Oz Day gongs for Sister and local charity group

25 Jan 2017

Refugee advocate and community leader Sister Diana Santleben was today announced as Newcastle's Citizen of the Year for 2016.

The Catholic nun with the Dominican Order was recognised for her tireless work helping refugees at this morning's Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony & Awards presentation at City Hall.

An early childhood teacher by profession, in recent years Sister Di has supported refugee families and advocated on their behalf, helping people from Afghanistan, Iran, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia adapt to life in Australia.

Having previously established a micro-finance fund to help with small loans for medications, medical bills and short courses, last year she established women's refuge centre Zara's House in Jesmond.

"Sister Di has devoted her life to helping others," Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.

"Zara's House is open due to the inspiration and determination of a woman who has never been afraid to stand up for marginalised people, whether speaking up for them when needed, or by helping to provide physical protection.

"She saw a need for a safe place where refugee women could have fun with Australian women while learning English and settling in their new home and culture.

"After a selfless career of community service, Sister Di is a most worthy Citizen of the Year."

University of Newcastle student Phillip Johnson was named Young Citizen of the Year for 2016.

He has scaled back civil engineering studies to devote more time to advocating on behalf of students on a range of issues, from transport, environmental, health, social and security concerns.

As the sole student member of the Council of the University of Newcastle, he is part of UON's leadership and its role in the big changes to happening in Newcastle and the Hunter.

"Phillip has devoted more than 70 hours some weeks to ensure that students have access to free and healthy food, skills training and educational support", Councillor Nelmes said.

"As well as showing leadership by establishing a relationship with OzHarvest to help feed students in need, he rolls up his sleeves to unpack food deliveries each week."

One to One, a women's group formed by the late Mary Maughan, was lauded as the 2016 Community Group of the Year.

Formed 13 years ago by Mrs Maughan, who served as President and Public Officer, One to One is a group of women volunteers who help local charities and individuals in need.

One to One selects a local charity each year as the recipient of funds it raises at a wide range of functions, including Race Days, Dinners, Luncheons, Morning Teas, a 'Glitzy Glamour Ball' and more.

"We were sad to learn earlier this month that president and founding member Mary Maughan passed away after a battle with brain cancer," Councillor Nelmes said.

"Today we remember Mary posthumously and her wonderful work with One to One and recognise the efforts of her colleagues who selflessly donate their time to help others."