Australia Day 2024 - Awards and community events

  • Cardinia Shire's Australia Day Award winners for 2024 have been announced. View all winners and nominees below. 
  • This page also features info on community-run and Council-supported events being held around the shire this Australia Day.  

alt=" "


Cardinia Shire Council is proud to announce the winners and nominees of the Cardinia Shire Australia Day Awards for 2024. You can view past Cardinia Shire Australia Day Award winners here. 

Winners and nominees were announced and celebrated at an invitation-only ceremony on Thursday 25 January 2024 at Cardinia Cultural Centre in Pakenham.  

Citizen of the Year 2024 - Liz Roberts

Liz Roberts has played a pivotal role in re-establishing the Pakenham and District Toy Library, where she led a group of committed women to revive the library, which had sadly gone into hibernation during the pandemic.  

Taking charge, Liz spearheaded efforts to secure a space in a council building, and navigated legal, governance and funding requirements for the toy library's reopening.

Through her leadership, Liz successfully promoted the toy library locally, putting it back on the map for community organisations. Additionally, she secured over $18,000 in grants from 5 organisations, aiming to enhance the service for families. These grants included 42 scholarships tailored for low-income, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD), and Indigenous families, which will be provided during 2023-2024. 

Liz's success with the toy library also involved acquiring new toys and equipment specifically designed for children with additional needs. 

Under her guidance, Pakenham Toy Library has transformed from a struggling service to a sustainable one, catering to the needs of families in Cardinia Shire.  

Liz's commitment and effective leadership have not only revived the facility but also positioned it as an inclusive and vital resource for the community. 

Citizen of the Year 2024 nominees 

  • Jarrod Beaumont 
  • Graham Cockerell 
  • Patrick Noonan 
  • Garry Oates
  • Liz Roberts 
  • Chris White

Senior Citizen of the Year 2024 -  Dr Mary Cole 

Dr Mary Cole has devoted her life to safeguarding the health of our soil, particularly through her advocacy for regenerative agriculture – a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems. Her focus includes topsoil regeneration, biodiversity enhancement, water cycle improvement, ecosystem services, bio-sequestration support, and the overall health of farm soil and the need to foster resilience to climate change. 

As a farmer herself, Mary channels her research and education efforts into aiding fellow farmers. Her goal is to help them reduce input costs, enhance output quality, and nurture their confidence and psychological wellbeing.

With a remarkable 45 years of experience, Mary has generously volunteered her time, assisting farmers out of the goodness of her heart. She guides them in incorporating regenerative techniques, ensuring their enterprises are equipped to withstand the impacts of a changing climate. 

Mary's selfless teaching style prioritises the wellbeing of others over her own interests. Through her generous actions, Mary significantly enriches society and makes a positive impact on the community by promoting sustainable and resilient farming practices.

Senior Citizen of the Year 2024 nominees 

  • John Beavis 
  • Dr Mary Cole 
  • Gwendoline (Anne) Dunn 
  • John Glazzard 
  • Dr Pat Macwhirter 
  • Graham Simpson 
  • Colin Teese


Young Citizen of the Year 2024 - Ella Chawkley 

Ella Chawkley is a dedicated community volunteer in Cockatoo and has been volunteering since around 2016, when she was just 12 years old.

Over the years, she has actively contributed to the Cockatoo Country Market by assisting stallholders with setup and pack-up. For 3 years, she successfully ran the sourdough bread stall with some adult supervision. Recently, Ella has taken on the role of supervising the children's jumping castle and serves as a gate marshal at the monthly morning markets, alongside her partner. 

In November 2023, Ella completed her traffic management accreditation so she could help with traffic management at each monthly market. 

In addition to her work with the market, Ella has volunteered at the Emerald Glades aged care facility, aligning with her Occupational Therapist studies. Her presence left a positive and capable impression on the facility's residents.

Notably, Ella served as the School Captain at Emerald Secondary College in 2021 and received recognition and acclaim for her artwork at the Monash Gallery of Art's TOPShots Exhibition. 

Described as generous, kind, and highly capable, Ella is an invaluable member of the Cockatoo community. 

Young Citizen of the Year 2024 nominees 

  • Ella Chawkley
  • Louisa Zanin 

Community Event of the Year 2024 - Ash Wednesday Bushfire Education Centre’s 40th Commemoration of Ash Wednesday

The Ash Wednesday Bushfire Education Centre (AWBEC), situated in the former Cockatoo kindergarten building, served as a crucial shelter for over 150 people during the devastating Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983. Since 2016, a dedicated committee, led by Cockatoo CFA Captain Graham Simpson and passionate local residents, has volunteered to run the centre after successfully saving the building from demolition.

In February 2023, AWBEC hosted the statewide 40th commemoration of Ash Wednesday, a collaborative effort involving the centre, CFA HQ, Veterans of Ash Wednesday Group, and District operational CFA leaders. The event drew over 700 attendees, including Victorian Government representatives, the Chief Officer of the CFA, and senior leaders from all Victorian emergency services. 

With over 3,200 online viewers through the CFA live stream, national news coverage, and features in the Herald Sun and local papers, the commemoration gained widespread attention.

AWBEC's thoughtful planning ensured the event served not only as a statewide tribute but also as a fitting local commemoration. A natural amphitheatre adjacent to AWBEC accommodated over 300 locals, who watched the commemoration on large screens set up as a live-site, marking the centre’s significant role in preserving the memory of the Ash Wednesday tragedy. 

Event of the Year 2024 nominees 

  • Ash Wednesday Bushfire Education Centre (AWBEC) 40th Commemoration of Ash Wednesday 
  • Cannibal Creek Landcare Community planting day 
  • Gembrook Community Market 
  • Pakenham Welcomes 2023 
  • Upper Beaconsfield Village Festival

Cockatoo Australia Day Community Morning Tea and Awards 

Date: Friday 26 January 2024
Time: 8.30am - 10am
Venue: Alma Treloar Reserve, Cockatoo
Cost: Free 
Hosted by: Connecting Cockatoo Communities
Supported by: Council’s Festival and Event grant 


Koo Wee Rup Australia Day Community Breakfast and Awards 

Date: Friday 26 January 2024
Time: 8.15am - 10am
Venue: Koo Wee Rup Community Centre
Cost: Free 
Hosted by: Koo Wee Rup Township Committee
Supported by: Council’s Festival and Event grant


Lang Lang Australia Day ceremony 

Date: Friday 26 January 2024
Time: 9.30am
Venue: Lang Lang Hall, Lang Lang
Cost: Free
Hosted by: Lang Lang Australia Day Committee