through the provision of pregnancy goods, linking to health and financial aid services, and ongoing emotional support.

2021 was a year of great need, innovation, and big projects for Olivia’s Place. The group adapted their service delivery to ensure they remain connected with struggling mothers when face-to-face sessions became restricted. This meant that Family Support workers (who are mostly mothers themselves) were able to keep making those important phone calls to check in on clients.

In the same year, the team were intently working towards a long-standing goal of achieving accreditation as a community organisation with the QIC Health and Community Services Standards 7th Edition. This was a mammoth goal involving a nauseating amount of paperwork and criteria to address all to ensure the organisational operations are in top nick to deliver quality services to families in need. After many hours refining systems, formalising policies and procedures, and a rigorous assessment process, accreditation was received in March alongside some very esteemed words of praise from the assessors.

Australia Day Medallion Recipients

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Charlotte Smithett

Charlotte is a year 10 student at Drouin Secondary College. She is a selfless and respectful student and member of the Baw Baw community. Over her schooling she has participated in a large range of extracurricular activities throughout the year, such as swimming, athletics, leadership conferences, VicSRC Executive Advisory Committee and Live4Life.

Charlotte plays an active role in the community and is always trying to make an impact and positive change in herself and the community around her. Charlotte was awarded Young Citizen of the Year in 2021 and continues to display a strong commitment towards her community.


Chris Behrendorf

Christopher was nominated for his outstanding work within the Gippsland Umpires Association over the last decade, supporting the young people within the Shire. Christopher is also a board member with the Ellinbank and District Football League and has made a valuable contribution within his role there.  

Christopher also spends time fundraising and volunteering with local charity Hair of the Dog, contributing time and resources from his personal business to help the welfare rescue and rehabilitation of abandoned and mistreated dogs over the last 7 years.


Ross Dawson

Ross was nominated for his role in establishing the Drouin Men’s Coffee Club. Ross' philosophy aimed at providing a forum for men in West Gippsland to share their wit and knowledge to support each other’s physical and mental wellbeing.

The initiative has since evolved with groups now meeting in Drouin, Warragul, Moe and Yarragon. 10 to 25 men meet on a weekly basis with Ross assuming the responsibility for arranging a suitable venue and communicating details to members.

Ross provides a focus for up to 50 men who come together every week, and the fact that few miss without good cause is testament to the value of his work.


Erika Wassenberg

Erika was nominated for her time and passion spent towards giving back to the Baw Baw Shire community. She has just stepped down from the role of Drouin Lions Club president, after serving for 3 years. During her time at the club, membership has increased significantly and continues to increase to this day.

Erika is an active Lions Club member and can often be seen raising funds at Bunnings BBQs and other local events. Erika also volunteers at the food relief centre, making sandwiches for disadvantaged school children. She also dedicates time and work towards supporting others who are experiencing grief. She is modest about her achievements and is much loved by those who know her. 


Jodie Mace

Jodie was nominated for her enthusiasm and contribution towards her local community in the Mountain Rivers Region of the Shire. Jodie is always putting people first and supporting the many local groups over the past 15 years.

Jodie dedicates several hours supporting local groups with their fundraising efforts, donating cakes and scones and general event organisation to assist the group wherever possible. She is always going above and beyond of what is required. 

Jodie has also played an active role assisting with a number of community groups and organisations including: King of the Mountain annual wood chop, SES World’s Greatest Shave, Erica Community Facilities Committee of Management, Annual Monaro Car Day, Australian Red Cross Centenary – helping with a display of uniforms, badges and trophies over the years as, well as serving food at Community BBQs and Christmas gatherings. 


Ron Mether

Ron is at the heart of the Willow Grove Recreation Reserve. Having been a member of the committee since 1981, he has helped helped build the football rooms, amongst many other projects.

In recent years Ron has maintained the recreation lawns on a regular basis and cleans the all abilities facilities in town. Ron has also played a key role in the in the grant application and building process for the newly established playground and tennis/netball rooms.

Ron is currently an active voluntary member of the local Landcare group and Community Hall Committee, he regularly mows the primary school grounds, and has been the Master of Ceremonies at the Hill End Australia Day Service the last few years.