Australia Day award winners honoured

A dedicated and passionate community fundraiser has been named City of Newcastle’s 2020 Citizen of the Year.

Michelle Faithfull coordinates the highly successful Hunter Homeless Connect Day, which links people experiencing homelessness and those at risk of it with essential services, helpful advice and other assistance.


The annual event has connected thousands of people with accommodation and housing providers, health and wellbeing services, legal and financial assistance, employment, study, and general support.

Faithfull, from Bar Beach, also organises the annual all-women ‘Divas on the Green’ golf day at Merewether Golf Club for Westpac Rescue Helicopter and Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2020.

Over the past decade, she has raised $180,000 for local charities, including more than $90,000 for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, almost $65,000 for the Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation and $20,000 for the new Ronald McDonald House Family Room at John Hunter Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. This amazing effort followed earlier volunteer work for children’s charities in the Hunter with which she felt aligned, following a personal tragedy.

“Losing my first-born daughter Jessica over 30 years ago at four months of age opened my eyes to the importance of community and supporting each other,” Ms Faithfull said.

“Bringing people together for a common cause has certainly become a passion of mine, and apart from honouring my daughter’s legacy, it has taken me on the most amazing journey of connection.

“The people of Newcastle have been very supportive of my activities here over the years and I am absolutely honoured to receive this award in a community I adore. I hope that I can inspire others to bring their communities together, because the rewards are priceless.”

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said Faithfull’s commitment to improving the lives of others had earned her the City’s top Australia Day honour at today’s Civic Theatre citizenship ceremony.

“Until today, Michelle was one of Newcastle’s unsung heroes, so the City of Newcastle is thrilled to recognise her tireless efforts to assist those in our community who are doing it tough,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Michelle embodies everything that is good about the human spirit. Resolutely committed to improving the lives of others, she has contributed to many great organisations including Westpac Rescue Helicopter, Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation, Hunter Homeless Connect, Vinnies, Got Your Back Sista, Ronald McDonald House, Hunter Medical Research Institute, CanTeen, Camp Quality and the Starlight Foundation.

“The Citizen of the Year award is a fitting honour for her dedication to bettering our society and I hope the recognition helps her continue that endeavour.”

The City’s 2020 Young Citizen of the Year has been instrumental in the national Student Strike 4 Climate (SS4C) action.

New Lambton High’s Alexa Stuart, 16, has collaborated with peers, senior climate campaigners and SS4C’s national organising team since attending her first rally as a 15-year-old in 2018.

Alexa-Stuart-with-Lord-Mayor-inside.jpgAlexa Stuart and the Lord Mayor.

The Year 11 student has variously liaised with police, spoken with media, delivered speeches, created banners and performed all manner of tasks behind the scenes to promote the SS4C movement.

“Alexa is an inspiring young person who has maintained excellent academic grades while leading her peers amid the climate emergency that the recent bushfires have brought to national and world prominence,” the Lord Mayor said.

“At such a young age she has represented the SS4C at meetings with local members of parliament, unions, university staff, local businesses, and spoken about climate change at her High School and local church.

“At last September’s global strike she gave an inspiring speech in front of 10,000 people and has played a major role in writing the national SS4C constitution.”

Newcastle Pride, the organisers of the highly successful Newcastle Pride Festival, was named the Community Group of the Year.

After two instalments of their annual event, which the City of Newcastle sponsors, Newcastle Pride will move to develop a Youth Pride Tribe this year to focus on events for LGBTIQ young people, featuring a 2020 Queer Youth prom.

Newcastle-Pride-with-Lord-Mayor-inside.jpgNewcastle Pride’s Ed Abbott, Leanne McDougall and Ivan Skaines with the Lord Mayor after receiving the Community Group of the Year award.

“I’d like to congratulate Newcastle Pride on their fantastic festival and for providing an inclusive, vibrant and fun environment for all LGBTIQ residents to build social connections and experience a community free of discrimination,” Councillor Nelmes said.

“The festival fosters a sense of community inclusion and participation, as well as benefits to the broader economy of Newcastle through tourism and event attendance, and its success owes to the hard work of the committee members.”

The Newcastle Citizen of the Year awards are decided by a panel consisting of:

  • Nuatali Nelmes, Lord Mayor of Newcastle
  • Carol Duncan, Councillor City of Newcastle
  • Andrea Rufo, Councillor City of Newcastle
  • Jeremy Bath, CEO City of Newcastle
  • Pastor Sue Irwin from Grainery Church
  • Bahavi Ravindran, Newcastle’s Young Citizen of the Year 2019
  • Luisa Amosa, representing The Y Project, Community Group of the Year 2019

City welcomes cheerful Brazilian among 270 new Aussies

A joyful South American woman set to become a naturalised Australian credits our country’s streamlined bureaucracy as the reason for her big move, perhaps surprisingly to many homegrown citizens.

