Local Legends Recipients 2022

The Local Legends recipients for 2022 are:

Tristan Ross

Man in white tshirt sits on a low wall with a guitar When Anglesea musician Tristan Ross was anxiously wondering what he was going to do at the start of the pandemic, he resolved to share his shows for free.

His offer of a livestream performance to his healthy Facebook following immediately struck a sweet chord with lives in lockdown, and something more than an audience was born.

Watch the videos on Tristan's Facebook page

It became a community which thrived on his regular shows, not just for the songs but for connections that came with them.

“It sort of grew and everyone was looking forward to it every week, and it wasn’t about the music anymore,” Tristan says.

“I realised pretty quickly it was more about community. There would be constant banter in the chat. I’d check after a show and there would be 3000 comments or more in a night.”

From Anglesea and across the Surf Coast to the Czech Republic, France and Canada people were together in isolation.

Over months as regulars at Tristan’s virtual gigs they shared their lives, laughs and losses.

Tristan is a full-time solo singer and musician, given to donating his time and talents to causes and institutions.

His big-hearted performance during the pandemic has led to him being named as Surf Coast Shire Council’s latest Local Legend, recognising his positive impact in supporting people and helping them to thrive.

“He gives his time freely whenever asked at events such as the primary school fete, and he also provides sound equipment for local ceremonies, and sings if required,” his nominator Grant Williamson said.

“Since lockdowns began in March 2020 he has live streamed music twice each week free for anyone to watch.

“Through these streams Tristan has connected many people from the Surf Coast and across Victoria, Australia and overseas, lifting people’s spirits and helping isolated people feel connected.”

Despite being at ease in the spotlight on stage, Tristan says he is unsure about being in the spotlight as a Local Legend.

“Reluctantly nominated!” he says.

Tristan – husband of Steph and Dad to twins Blake and Coby, 10, Jai, 8, and Bodhi, 3 – is Werribee born and bred and shifted to Anglesea with his growing family eight years ago.

After leaving school he worked for a decade as a carpenter, then as a scaffolder at refineries in Altona and Geelong.

“I’ve played music my whole life but haven’t done acoustic covers, which is what I do now,” he says.

“I got into that when Steph had the twins because we just needed a bit of extra money.

“Now it’s my full-time job.”

He performs tracks from the 1950s to contemporary at weddings and private functions and at gigs at a select few venues including Anglesea’s Morgan’s Bar and Grill.

Live shows and income evaporated with pandemic restrictions, but the generosity he paid forward in presenting his gigs free online came back to him in tips from his appreciative audience.

“I just said I’m going to do it for love, and everyone’s going ‘oh we want to tip you’,” he says.

“They showed me how to set it up online.

“I was lucky I always had a good 150 to 200 people watching. Probably 15 to 20 people would put in.

“Financially it kept us going, and there were a few other things happened along the way other than money – generosity and people sending gifts, a few incredible things really.

“We were very lucky, I’ll say that.”

Tristan knows of people who met virtually during his shows and have later caught up in person.

He aims to keep the show rolling into the future, though on a less frequent basis, to help people maintain connections.

“It’s more for everyone to catch up and get together, so they don’t forget each other and can get in there and say hello,” he says.

“I know there’s a lot of people still stuck at home, or there would be messages like I’m a single mum, I never get to go out and this is my virtual night out.

“I realised it is quite important to a lot of people.”

Kate Griffin

Kate Griffin.jpg Kate Griffin says caring for her ocean environment is the least she can do in return for the exhilaration she feels surfing its waves.

“The ocean is a massive part of my life, and surfing really dictates my life,” she says.

“I’m in a really lucky, privileged position where I can spend time on a weekend just surfing. It is just an absolute joy out there, pure childish joy … so much happiness.”

“So that’s what motivates me. I feel a need to give back at some point as well doing something that has a positive impact on the environment.”

Kate has walked the talk as a driving force with anti-rubbish organisation A Cleaner Coast, and as joint organiser of the now legendary Surfrider Foundation Torquay paddle-out against plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

She also helped her local team raise $20,000 for remote surfing communities in developing countries by surfing every day during September in SurfAid’s Make A Wave challenge.

Her passion, commitment and leadership qualify her as Surf Coast Shire’s latest Local Legend, recognising her sustained positive impact in helping her environment and community to thrive.

“I’m a little bit surprised,” Kate says of the honour.

“It’s lovely that people think you are doing a great job. Sometimes you need a little boost to kind of get you motivated again, so it is really nice to be acknowledged for things like A Cleaner Coast and Surfrider and what we’re doing down here.

“I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

Kate, 31, grew up on the waves at ‘tropical Warrnambool’ before shifting to the Surf Coast eight years ago.

She worked at Jan Juc café institution Swell before starting teaching at Grovedale Secondary College and is in her second year teaching English, literature and media at Surf Coast Secondary College.

