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Oz day honours for local heroes

Susan Findlay says she was “overwhelmed” to be named the 2020 community citizen of the year during the City of Albany’s Australia Day ceremony on Sunday.

Twenty-three people officially became Australians during the ceremony after moving here from nations including Kenya, Germany and the Philippines.

Ms Findlay said the significance of the day was not lost on anyone at the Albany Entertainment Centre.

“It was a really positive day,” she said.

“There was a great sense of importance given to the day and the ceremony itself — that’s what I was struck with most, the sense of occasion.

“There was definitely a sense of happiness in the room, and everyone was encouraging each other, whether it be for the new Australian citizens, people nominated for awards — they were just cheering each other on.”

The day’s top honour went to Ms Findlay, the leader of the Albany City Wind Ensemble, for her dedication to fostering local musical talent.

Ms Findlay will co-ordinate hundreds of performers as director of the Albany Entertainment Centre’s 10th Anniversary Gala Variety Concert in December, reprising the role she played at the centre’s gala opening a decade earlier.

In 2013, she founded the youth choir group About FACE.

“The About FACE choir, I started that because I couldn’t see anything for young people when they left school,” she said.

“They might have sung in a choir at school, but there’s nothing for them after that until you see them and their hair is grey and they’ve retired and picked up singing again.

“I thought ‘what happens to all these kids that sing?’

“So we started About FACE and we haven’t looked back.”

The choir will represent Australia at the International Youth Music Festival in Bratislava in July.

“That’s how good these kids have gotten, we’re about to put them on the international stage,” Ms Findlay said

Samuel Reeves was named Albany’s young citizen of the year for his commitment to the State Emergency Service, Southern Edge Arts, Great Southern Home Education Network, and as a coach and mentor at Albany PCYC.

The senior citizens of the year award went to Max and Marianne Chester, who have stopped 1500 bales of clothing going to landfill over the past six years, sending them to people in need overseas.

Their charity work has expanded and is now co-ordinated from Fossickers in partnership with the City of Albany.

The NAIDOC Week organising committee won the active citizenship community group or event award for transforming a “low-key” celebration with the Noongar community to a week-long program of events for the whole community.

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