Dr Janece McDonald 2023 Citizen of the Year

Heritage and inclusion advocate named Maitland's 2023 Citizen of the Year

Noted historian Dr Janece McDonald has been named Maitland’s Citizen of the Year for her decades of outstanding service to historical preservation and disability inclusion.

Dr McDonald joined fellow award winners at Maitland Town Hall for Maitland City Council’s official Australia Day awards and citizenship ceremony, where a wide range of contributions to sport, science, arts and heritage were honoured.

Thirteen-year-old Lachlan Sheldon won Young Citizen of the Year for his work with the Susan Roskell Toy and Gift Drive, performer and teacher Angie Ussher was awarded Creative Arts Person of the Year and touch football champion Jack Edwards is Maitland’s Sportsperson of the Year.

Brian Coffey received the City of Maitland Service Award for his work as executive member of Rotary Club of East Maitland, which also won the City of Maitland Medal for raising nearly $25,000 for local community groups and institutions.

Maitland Mayor Philip Penfold said it was ‘once again, a great honour of the Awards and Recognition committee to recognise and celebrate such a hardworking and passionate crop of people who personify Maitland’s community spirit and demonstrate the values and ideals that we associate with Australia Day.’

‘From excellence in their chosen fields to caring and selfless acts of service, our award winners are inspiring and aspirational community figures who choose to make Maitland a better, brighter place to live each and every day.’

‘Congratulations to our winners and nominees and thank you to everyone who nominated someone for an Australia Day honour.’ In addition to the awards presentation, 50 new residents from 20 countries – including Brazil, Sweden, Cambodia and South Africa – were naturalised as Australian citizens during the Australia Day citizenship ceremony.

Citizen of the Year – Dr Janece McDonald

Dr Janece McDonald is currently President of the Maitland Regional Museum, has been a member of the Maitland and District Historical Society since 2014 and has played a key role in organising the annual Maitland Heritage Festival since 2020. She has also been a member of the National Trust and Friends of Grossman House since 2004, is a member of the Maitland Cultural Hub, Hunter Women’s Network, Hunter Education Network, Hunter Innovation and Science Hub and the Paterson Historical Society.

Dr McDonald sits or has sat on a number of Maitland City Council committees, covering topics such as heritage, Walka Water Works, Maitland’s Hall of Fame and the Open Museums Open Minds working group.

Dr McDonald completed her PhD at Newcastle University in 2005, continuing as a Research Associate and Lecturer at the university until 2011 and as a Conjoint Fellow until 2018.

Mr Graham Dark, who nominated Dr McDonald for this award, said in his submission that ‘Janece is passionate regarding disability inclusion within our community and looks forward to the establishment of a bespoke Museum for Maitland Cultural Hub in collaboration with heritage community groups and the Maitland community.’

‘She [Janece] has lived in the local area, studied in the local area, and is now using her expertise and experiences to promote science experiences for students and general public.’

Young Citizen of the Year – Lachlan Sheldon

Mr Lachlan Sheldon has been instrumental in the Susan Roskell Toy and Gift Drive since its inception in 2016, helping with gift delivery and distribution as well as the initiative’s promotion. Mr Sheldon is an active member of his school (Hunter Valley Grammar School) and the Hunter Barbarian Rugby Club and has also participated in acts of community service with East Maitland Rotary Club.

Mr Sheldon was nominated by Maitland's 2023 Local Woman of the Year Lyn Dark, who said young people like Lachlan [were] an inspiration to all of us, and we know he will continue to help others in the future.’

‘As a young member of the Maitland community he provides inspiration for other young members to be actively involved in charities and helping to make our community a better place for all, especially those in need of assistance.

‘He helps sell raffle tickets during fundraising as well as donating his own money to buy toys and gifts,’ Mrs Dark said. ‘Lachlan is one of Maitland's fine young citizens who puts up his hand to help others in the community who are less fortunate.’

Lachlan Sheldon with Councillor Bill Hackney
Lachlan Sheldon with Councillor Bill Hackney

Creative Arts Person of the Year – Angie Ussher

Morpeth creative Angie Ussher has been named Creative Arts Person of the Year for her work in the fields of singing and teaching performing arts for nearly two decades.

Ms Ussher created and currently oversees a performing arts studio that makes music and musical theatre available and accessible to all ages and abilities; the studio adapts both existing shows and creates original works.

Ms Ussher has held many leadership positions with Maitland Musical Society, Maitland Repertory Theatre and directed the CONDA Awards in Newcastle in 2021.

Ms Ussher was nominated by her husband Stuart, who said ‘many of Angie’s students have gone on to follow their musical passion through additional study, writing and recording and even teaching with Angie.

‘Angie’s passion for knowledge and learning about neurodiversity has strengthened [her] love of teaching. She fills people with confidence and helps those see the best they have inside them.’

Sportsperson of the Year – Jack Edwards

Aberglasslyn resident Jack Edwards has been named Maitland’s Sportsperson of the Year for representing Australia at an international level in the field of touch football.

Mr Edwards is also a longstanding member of the Maitland Mustangs basketball team, contributing to the team’s success on the court and serving as a leader to his teammates off the court also.

Through his role as a teacher at All Saints’ College in Maitland, Mr Edwards also coaches young athletes in the school’s basketball, touch football and rugby league programs.

In 2023, Mr Edwards was named New South Wales Touch Player of the Year and scored the winning try for Australia in the Trans Tasman series against New Zealand.

For the past eight years, Mr Edwards has been captain of the Beresfield Men’s Open Touch Football team and co-captain of the Hunter Western Hornets. He has also represented New South Wales’s State of Origin squad and the Newcastle Knights, both in touch football.

‘Jack's demonstration of outstanding sportsmanship and leadership within the community extends well beyond his achievements on the field and court,’ Miss Ashlee Gossip stated when nominating Jack.

‘His commitment to mentoring young players both within his touch football and basketball clubs, as well as in his role as a schoolteacher, exemplifies his dedication to fostering positive values and holistic development in the next generation of athletes.’

City of Maitland Service Award – Brian Coffey

East Maitland resident Brian Coffey’s role as executive member of Rotary Club of East Maitland for the past 15 years has earned him the City of Maitland Service Award.

Mr Coffey has been club president of East Maitland Rotary on three occasions and prior to retirement was a police officer with NSW Police.

‘Brian is a proud Maitland resident who works tirelessly for the betterment of the community,’ wrote Rotary colleague Ms Suzanne Morgan in Mr Coffey’s nomination.

‘[He is] often the first port of call for any community groups requiring assistance and he is instrumental in the growth of recent growth of East Maitland Rotary.’

City of Maitland Medal – Rotary Club of East Maitland

In the past 12 months, Rotary Club of East Maitland has aided in fundraising nearly $25,000 for local community groups and institutions, such as Maitland Health Stays, East Maitland Women’s Shed, Maitland Family Support, Carrie’s Place and local high schools.

The group regularly aides in the removal of graffiti across the city, assists with the provision of support for the State Emergency Service and holds an annual appreciation dinner for returned service personnel.

The club has played a key part in service support at local events, such as annual Anzac Day services, Tocal Field Days, Groovin the Moo and Morpeth’s bicentenary celebrations.