Australia Day celebrations in Wodonga
A sea of red, white and blue filled Les Stone Park on Saturday as proud Aussie residents took part in Australia Day formalities and celebrations.
Among the crowd was Wodonga's Citizen of the Year, Rupinder Kaur.
The initial news that she had been awarded the top Austraila day honour left the advocate for the prevention of family violence overwhelmed and in tears.
"I am very humbled to receive this award, it means a lot to me," she said.
After 13 years of an abusive marriage, Rupinder found the strength to leave that situation and build a new life.
Rupinder is emotional when she talks about a time when she was homeless as a result of fleeing her situation.
"My neighbours helped me at the time and I always wanted to give back," she said.
This led to opening up her own home to girls and women exposed to family/domestic violence, providing them with shelter and food by allowing them to stay at her home until government services are made available.
"I gave courage to these women and told them that my home is their home and then I always encourage them to gain education," she said.
"I always tell them they don't have to give back to me, I tell them to help someone else and that's the only way I sleep at night.
"Whatever I went through I can never forget, but helping others is my way forward."
Rupinder, who is a nursing graduate and second year law student, always stays in touch with those she has helped to ensure their wellbeing.
Rupinder estimates she has helped more than 50 women, not only from the Wodonga area but through Lifeline counselling.
"I remember last year there was a woman who has been married for many years - she's almost a grandmother - and she took the courage to have a chat with me and then she stood for herself," she said.
"It's all about motivation and letting them know that even though we are far from their home, that no matter where you live you can create a nice atmosphere that is safe."
Rupinder does all of this on a volunteer basis and out of the goodness of her heart.
She has dedicated countless hours and efforts to overcome tough situations that victims find themselves in and works hard to link these women with service organisations which can help.
Born in India, Rupinder came to Australia and settled in Wodonga in 2007. She became a proud Australian citizen in 2013.
Rupinder believes women need a strong voice in the community and she is this voice as a White Ribbon advocate and a guest speaker on domestic/family violence issues at local events.
As a graduate of Wodonga’s New Emerging Community Leadership Program in 2017, she took a pledge to dedicate her vision and mission to promote welfare within the community.
She has completed the frontline worker certificate from Lifeline and was recently elected Albury Wodonga Ethnic Community Council Deputy Chairperson.
Wodonga's next Australia Day winner was Sheldon Smith.
The Young Citizen of the Year is an amazing young man who directs his considerable energy to helping others and serving his community.
The 20-year-old is a great role model with his positive attitude and commitment to helping young people.
His dedication to the local scout movement saw him receive the Queen Scout Award in 2017, the highest possible award in venturer scouting that requires more than 300 hours of service.
Sheldon devoted nine years with the 3rd Wodonga Scout Group (and from now on as a cub leader).
Each week and even during school holidays, Sheldon can be found volunteering with Interchange where he spends time socialising and helping children with disabilities.
For the past nine years, Sheldon has been heavily involved in fundraising for Red Shield appeals, cooking meals for Carevan and collecting donations for McHappy Day.
Putting his venturer cap on, Sheldon has also helped to lead various environmental projects and bushfire awareness campaigns with the 3rd Wodonga Scout Group.
In 2016, he was a finalist in the RED Carpet Youth awards for the Advocacy and Action category, and Individual Community Service category.
The following year he won the Individual Community Service Award at the RED Carpet Youth Awards.
Each week during school term, Sheldon is leading youth groups with the Thurgoona Community Centre and serving as a committee member with the Thurgoona Toastmasters to further develop his public speaking and leadership skills.
In 2016, Sheldon received the Thurgoona Lions Club Community Young Person of the Year Award and the following year was nominated for the Lions Youth of the Year award.
Community organisation of the year went to the 3rd Wodonga Scout Group.
The 3rd Wodonga Scout Group has been an active member of the community for the past 48 years.
Boasting more than 100 members, the scout group provides dynamic, challenging and adventurous programs which equips young people aged between five and 26 with life skills, including team work, responsibility and leadership.
Group Leader Chris Pollard says being a part of the scouting movement gives young people the tools to develop into strong and resilient adults that have a strong focus on community participation.
Originally opening at St Augustine’s School site, extensive fund-raising resulted in a hall being built on land leased from the council and the group moved to its current location in Lawrence St.
Youth across all sections have achieved the highest level awards in their respective section. Most recently the group has had four Queen Scout recipients in the past two years.
Another large achievement has been a 50 per cent increase in membership over the past ten years.
The group has a strong focus on community service for both the youth members and the adult leaders.
They have assisted many community organisations, such as acting as marshals for the Albury-Wodonga Motorcycle Club. They have also been involved with the Good Friday appeal for the past five years and helped the wider community raise much-needed funds for the Royal Children’s Hospital.
They are also active participants in the Relay For Life, this year alone there was more than 40 youth and adult members who raised more than $3000 to benefit the Cancer Council.