Sibele Lima from Curitiba city in the southern Brazilian state of Parana “loves everything” about her adopted country and will pledge her allegiance at City of Newcastle’s annual Australia Day citizenship ceremony in the Civic Theatre on Sunday.

The 33-year-old IT worker will be among 270 new citizens from 40 different nations to receive citizenship certificates at one of NSW’s largest citizenship ceremonies.

Sibele-Lima-in-the-Blue-Mountains-inside.jpgLima in the Blue Mountains
Each will receive their certificate confirming their citizenship from Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, who rates welcoming people from diverse backgrounds among the job’s greatest honours.

“Hearing the stories of many of these people really opens your eyes to how lucky we are in Australia, particularly in Newcastle,” the Lord Mayor said.

“We are so fortunate to enjoy a safe, secure life as part of an advanced, pluralist society in a nation blessed with natural attractions and abundant resources. Sunday’s ceremony and two other annual citizenship ceremonies are, for mine, the best way to celebrate that good fortune.”

Lima, who lives in Wickham, was bitten by the travel bug on a road trip to Brazil’s north with her family aged 11, but could easily have been making a different oath in colder climes.

Sibele-Lima-inside-portrait.jpg“My first plan was Canada because I went on an exchange there when I was 18 and it’s on the same time zone as Brazil and closer to home,” recalled the Computer Science graduate, who moved to Australia on a skilled migration visa five years ago.

“I was learning French and filled out pages and pages of hard copy documents to get a Canadian visa but I got no reply. I had friends in Australia who said it was just beautiful and that the process was very straightforward because it was all online. I applied for a skilled visa and got permanent residency, all in eight months.

“Officially becoming a citizen is going to be special because I feel very welcome here and I thank Australia for providing a way for immigrants like me to work.”

Lima travelled much of the world before a soft landing on Sydney’s North Shore was followed by a move to Newcastle in 2018.

When not practising Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, she enjoys going to the beach and walking or bike riding through the bush, especially along the Fernleigh Track on her way to work in Charlestown.

Brazil is also spoiled with natural wonders but can’t provide Lima the same sense of security and order as Australia.

“In Curitiba you are walking around with your purse held tightly and always looking over your shoulder, but here you can relax outside and leave your purse on the table when outside enjoying a coffee with friends.

“The news here is always about a shark story or a kangaroo, but in Brazil it’s people died, armed robbery and politics coverage is just corruption – I tell my mum not to watch it when I go back there.

“I hear people complaining in Australia about the train or bus being late and I laugh, because I’m just so pleased to have a map timetable – in Brazil the bus just comes when it does.”

Sunday’s ceremony will also see local Australia Day awards presented before a range of family activities are staged on the Foreshore from 10am-2pm.

For more information about the City’s planned celebrations, visit the City’s Australia Day information page online at


Millions of commuters are taking advantage of contactless payments when taking trains, trams, buses and ferries across the Opal network.

Acting Minister for Transport and Roads Paul Toole said a major milestone had been reached with more than 30 million journeys taken using debit or credit cards, or linked devices, since the first trial on the Manly Ferry in 2017.

“The NSW Government is powering ahead with more innovative payment options for those using our Opal network as people continue to move away from cash, and even more recently cards,” Mr Toole said.

“We know digital wallets are becoming more common, so being able to pay a fare with a mobile phone or smart watch is just another added convenience for commuters.

“Rolling out contactless payments is an Australian-first innovation and is one of the biggest advancements in ticketing technology in generations, with around 1.5 million journeys paid for without an Opal card in an average week.”

Mr Toole said while new payment options were growing in popularity among commuters, there was still demand for pre-loaded Opal cards.

“It’s easier than ever to pay for public transport and through our innovative payment platforms we’re aiming to create more digital products including the digital Opal card which we plan to roll out in a trial phase in 2020,” Mr Toole said.

“This follows the activation of contactless payments on all public transport modes on the Opal network, and introducing the same fare and travel benefits of an Adult Opal card last year. Transport for NSW continues to offer Opal cards.”

Date Milestone
July 2017 Trialled on the Manly Ferry
November 2018 Expanded to Sydney Trains network and NSW TrainLink services
July 2019 Adult Opal card fare and travel benefits extended to contactless payments
September 2019 Extended to entire Opal network (inc. Buses)


Premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons today announced a State Memorial for those impacted by the recent bushfires to be held on Sunday, 23 February at Qudos Bank Arena at Sydney Olympic Park.

Ms Berejiklian said the event will give members of the public from across NSW an opportunity to come together to recognise the lives lost, the sacrifices made and to think of those directly impacted by the fires.

