Eco-defender Colleen Hughson is the 2022 Warrnambool Citizen of the Year.
The long-time Warrnambool resident started a movement by not just picking up rubbish on local beaches, but working tirelessly to try and stop it at the source.
Other award winners are TEDxWarrnambool, which is the Warrnambool Event of the Year while Garry Price has won a Local Achiever Award.
Colleen leads Beach Patrol 3280-3284, and along with a team of fellow volunteers, she was instrumental in the banning of plastic stemmed cotton buds in Victoria and New South Wales.
Long-time visitors to the beaches west of Thunder Point can also attest to the tangible difference Beach Patrol has made in recent years.
Colleen was also recognised at the 2019 Warrnambool Australia Day Awards as a Local Achiever.
Ms Hughson said that while she had won the award, she was accepting it on behalf of everyone who helped make their local beaches and coastline better places.
“It’s an absolute honour to be recognised for something that I really enjoy doing and something that I’m really passionate about,” she said.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness about the issue of marine litter along our coastline and I also see it as an opportunity to thank all the volunteers that are part of Beach Patrol. Thank you to my husband and kid too.”
Ms Hughson said that the first time she visited a beach with the sole purpose of picking up rubbish was in August 2017 when she saw cotton buds on Shelly Beach, and things had grown from there.
“I was walking along and seeing all these sticks and I thought ‘this is terrible, someone should do something about this’ and as I was walking home I thought ‘hang on, I could go back with a bag and pick them up’,” she said.
“It was a bit of a wake up and I haven’t looked back since then.”
Colleen and her fellow Beach Patrollers catalogue all of the rubbish they find using the free Litter Stopper app.
“The great thing about that data is that it’s fed directly to the State Government so that they can see and quantify the litter problems we have in Victoria and can start looking at the issues to address,” she said.
“There are a lot of people that clean up rubbish all the time, and that goes undocumented.
“Litter Stopper is a very user-friendly app to use. It’s not just for beaches. If you’re cleaning up on your street or in your school, you can log it there as well.”
She said that one of the group’s proudest achievements was successfully lobbying the Victorian Government to ban plastic stemmed cotton buds.
“The reason we ended up helping to get cotton buds banned in Victoria, and New South Wales too, is because we had that data,” Ms Hughson said.
“We’ve done over 500 clean ups on Shelly Beach and collected 27,000 cotton buds.
“The cotton buds continue to wash up, but we know that now the ban is in, in the future, no more plastic stemmed cotton buds will be getting into the ocean.”
And while COVID-19 put a stop to Beach Patrol’s monthly group beach cleans, everyone continued their good work independently on beaches from Nullawarre to Discovery Bay, with a combined 400 clean-ups and 2.5 tonnes of rubbish logged in Litter Stopper in 2021 alone.
“Coming to the ocean, getting that fresh air and doing something that has a purpose was a great remedy after a pretty difficult time for many people,” Ms Hughson said.
Colleen will be officially recognised alongside other Warrnambool Australia Day Award recipients at an official ceremony on the Civic Green from 10.30am on January 26.
The event will also see new Australian Citizens welcomed, as well as live music from the Warrnambool City Band and Pyper Templeton & Dylan Patterson.
A BBQ, mini-pancakes and coffee van will be on-site.
If there is bad weather, the event will be moved to the Lighthouse Theatre.
All attendees aged 18+ are required to show proof of double COVID-19 vaccination or a relevant exemption.
2022 Warrnambool Australia Day Award Winners
Warrnambool Citizen of the Year – Colleen Hughson
Since 2017, Colleen Hughson has led The Beach Patrol 3280-3284 Group. Colleen has led school groups and volunteers in around 1500 clean-ups at beaches between Warrnambool and Port Fairy and trained people how to record their clean-ups using the Litter Stopper app. Along with Beach Patrol 3280-3284, she was instrumental in the ban of plastic-stemmed cotton buds in Victoria and New South Wales, and the “Better Buds” campaign won a 2021 Tidy Towns Keep Victoria Beautiful Award.
Warrnambool Event of the Year – TEDxWarrnambool
The TEDxWarrnambool event was held in June 2021 and showcased Warrnambool on the world stage. The event benefited the community by telling our stories, as well as giving locals the opportunity to experience, and work on a globally recognised event.
TEDx is a leading platform for the propagation of ideas, creativity and innovation. It was a major coup for the city to be chosen to host a TEDx event.
Warrnambool was the first regional city in Victoria and just the second in Australia given a licence to stage a TEDx event making it a place in our community that inspires people to change their lives, futures and, ultimately, the world.
The cast and crew for the event was over 120 and drew on people from a variety of ages and backgrounds giving them the unique opportunity to work on a world class event. The talks have already been viewed by over 56,000 people worldwide.
TEDxWarrnambool was a truly collaborative event the bringing together industry, education, government and the arts.
Local Achiever Award – Garry Price
Garry is a musical therapist who has spent almost two decades sharing his musical talents with people of all abilities, including performing in aged care homes, hospitals, supported accommodation, palliative care, disability services, mental health services and education services.
While this is Garry's paid profession, he has also volunteered many hours of his time to those who have requested his services and who are either unable to pay, or for which Garry has refused payment.
Garry's ability to connect with people of all ages, experiences and abilities through his music is a joy to watch. He brings a genuine warmth and care to his performances and even if it is the 100th time he has played the same song, it is as if he is singing it for the first time.