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The Community Environment Network (CEN) has announced the winners of the 2023 BE A TEAM (B.A.T) Awards at its annual Networking Night on Friday, 17 November, 2023.

Deputy Chair of CEN, Mr John Asquith OAM, said the awards used the terminology of cricket to emphasise the importance of teamwork and showing up when working to protect nature and advocating for sustainability.

“I have observed over my career how many times just being there to say ‘hey …why is that wetland being cleared or filled in?’ Just being there to say such things can prick the conscience of those who are making the decisions,” Mr Asquith said. “You can have a big influence if you are prepared to be there and you are prepared to speak out.”

Mr Asquith announced that Ursula Da Silva was the winner of this year’s BAT Award – fitting the description of “a person who has put in a valiant effort on behalf of the environment/sustainability”.

“Ursula has led Camp Ourimbah, the group campaigning to stop logging in the Ourimbah State Forest, for several years. She has been the leader caring for the state forest, its animals, plants and birds – the whole ecosystem. She has been tireless in her devotion. She has developed and educated a group of supporters and networked with other groups to end logging in native forests in NSW.

“She is inspirational and effective,” according to one of her nominees.

“Ursula has been the driving force behind Camp Ourimbah whose focus is stopping logging of native forests on the Central Coast. Currently Ourimbah State Forest is being logged. She has been a beacon of inspiration – dedicated, focused, intelligent and effective.”

From time to time CEN also presents a Special Recognition Award and this year, Richard Weller, leader of Climate Future, a group dedicated to raising awareness about the climate crisis, received Special Recognition.

The 2023 Best 12th Man or Woman Award was presented to Woy Woy Peninsula activist and President of the ACF Central Coast Group, Mark Ellis. as “somebody who has worked quietly in the background to support others in the from line and help keep them afloat”.

“Mark Ellis has been quietly ever-present at community meetings, council meetings, rallies, workshops, drop-in sessions and community consultations.

“His main interest has been the Wamberal seawall, a campaign he has been a part of since the 1990s. He is convenor of ACF Central Coast and a member of many other committees, working groups and community environmental initiatives.

“Mark is not a grand stander; he works consistently and quietly and is deserving of being this year’s 12th Man.

The 2023 Rookie of the Year Award winner, as a newcomer to the conservation movement who has contributed to the improvement of our region’s environment/sustainability, was another Woy Woy Peninsula resident and member of the Mingaletta Aboriginal Corporation at Umina, Coral Roberts.

“Coral has pulled out all stumps to campaign to protect the trees in Austin Butler AC at Woy Woy. She has letterbox dropped, handed out flyers and train stations, gathered thousands of signatures on a petition, lobbied the local MP, attended events, spoken at council meetings and even spontaneously interrogated the Administrator over tea and bickies.

“You name it, she has done it. She is truly a Champion of the Austin Butler Trees. A grandmother and a First Nations elder, she ticked all the boxed for Rookie of the Year.

The Most Outstanding Community Organisation for 2023 was Future Sooner - a group that has worked tirelessly on behalf of the environment/sustainability.

“Future Sooner is a community group that was established in September 2020 and became a member of CEN in 2023. The group lobbies MPs, holds community events, writes submissions and petitions, produces media releases, organises candidate forums, has a Facebook page and holds meetings via zoom every three weeks.

“It is committed to working towards a clean energy future for the Central Coast and Lake Macquarie. The group’s successes have included a campaign resulting in the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) capping the toxic emissions coming from the Vales Point coal-fired power station that contributes to over 650 children on the Central Coast and Lake Macquarie having asthma.

In August Future Sooner organised for the United Nations Special Rapporteur, Dr Marcus Orellana, to meet with residents at the Chain Valley Bay Community Hall. Over 100 people attended.

The group won the 2023/2024 Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) Environmental Award.

On Sunday, November 19, members of Future Sooner welcomed intrepid kayakers Tom Hunt and Dr Simon Leslie on their way Newcastle coal blockade.

Drs Ian Charlton and Merlene Thrift of Future Sooner sat down with Dr Simon Leslie to talk about the health issues facing the Central Coast from coal-fired power stations like Vales Point.

On November 21, Future Sooner members travelled to the NSW Parliament to be present when Greens MLC, Abigail Boyd, tabled the group’s Coal petition. The group will host a community meeting with Tony Chappel, CEO  of the EPA, at the Chain Valley Bay Community Hall on 1 December 2023.

CEN CEO, Mrs Samantha Willis, said the Network congratulated all B.A.T Award winners on their outstanding achievements in support of Nature.

“Our B.A.T Award winners are extraordinary people and groups who work tirelessly to uphold the principles of Ecologically Sustainable Development and we are so pleased to be able to recognise their efforts,” Ms Willis said.

Contact details

CALL 02 4349 4756

PO Box 149 Ourimbah NSW 2258

FM Building, Central Coast Campus,
University of Newcastle,
Loop Road, Ourimbah,
NSW, 2258


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