“We will pay tribute to the brave firefighters who lost their own lives protecting the lives and properties of others,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“I know that many members of the public, the RFS, and emergency services personnel will want to come together as families and communities work their way through this unbelievable loss.

“There will be a separate opportunity for us to formally thank our volunteers and emergency services workers in the near future.

“In the first instance it is important for us to acknowledge the ultimate sacrifices made and to move forward together on the path to healing and rebuilding.”

Commissioner Fitzsimmons said the service will pay special tribute to those firefighters and emergency services personnel who lost their lives.

“NSW has, and continues to face, the most difficult and dangerous bushfire season in history,” Mr Fitzsimmons said.

“While we have seen tragedy, we have also seen the best of the community, working together to help each other when it matters most.

“This is especially true for those firefighters who have worked so hard to protect communities.”

Further details about the memorial and how to attend will be available shortly.

Police investigate suspicious bushfires – Glenrock State Conservation Area

Police are appealing for public assistance after three deliberately lit bushfires in Lake Macquarie yesterday.

About 4.40pm (Thursday 23 January 2020), Fire and Rescue NSW crews were called to a bushfire in thick scrub within the Glenrock State Conservation Area. The fire was bordered by Burwood Road, the Fernleigh Track and the Yuelarbah Track.

Whilst crews were in the process of extinguishing the blaze, two additional fires ignited beside the Fernleigh Track.

It took crews several hours to bring the blazes under control, which burnt through approximately five hectares of the Glenrock State Conservation Area.

Officers from Lake Macquarie Police District attended the scene and commenced investigations.

Police are appealing to locate a man who may be able to assist with their inquiries.

He’s described as being of Caucasian appearance, 170cm tall, aged in his mid to late 40s, with a solid build and scruffy dark brown hair which was long at the back similar to a mullet haircut.

Anyone who may have seen or heard any suspicious activity in the area is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages.

Exhibition relives momentous Novocastrian anniversaries of 2019

History buffs can explore the impact of some of the most significant events in Newcastle’s past at an exhibition called Newcastle in Print at Newcastle Library curated to recognise milestone anniversaries from 2019.

The community will be given a unique opportunity to explore how these major events were reported at the time and to reflect on their legacy at a curator’s talk hosted at City Hall on Thursday at 6pm.

City of Newcastle acting manager of Libraries and Learning Alexander Mills said 2019 was a significant year of anniversaries that observed disasters, industrial unrest and social and cultural changes in the City.

“The ninth year of decades throughout history have been host to numerous transformative events for our City.

“This fascinating exhibition revisits positive moments in time like the opening of our City’s jewels, the Civic Theatre and City Hall, as well as tragic events that have tested our community and built our reputation for resilience.

“The events are explored through newspaper reports and photographs published in our local newspapers available from the Library’s collection.

“We remember the Hunter Valley floods and the Newcastle earthquake, the controversial coal strike of 1949 and the closure of BHP in Newcastle.

“In 1929 a great weeklong celebration kicked off in Newcastle to mark the openings of the Civic Theatre and City Hall. As well as the two grand openings, bands played for the community in King Edward Park, other entertainment featured a soccer tournament, competitive woodchop, surf carnival and aerial pageant at District Park, while a new floating dock was launched on the harbour.

“Twenty years later saw the Australian coal strike which was the first time that Australian military forces were used during peacetime to break a trade union strike. The strike by 23,000 coal miners lasted for seven weeks with troops being sent into the open cut coal mines by the Chifley Federal government which resulted in workers returning to work, defeated, two weeks later.”

The Newcastle in Print exhibition will be on display in the Local History Lounge at Newcastle Library until February 22.

A anniversary milestones from 2019: 

90 years since the opening of Civic Theatre and City Hall

70 years since the arrival of 1,896 European immigrants on the Fairsea

70 years since the Hunter coal strikes

30 years since the Newcastle Earthquake

20 years since the closure of BHP

Woman charged over fatal crash – Raymond Terrace

A woman will face court next month charged over a fatal crash in Raymond Terrace last year.

Shortly before 11am on Sunday 8 December 2019, a blue Toyota Corolla travelling southbound and a red Holden Astra travelling northbound along Richardson Road, Raymond Terrace, collided in the northbound lane.

The driver of the Astra, a 58-year-old man, died at the scene.

The passenger of the Astra, a 62-year-old woman, and the driver of the Corolla, a 21-year-old woman, were both taken to John Hunter Hospital for treatment to their injuries.

Officers attached to the Hunter Crash Investigation Unit arrived at the scene and commenced an investigation.

Following inquiries, yesterday (Wednesday 22 January 2020) a 21-year-old woman attended Raymond Terrace Police Station where she was arrested.

She was charged with:

· Drive in a manner dangerous occasioning death

· Cause bodily harm through misconduct

· Negligent driving occasioning death

· Negligent driving

· Not keep left of dividing line; and

· Drive with illicit drug in system

She was granted conditional bail to appear at Raymond Terrace Local Court on Monday 24 February 2020.


