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Armidale’s local Australia Day awards honour model citizens

Long-standing community entrepreneurs, leaders and volunteers have been recognised in this year’s Australia Day ceremonies in Armidale with Martin Levins honoured as Citizen of the Year for 2023.

Martin Levins, currently a lecturer at the University of New England in the School of Education, has played an integral and national role in helping teachers and community organisations understand and benefit from the use of technologies, spending over 40 years in schools. The schools and groups that Martin works with are strengthened by increased agency, independence and ability.

Martin has enabled local Armidale schools, including Drummond Public School and Newling Public School and also remote schools in East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, to harness technology for better educational, social outcomes for students. Martin has also volunteered for a range of local, state and national organisations including New England Visions, Visions for Armidale Creeklands, ICT Educations NSW and The Australian Council for Computers in Education.

Armidale Regional Council Mayor Sam Coupland said Martin is a model citizen of our region and is incredibly deserving of Citizen of the Year awards, along with Citizen of the Year for Guyra, Beth White, who was presented with her award at the annual awards ceremony and dinner in Guyra.

“We want to honour, celebrate and cheer on these amazing people, who have been on a long journey to help their communities. Those people who have set out to make this world a better place through their generosity, expertise, sheer grit and tenacious spirit. 

“As a Council we cheer on these citizens, celebrating their efforts and success, honouring them in public at Australia Day. This year we have two outstanding and well known citizens who have jointly been awarded senior citizen-elder of the year and both are incredibly deserving of this award - Ron Vickress and Rose Lockwood,” said Mayor Coupland.

Mayor Sam Coupland was joined by this year’s Australia Day Ambassador, Jarrod Wheatley, to present the awards. Mr Wheatley was the Young Australian of the Year in 2019, in recognition of his work with youth, refugees and young people in out-of-home care. Jarrod has created two innovative not-for-profit organisations, Street Art Murals Australia (SAMA) and Professional Individualised Care (PIC).

The Honourable Member for Northern Tabelands also presented awards and congratulated winners, along with Chancellor of the University of New England (UNE), Mr James Harris, Interim Vice-Chancellor Professor Simon Evans and NSW Police Force inspector, Mr Darren Williams. General Manager of Armidale Regional Council, Mr James Roncon was the MC for the Citizenship ceremony and Mr John Schuman for the Australia Day awards. 



Citizen of the Year: Martin Levins Martin was the first person to link an Australian school (The Armidale School) to the internet and the recipient of many awards for innovation in education. He presents at international conferences and is currently a lecturer in education at the University of New England.

Young Citizen of the Year: Jock Campbell– As Deputy Unit Commander of the Armidale Dumaresq Unit of the NSW State Emergency Service, Jock has dedicated several years to the organisation and has been rising through the ranks. Jock as outstanding as the spokesperson for the SES in Armidale during the recovery process from the 2021 tornado. In addition to aiding the local community in times of need and ensuring volunteers are prepared for future events, Jock also deploys to other areas of the state to help those communities. Jock stands out as a true leader. The nominee said, “Jock wishes to help the community in whatever way he can, but what makes him stand out is that he draws out the best in the volunteers so they can work well as a team. He has demonstrated his problem-solving techniques to aid the community and always displays and promotes a professional, kind, caring and compassionate approach to whatever he does”.

Senior/Elder citizen of the Year (joint winners): Ronald Vickress and Elizabeth Rose Lovelock

Ronald Vickress (Senior citizen)– Ron is renowned for his WWII service aboard HMAS Pirie and his services to veterans associations over the nation, but especially Guyra and Armidale RSL’s. He has live 50 of his 97 years here. On Thursday 4 December 2022 the Royal Australian Navy honoured Armidale by inviting Ron to deliver the official oration regarding HMAS Armidale and Teddy Shehan VC.  Author, playwright, poet – Ron’s wartime memoirs such as Boys’ Time is recognised as one of the best written from the perspective of a teenager fighting all over the Pacific. His community plays are still presented throughout NSW. His family oriented productions are being picked up on You Tube. For 30 years his parables of Australia in the first 100 years is on Finland’s school curriculum.