Kate is passionate about encouraging people to make a habit of picking up litter as part of everyday routines and is an energetic board member with A Cleaner Coast.

“It’s an environmental organisation which runs local clean-ups in and around the Surf Coast for anyone, and we’ve done a few clean-ups which have been super successful,” she says.

“It’s all about having fun and educating the community. We try to make it really fun and have things like bands and things playing afterwards

“We’ve had about 10 events during the past three years, but couldn’t do much last year because of that thing that’s going on.”

The organisation ran one successful virtual clean-up during lockdown, which attracted international participants, and with restrictions easing is now limbering up to resume in-person events.

Kate says she still experiences goosebumps thinking about Torquay’s major paddle-out in 2019 protesting the ultimately unsuccessful plans of Norwegian company Equinor to drill in the Bight.

She remembers having set everything up on the day with co-organiser Damien Cole as they contemplated maybe one or two hundred people coming along.

“Then there were just droves of people walking down to Cosy Corner. It was incredible and something I’ll never forget,” she says.

“We had nearly 3000 people there, so that just blows my mind.

“It’s something that when you’re feeling a bit disheartened with the world or with the leadership of the country you look back on and reflect that – no, there are really great people around here and all throughout Australia doing amazing things standing up for the environment and communities affected by these crazy proposals.”

Alex Marshall, Darren Noyes Brown, Maurice Cole, Jeremy Richardson and Sean Doherty also helped organise the Torquay paddle-outs.

Kate and Damien helped organise a similar paddle-out for Newcastle, NSW, and Surfrider followed up with other events from Byron Bay to Tasmania and South Australia.

Kate says one endorsement of the Torquay event meant more than most – from Uncle Bunna Lawrie, Senior Elder of the Mirning People whose traditional lands border the Bight.

“Uncle Bunna did an acknowledgement of Country and he’s been part of the Fight for the Bight team for 15 years,” Kate says.

“He was really proud of the community down here, and he was really thankful we were able to stand alongside him and help protect his Country.

“That’s something that has stuck with me, and that friendship we’ve kept since then.”

Merrin Wake

Merrin Wake.jpgMerrin Wake’s work in mental health and complex trauma is informed by lived experience and driven by a particular motivation.

“Coming from a childhood that was quite chaotic… what drives me is a wish to make sure that people who don’t have voices in the usual places are heard,” Merrin says.

“I want to make sure that things aren’t done to them, but are done with them.”

“That is probably my main motivator.”

Merrin is a professional in the field but also shares her knowledge and boundless energy through extensive volunteer work, particularly supporting LGBTIQ+ people.

She founded SurfCoast for Equality and is a board member of LGTBIQ+ community organisation Speak, is a peer with transgender advocacy and support group Transcend Australia, and a consultant for Loud Fence supporting survivors of child sexual abuse.

She is also a facilitator of the Hear To Listen Facebook group supporting people who support others with mental illness or who have died by suicide, is a board member of For the Love of Bryce charity supporting kids with life-limiting illness and in palliative care, and is a the co-ordinator of social media phenomenon The Kindness Pandemic, recently named the most inspiring Facebook page in the world.

Her unwavering care and tireless community contributions amply qualify her as Surf Coast Shire’s latest Local Legend, recognising her sustained positive impact on people’s lives.

“Merrin is a change-maker for people who are discriminated against or struggle with past trauma,” her nominator Celia Bolton said.

“She is outspoken in a constructive and respectful way and provides spaces for people to be heard in our community.”

Merrin is Mum to Imi, 20, Kiah, 15 and Jay, 13.

She describes her husband Gavin as ‘very much the flag bearer of Team Merrin’.

“He really is, he’s a pretty remarkable human being who motivates me.

“We’ve kind of always shared the load.”

Merrin has worked in the health sector for almost 30 years, starting in paediatric nursing before moving to adolescent and mental health.

“Then for the past 10 years I’ve been working with the trans, gender diverse and non-binary community, and more broadly the LGTBIQ+ community,” Merrin says.

“I worked at Barwon Health for 18 years and then moved into the role I’m in now, with Queerspace at Drummond Street Services, based in Geelong.

“I founded a couple of organisations and run a private organisation called The Aware Project, which is around consultancy and supporting families and individuals with family violence and mental health issues.

“Probably a couple of days of the week I’m doing volunteer stuff made up of evenings, night times, kind of all hours really depending on where the need is.”

She might be helping people to navigate complex trauma – exposure to multiple traumatic events – or delivering hampers to families in need, or helping people to negotiate bureaucratic red tape to find the right services.

“My mantra is meeting people where they’re at, not where I assume they should be or need to be, but actually where they’re at,” she says.

Merrin has lived experience as a survivor of institutional child abuse, and as a mother of a transgender child.

“I was part of giving evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse and was honoured to sit alongside many survivors who I have learnt so much from. The healing I have had and continue to get from other people’s stories is quite profound.”