Volunteer Sandra Walding named Murray Bridge’s citizen of the year for 2024
A Meals on Wheels stalwart, the Rockleigh 105 Gravel Fest and the Hub on Darling Avenue have been recognised with Australia Day awards this year.
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Three groups of locals who sustain our physical and mental health have been recognised with Australia Day awards in Murray Bridge.
Long-standing Meals on Wheels volunteer Sandra Walding was named the community’s citizen of the year at an event on Friday morning.
The team from the Hub at Darling Avenue, which brings together people in need for a meal and a chat every Friday, was given an award for active citizenship.
Meanwhile, Murraylands Multisports received an award for the community event of the year: the Rockleigh 105 Gravelfest.
Scroll down to read their stories.
Meals on Wheels volunteer Sandra Walding named citizen of the year
Sandra Walding has been delivering meals to people who need them all around Murray Bridge since 1987.
Over 37 years with the local Meals on Wheels branch, she has filled all kinds of roles and, the crowd was told on Friday morning, had proven herself capable and caring at every step along the way.
Her service and loyalty have also extended to local sporting clubs.
She is a life member of the Rambler Football Club, where she has long worked in the canteen, as well as the Jervois and Murray Bridge Bowling Club ladies’ darts clubs.
Acting council CEO Tim Vonderwall paid tribute to the “extraordinary” contribution she had made to the community.
An emotional Ms Walding said she was honoured and privileged to have won the award.
“I’m especially proud to have represented Meals on Wheels in Murray Bridge in many positions and deliveries for the last 37 years,” she said.
“I hope that I have many more years in me.”
There was one other finalist for the award: Analise Gates, whose Murraylands Fair was last year recognised as the event of the year.
Rockleigh 105/Gravel Fest named event of the year
Over the past decade, volunteer organisation Murraylands Multisports has gained a reputation for putting on some of South Australia’s most challenging running and cycling events.
Among them is the Rockleigh 105, a gruelling 105-kilometre bike ride through the rocky terrain of the eastern Adelaide Hills.
Founder Morgan Coull and his team celebrated the event’s 10th anniversary last year, and have raised thousands of dollars for the Rockleigh Country Fire Service brigade in that time.
Organiser Darryl Webb accepted the award.
“Anybody who can do a cross bike or a rally bike, even if you’re my age, you’re more than welcome to come out and join the Rockleigh 105,” he said.
“Without those who participate in all our events … we wouldn’t have an event, so thank you to all of those that participate.”
Active citizenship award presented to the Hub at Darling Avenue
What better example of good citizenship could there be than the volunteer team at the Hub at Darling Avenue?
Each Friday, in partnership with Foodbank and Second Bite, they provide anyone who needs it with coffee and toasted sandwiches; free bread, fruit and veggies; low-cost groceries; and, importantly, company.
The need has proven great since the hub opened behind Bridge City Church in 2022.
About 150 people come along every week, whether to pick up food and drinks, access the bathroom and laundry facility that has since been established there, or just to connect with other locals.
On Friday morning, those behind the initiative were recognised with an active citizenship award.
The senior pastor at the church, Robyn Cinc, said it was an honour and privilege for the team to receive the award “for doing something that we know is the right thing to do in the times that we live in”.
Australia Day ambassador praises Murray Bridge
Among those impressed by the award winners – and the community – was guest speaker Samela Harris, a pioneering Adelaide journalist and arts reviewer.
She had come to the event as an Australia Day ambassador, she said, but she would leave it as an ambassador for Murray Bridge.
The city’s willingness to embrace its Indigenous history, its arts scene, the River Murray and, yes, some of the tattoos locals sported were to be envied, she said.
“If anybody knocks Murray Bridge to me, they’re going to have to really account for themselves – I’m not having it,” she said.
“This is a wonderful place.”
During her speech, she even took the time to thank readers of Murray Bridge News – that’s you – for lending their support to “an absolutely magic enterprise”.
Murray Bridge Mayor Wayne Thorley offered his congratulations to the award winners.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these local legends, who deserve to be honoured for their exceptional talents and hard work,” he said.
“They have all played a pivotal role in enriching our vibrant and thriving communities, and their achievements serve as inspiration for the rest of us.
“Every single person in this community helps contribute to the proud, thriving and resilient community we are today, and it’s legends like these that lead the way for those yet to come.”
Disclosure: The author was gifted a grevillea seedling, one of the left over decorations from the event, by the Rural City of Murray Bridge. Which was nice.