Frankston City honours 2023 citizens of the year
Published on 26 January 2023
Winners of the 2023 Frankston City Citizens of the Year Awards were announced this morning at a special ceremony at the Frankston Arts Centre.
The 2023 Frankston City Citizen of the Year is Warwick Exton, who was nominated for his remarkable contribution to the community, particularly through his work protecting our precious environment.
Warwick has devoted many years of his life to the restoration of the Sweetwater Creek Reserve, which has created a deep network of connections across the community and with Frankston Council.
His book, Action Sweetwater Creek, is dedicated to the many people whose love of Sweetwater Creek and protection of the area has encouraged Council to proclaim the site as a Nature Reserve. The book is also a tribute to his vision and extraordinary dedication.
Warwick has held many senior positions with the Action Sweetwater Creek group including President, Vice President and Secretary. He has been active in the community as Chair of the Frankston Primary School Committee.
Warwick also defended Australia during World War Two – enlisting in the Army, before being recruited across to the Air Force. He began training in Queensland and concluded his service as a Flight Lieutenant in the United Kingdom.
“I am a very proud citizen of this country. We are equal. Being egalitarian means you treat people the same way you want to be treated yourself. That is an important lesson. We are all in need of help from somebody somewhere,” 100-year-old Warwick said, receiving warm applause and a standing ovation as he accepted his award.
“I’d like to stress the need for people to take care of their environment. If we don’t it will turn around and bite us. It’s a very long-term thing… People have got to look after trees and greenery just as the First Nations people did before us.”
The 2023 Young Citizen of the Year is Jack Lyons, who has a heart for helping those in need.
He has run many marathons to raise money to support the charity Blessing Bags, which provides essentials to the homeless in the Mornington Peninsula region.
In 2021, he ran 8km – every 5 hours – for 75 hours to raise $2500 for a local charity providing clothes for the homeless. Jack and other family members have also visited the city on Christmas Eve to distribute care packages to the homeless that they put together at home.
Our Young Citizen of the Year is also a Professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Fighter who trains six days a week while completing his apprenticeship as a plumber.
Jack said, “I’m proud to be here. I just want to say I’m trying to do my part to bring change. I’m just doing me. I’ve run 25 marathons straight, and 25 to go. It’s been a hard journey, but not as hard as others who battle day to day.”
The 2023 Community Award was presented to the Women’s Spirit Project, which grew out of a grass roots community initiative established by women for women within Frankston.
It currently has 27 volunteers and was founded by local resident Jodie Belyea. Its vision is to inspire, empower and support vulnerable women who typically do not have access to affordable fitness, health and wellbeing activities through programs that build health, resilience, self-determination, and connectedness.
It has been designed for women with lived experience of one or more risk factors. Women have come together to co-design a range of activities that are accessible and provide a safe and supportive environment.
Major achievements in 2022 included the Spirit of Transformation walk, Mentor Training, Catch-up and Connect Walks, a Women’s Community Leadership Program, the Frank to Schanck walk and so much more!
Founder Jodie Belyea said, “It’s an honour to receive this on behalf of Team Teal. Our motto is women supporting women to transform their lives, one step at a time.”
Mayor Conroy thanked the Award recipients for their commitment to Frankston City.
“Congratulations to all of our winners and thank you for your incredible contributions to this City. It is a better place because of all of you,” he said.
This morning was also memorable for Frankston City’s 60 newest citizens, who were welcomed and celebrated at the Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony at Frankston Arts Centre.
The ceremony was attended by Ms Peta Murphy, Federal Member for Dunkley, Mr Paul Mercurio, State Member for Hastings, Mr Michael Galea, Member for South-Eastern Metropolitan Region, Mayor Nathan Conroy and Deputy Mayor Liam Hughes, and Council Chief Executive Officer Phil Cantillon.
Mayor Nathan Conroy with Young Citizen of the Year Jack Lyons, Peta Murphy, Federal Member for Dunkley, Citizen of the Year Warwick Exton, and Jodie Belyea, founder of the Women’s Spirit Project.
Dozens of new citizens were sworn in at the Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony at Frankston Arts Centre.