Man in court over alleged online grooming – Strike Force Trawler

A man will appear in court today charged over the alleged online grooming of a child in the state’s Hunter region.

In December 2019, detectives from the Child Abuse and Sex Crime Squad’s Child Exploitation Internet Unit (CEIU) began engaging online with a man in the state’s north.

Police will allege in court that the man believed he was speaking with a 14-year-old girl and engaged in conversations about sexually-explicit acts he wished to perform on the child.

Following extensive investigations, strike force detectives arrested a 23-year-old man at a home near Newcastle about 9.30am yesterday (Wednesday 22 January 2020).

Shortly after, a search warrant was executed at the home, where detectives seized a mobile phone and documents.

The man was taken to Waratah Police Station and charged with use carriage service to groom person under 16 years for sex.

He was refused bail to appear at Newcastle Local Court today (Thursday 23 January 2020).

Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad Commander, Detective Acting Superintendent Chris Goddard, said all parents need to speak with their children regularly about online safety.

“With school holidays about to end, it’s a timely reminder to keep an eye on how much time your child is spending on the internet, what websites they are visiting, and who they may be speaking with,” Det A/Supt Goddard said.

“Not only should young people be very careful about providing personal information details to a person they only know in an online environment, they should never organise to meet as doing so may place them at further risk of harm.

“If they encounter something or someone they are not comfortable with, we encourage them to speak to someone they trust, who can then let our investigators know,” Det A/Supt Goddard said.

More information and educational packages for parents and children are available from ThinkUKnow, a multi-agency program designed to educate and promote cyber safety:

Greens back action to stop oil drilling in Bight

The Greens have backed the community groups taking legal action to challenge the government regulator’s (NOPSEMA) initial approval of Norwegian oil giant Equinor’s plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

Senator for South Australia and Greens Environment Spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young said the environmental approval announcement last month was a devastating outcome for the tens of thousands of Australians deeply opposed to the project.

“The Christmas eve approval for drilling in the Great Australian Bight has not gone unnoticed. The Greens, together with the community, will take all steps necessary to stop this environmental destruction from going ahead,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

“Australians rightly feel as though their pleas for the Great Australian Bight to be protected from oil and gas drilling have fallen on deaf ears. It’s therefore no wonder The Wilderness Society SA and the Great Australian Bight Alliance have decided to challenge the decision.

“South Australians, and indeed the majority of Australians, don’t want our Great Australian Bight turned into an oil field. They don’t want a foreign oil giant destroying our coastline and one of our most precious and treasured assets.

“Just today an Ipsos Australia poll shows the environment is the biggest worry for Australians, above cost of living, healthcare and the economy. This comes after catastrophic fires across the country fuelled by the climate emergency. Australia should be cutting fossil fuel pollution not opening up new oil fields in our oceans. It seems everyone gets that except for the Morrison Government.

“The Federal Government could put a stop to this pain by agreeing to world heritage protection and backing Greens’ legislation currently before the Senate to give the Bight the protection it deserves.”


Bush fire affected families and businesses can now access all available assistance being offered by local councils, the State Government and Federal Government, through the NSW Government’s new Bush fire Customer Care program.

Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for Disaster Recovery John Barilaro said the one-stop shop service, administered by Service NSW, would connect affected people with a Customer Care specialist, who can check their eligibility for assistance and help them access it.

“These bush fires have devastated communities and livelihoods. People’s lives are already stressful enough, which is why we have created this new service that cuts through red tape and helps people access support as quickly as possible,” Mr Barilaro said.

“Once a specialist has identified eligible assistance across all layers of government, they will then do the heavy lifting to make it happen.

“This service will also meet another emerging need, by matching people with the many charities which have raised money from generous Australians.”

Service NSW is working in partnership with fellow state agencies, local government and the Australian Government.

The Customer Care specialists will operate like case managers and connect bush fire affected customers with services and support information including:

  • Accommodation advice;
  • Relevant charitable services;
  • Mental health and wellbeing services;
  • Support for businesses;
  • Clean-up services;
  • Financial assistance;
  • Insurance and legal support;
  • Replacing lost ID; and
  • Volunteer RFS and SES payments.

​Mr Barilaro said the specialists will also assist business owners who have been hit hard.

“Businesses are often the lifeblood of a community and we are here to help owners and operators get back on their feet,” Mr Barilaro said.

To connect with a Customer Care specialist call Service NSW between 7am and 7pm on 13 77 88. The Contact Centre hours have been extended to include weekends while communities recover.

Information about the Customer Care service is also available in Service NSW Centres, NSW Recovery Centres and Mobile Service Centres in affected regions.

Further information is available at