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Council honours leading citizens in local Australia Day ceremony

Some of Armidale’s ‘hidden treasures’ gathered at Central Park in Armidale on January 26, where they were honoured during the annual Australia Day Awards.

Jack Rapley, an Armidale resident since 1997, was awarded Citizen of the Year for 2024. Jack has had a strong impact on the local community being a member of the Armidale Lions Club for more than 20 years, helping at every function and raising money for the community and community members in need.

Jack has been the regional coordinator for the Census four times and assists the community with employment opportunities and support through the process. Jack has also worked tirelessly as part of the Transport Museum committee to get the facility up and running.

Armidale Regional Council Mayor Sam Coupland said Jack was a great example of a model citizen who worked tirelessly for the region and is incredibly deserving of the Citizen of the Year award.

“We want to honour these amazing people, who have been on a long journey to help our community,” said Mayor Coupland. “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 several outstanding and well-known citizens who have been recognised in the Citizen of the Year awards and we are very proud of each of them for their amazing efforts on behalf of our community.”

The Australia Day event also included a Citizenship Ceremony, celebrating 64 adults and children - from countries like Iraq, Brazil, Nauru and Kenya – who received their Australian citizenship. This included many from Armidale’s Ezidi community.

Members of The Armidale and Region Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place (ACCKP) provided a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony as well as Indigenous dancers and a didgeridoo performance. Other cultural groups also performed.

Mayor Sam Coupland was joined at the Australia Day ceremony by Armidale’s Australia Day Ambassador for 2024 - humanitarian and internationally known best-selling author Michael Crossland.

“Community is at the heart of this event, making it the perfect time to honour and recognise the achievements of Australians making a real difference in their communities,” said Mayor Coupland.

The NSW Citizen of the Year Awards have been a part of the Australia Day in NSW program since 2005, with Local Government Areas (LGAs) embracing the program to celebrate outstanding citizens across the state.

Many members of the community attended the celebrations and lunch that followed and congratulated Armidale’s newest citizens and award winners.


Citizen of the Year: Jack Rapley. Jack Rapley has lived in Armidale since 1997 and has made an extremely strong impact on our small community. He has been a part of the Armidale Lions Club for over 20 years helping at every function and raising hundreds and thousands for our community and community members in need. He has been the regional coordinator for the Census four times and assists the community with employment opportunity and support through this position. Jack is also a part of the Transport Museum committee and has worked tirelessly trying to get it up and running.

Community Services Award: Louise Kelly. Louise Kelly is the secretary of the Hillgrove Progress Association and successfully applied for a grant for her community to improve the tennis courts. Louise works tirelessly for the Hillgrove community and recently shared her grant application with all the Armidale Region’s community groups at a grant writing workshop.

Young Citizen of the Year: Archie Todd. Archie is an exceptional transgender young person. He has a strong social conscience and always aims to do this very best. He has worked with others to be an advocate for arts and for LGBTIQ issues. His advocacy has been demonstrated in his work as a school leader working to establish the Rainbow Club – a group that supported LGBTIQ students. Further to this, Archie has been a strong creative arts student. He has exceptional performance skills being a youth rock finalist in 2023, performing on the ABC Triple J Unearthed. He has a profile on Soundcloud and is regular performer in the community. Archie is also an active member of Scouts. He has been profiled on the Queen’s Scout award honour roll for 2023. As a scout he has attended the Sydney Mardi Gras. Archie has just completed his HSC receiving excellent results in music and visual arts.

Senior/Elder Citizen of Year: Gloria Cook. Gloria Cook has been a highly active member of the Quota Club of Armidale for more than 50 years, as part of Quota International and the club becoming Quota Australia in 2020. Gloria's service has been to empower women and children and to people who are deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired. As a Quotarian, she was part of the development of hearing screening for all newborn babies whilst in hospitals, which remains today as a routine procedure. Gloria has held the position of South Pacific Area Director focusing on Quota International's work in the South Pacific region including participation in conventions and bringing back specific work to implement at home. Her service to the community has included volunteering with stroke patients, school breakfast club, the International Women's Day Breakfast, and fundraising. For many years, Gloria has been a host on the Heritage Bus Tours of Armidale through the Tourist Information Centre, sharing her love and knowledge of Armidale's history with visitors. Gloria is a member of Probus and always contributes to the work of the club, as a model citizen.