Elizabeth Rose Lovelock (Elder of the Year)- Rose has held several senior management positions in government agencies including project officer for the Aboriginal Arts Council, located within the Australia council of the arts, Regional Manager of indigenous service officers for Centrelink, and five years as the Aboriginal research fellow to the Vice Chancellor of the University of New England. Rose’s personal attributes include strong managerial skills and her ability to work with a diverse range of people seeking positive and constructive outcome and her unique approach to public speaking drawing on her personal experiences to engage her audience.

Rose’s 25-year academic history includes an impressive list of publications and presentations delivered across Australia and overseas and has received numerous commendations for her lecturing and course design. Through her most recent role as Director of the Armidale Aboriginal Cultural Centre & Keeping Place (ACCKP), Rose has worked tirelessly to cultivate and nurture local and national indigenous artists and enriching the cultural experience of all Australians.

Community Services Award: Salam Qaro– Since arriving in Australia as a refugee from Iraq, Salam has worked tirelessly to create a bridge between the Ezidi community and the wider Armidale community. He has connecting the Ezidi community to sport, health and the police force. He also holds a music group for the Ezidi community, helping people practice and share their cultural arts. Salam coordinates the Ezidi Seniors group, facilitating support and access to services. During the Covid-19 lockdowns Salam collaborated with the Multicultural Health Communication Service to translate and record essential health messages. Working with Refugee Health Service he made sure everyone understood the importance of vaccinations.

Every August Salam organise a commemoration of the genocide experienced by the Ezidi community bringing together Armidale residents from all walks of life. The nominee for Salam said, “Salam has always gone beyond the call of duty. His phone is always on, he is ready to listen and his heart is always open to all who need his support. Salam has faced his own trauma but his is always there to serve the wider Armidale community”.

Sportsperson of the Year: Nathan Czinner– Reaching outstanding limits at such a young age, Nathan is an aspiring hockey player in Hockey New England. Nathan this year played in the junior world cup, representing Australia, as well as playing at the most elite level for hockey within Australia in the Hockey One league. Nathan’s team, NSW pride, won the competition and Nathan did amazing for his first year at such a high level. He is inspiring younger players and a great role model for all the up and coming players in our community.

Environmental Citizen of the year: Jo Leoni– The Community Garden was established in late 2011. Since then Jo has tirelessly volunteered her time energy and expertise into transforming the space into a thriving and incredible space for all members of the community to enjoy. What was once abandoned clay tennis courts is now a sprawling expanse of flowers and vegetables and is lovingly attended to by Jo and a group of committed volunteer gardeners. She welcomes young and old, new arrivals to Australia and retirees alike.

Jo is enthusiastic about sharing her passion for gardening with everyone and over the last 10 years she has acquired a reputation for not only the garden itself but for being a stalwart in the local community. She also organises the Home Grown Garden Tour and is a key member of Sustainable Living Armidale.

Art, Drama or Music Citizen of the year: Corinne Arter–

Corinne Arter has held various positions of leadership at the New England Conservatorium of Music since its establishment in 2004. Currently she is Co-CEO NECOM (Artistic & Education) where in conjunction with Sophie Williams she oversees the day-to-day operations of the conservatorium, its people and resources.

The New England Conservatorium of Music is a highly respected cultural institution, founded on the belief that high-quality music education and music performance embedded in a regional community gives it unique cohesion, economic and social capacity. A significant contributor to the identity of Armidale and the New England, the Conservatorium delivers 29,000 hours of classroom, ensemble and instrumental programs each year through a unique “conservatorium without walls” model connecting 7500 students across the Northern Tablelands.

Corinne is an outstanding administrator and cultural ambassador for Music Education in regional areas. In particular, her dedication and commitment to NECOM’s bi-annual Choral event New England Sings! is a fine example of her commitment and ability to bring about large community musical events. In 2022 New England Sings! reached over 1000 young people across 30 schools in the New England region.

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