Cathy Smith named Murray Bridge’s citizen of the year for 2022
The mental health advocate is among several outstanding community members recognised on Australia Day.
This story was originally published behind Murray Bridge News’ paywall. Paywalled stories are unlocked four weeks after publication. Can’t wait that long? Subscribe here.
A conversation can change a life, says Murray Bridge’s citizen of the year for 2022.
Mental health advocate Cathy Smith was among several community members honoured at an Australia Day ceremony beside the River Murray on Wednesday morning.
She took the opportunity to speak about the importance of simple conversations like the ones she had had during her 23 years in Murray Bridge, and to urge everyone to reach out and talk to each other.
“Everyone deserves a conversation, a smile and maybe a bit more of our time,” she said.
“Consider other people around you and their journey: the Aboriginal community; the homeless; the older person who is your neighbour, living alone.
“Reach out, take the time to learn their story – that, for me, is the most precious gift I’ve ever received.”
Ms Smith is the chair of the Murray Bridge Suicide Prevention Network, a member of the local disability network, and previously organised the city’s mental health and wellbeing expo in addition to her work with Uniting Communities, Community Lifestyles and now Go Getter.
She is also the chair of Murray Bridge High School’s governing council and a past president of the Galaxy Basketball Club, among other things.
Council CEO Michael Sedgman described her as “a pillar of our community ... a positive role model to all those she touches, inclusive, respectful and knowledgable”.
Ms Smith was chosen from among an impressive field of nominees which also included Mobilong Prison veterans support group founder Chris Tilley, Santa Cave operator Maxine Swansson, Players and Singers costume designer Samantha Pope and long-time Meals on Wheels volunteer Maureen Klau.
Young citizen’s volunteer work kick-started an important initiative
This year’s young citizen award recipient was Cheska Nacario, a member of the Murray Bridge youth action committee.
She was instrumental in establishing the Kickstart Loans program, which offers interest-free loans of up to $2000 to local entrepreneurs under the age of 26.
Fellow youth action committee member Sarah Shepherd accepted the award in her absence.
Also nominated was air force cadet Luke Ratzmer, a previous winner of the award.
Cars and Coffee named event of the year
Joanne Lovell accepted the award for community event of the year on behalf of Cars and Coffee Murray Bridge.
The monthly gathering began in a car park at the Murray Bridge Green shopping centre in 2018, but recently moved to the wharf precinct after it outgrew its original location.
More than 200 cars now attend the event from 8am on the first Sunday morning of each month.
The other nominees for the award were Maxine and Michael Swansson, for their annual Santa Cave; AOK Events, for Murray Bridge’s riverfront Christmas festival; and the local show society, for its “glitz and glamour” fundraising dinner.
Show society president recognised for his community involvement
Geoff Gale, the president of the Murray Bridge Agricultural and Horticultural Society, won the day’s other award, for “active citizenship”.
Mr Gale was originally a member of the society during the 1960s, when the current showground was established; and served as president of the old Murray Bridge Trotting Club.
He deflected any praise, though: “I’m just a figurehead for that group of about 40 or 50 people who put (the show) on”.