Community Group/Event of the Year: Special Olympics North West New England. The Armidale Community has benefited through Special Olympics resulting from the expertise and dedication of Gaye Sheehan and Kirsty Brunsdon. They have provided leadership and opportunities in sport for people with an intellectual disability. Gaye (chairperson) has supported each athlete with fairness and sensibility, patience and kindness. Gaye has promoted an awareness by speaking to community groups such as U3A, CWA and Rotary. Financial support enabling participation in carnivals has been organised with functions such as Bunnings barbecues and dinner dances. Kirsty (sports coordinator and athlete membership officer) has coordinated athlete participation, trips away, competitions and training. In addition, Kirsty has maintained the safety and wellbeing of all athletes, and athlete and volunteer membership of Special Olympics Australia. Both ladies have liaised with sporting venues making facilities available for tenpin bowling, swimming, tennis and golf training, participation and competition. Forty plus people with an intellectual disability have the joy and opportunity for successful competition at local, state and national games. SONWNE places Armidale in the forefront of regional NSW within the field of sport for people with an intellectual disability.

Environmental Citizen/Group of the Year: Armidale Tree Group. Armidale Tree Group has been growing native plants in Armidale for 40 years. They are a not-for-profit native plant nursery and environmental organisation providing quality Australian plants, home-grown vegetable seedlings and environmentally friendly tree planting and weed control services. Established in 1983, its services have grown, to extend across the New England North West and Central West regions of NSW. The group does plantings of native trees around the region and has expanded to have professional environmental services: these include: BDAR, flora and fauna reports, for developers about Biodiversity impacts, and BAM assessments. They also offer revegetation and restoration services. The group has made the region more beautiful. Their work is a passion for sustainable, shared environments which benefit wildlife, livestock, people and flora and fauna, especially in the Armidale Regional Council area.

Arts and Culture Award: Ben Thorn. Ben has been organising monthly music concerts for a wide variety of musicians for around 20 years at the Armidale Uniting Church. These concerts showcase a wide variety of musicians, from students finishing year 12, to groups who practice together for 20 years. Ben voluntarily organises the musicians who turn up each Market Sunday, to be introduced by him. Concerts are open to anyone to attend, and are by donation, which are split between the Church and the musicians. Ben also works with various drama groups in the city to provide music for various productions. The groups are generally community led and involve everyone in the drama community. Ben has organised the Bach Festival for the past 23 years, bringing world class musicians to Armidale biannually, allowing everyone to attend world class concerts in a regional city. This includes schools. On the alternate years, he has composed the music for Favourite Shorts, as well as (co)producing the event. Favourite Shorts is a community led poetry and drama production.

Ben writes new music as well as finding appropriate music for the show. He has worked for several years as curator of the Print Museum at NERAM. These roles are in addition to his teaching at TAFE, UNE, and composing.

Sportsperson of the Year: Ella Rose Carson. Ella Rose Carson has an outstanding record in 2023 in archery, winning both the state and national female junior recurve titles. As a result, she was selected to represent Australia at the Oceania titles. Ella Rose also competed against Pacific Islands, New Zealand and Malaysia, plus others, and she took out the female recurve title. Ella was then selected to represent Australia at the World Titles which were held in Ireland.  She was the only female Australian woman to qualify for these titles in her division.

2023 achievements  

National Open Female Recurve Field Champion 2023

World Oceania U21 Female Recurve Target Champion

World Oceania U21 Mixed Team Matchplay Champion

World Oceania U21 Individual Matchplay Runner Up

Selected for the World Archery Youth Championships 2023

World Archery Youth Championships Individual 54th

World Archery Youth Championships Mixed Teams Matchplay 9th 

NSW State Open Female Recurve Field Champion 

NSW State Open Female Recurve Target 4th

Australian National Target Championships top 10 finish in every event

Open Australian National Womens Team Matchplay Bronze

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