Local Legends Recipients 2023

The Local Legends recipients for 2023 so far are:

Amanda Hough

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Passionate community contributor Amanda Hough says research shows that the act of giving hits the pleasure centre of the giver’s brain.

The new Surf Coast Shire Local Legend should know – she’s been doing it for long enough.

Amanda has contributed to many local and international community-focused projects during 20 years as a dedicated Rotary Club of Torquay member.

From planting the seeds which flourished into Torquay Rotary’s immensely popular annual Motor Show and Book Fair, to providing an ambulance for a slum in India, or witnessing Rotary’s contribution to plastic and burns surgery on children in Borneo, Amanda has been part of causes bigger than the individual. 

Some of her thoughts on the attributes of Rotary best crystallise her attitude.

“I like the fact that we only raise money to give it away. We don’t hoard it, and often – often and ideally – you may never meet the people who benefit from Rotary’s support,” Amanda says.

“To give without the need for thanks, that’s true giving.”

Amanda’s Local Legend award acknowledges and celebrates her commitment to helping her community and environment to thrive.

While her nomination focused on her contributions to Rotary, her inspiration and work in helping establish the new $1.8-million Winchelsea Medical Clinic also glows on her ‘good ideas’ portfolio.

“I’m a nurse at Winchelsea Medical Clinic and we saw that we needed to have a larger clinic to meet the needs of the growing community, so we built our own,” Amanda says.

“Quite a few of us put in our own funds and we designed a purpose-built clinic.

“Doctors and nurses put a lot of hard work into it, and we used mostly local trades. We received a government grant which supported the building of a clinic to meet what we thought would be needed in 10 years’ time.

“As it turned out, the regional population unexpectedly grew during COVID, and we are thankfully now well placed to meet the community health and medical needs.

“Now we’ve got a fabulous clinic with outstanding doctors, nurses and allied health clinicians, all working in a purpose-built clinic”.

Amanda also serves on the board of Geelong Hospice, where funds are provided for people and their families suffering from a terminal illness, as well as supporting health care workers to upgrade their qualifications and research.

She says her professional and volunteer experience has assured her of something.

“As a nurse I see a lot of sadness, grief and loneliness, but I also see the social benefit received by those who are active in their community,” she says.

“Volunteering is a ticket to meet local people and the collective effort of each individual accumulates to make a difference.

“And you make friends. I’ve made friends in Rotary who have become really, really good friends, and it would be likewise for people with Lions, sporting groups, Rubbish Rangers, food bank, the SES or whatever.

“We developed an idea like ‘let’s start a Motor Show’ and with a marvellous team effort under the management of Greg Plumridge and now Bruce Turner, we get a great outcome”.

She says the mantle of Surf Coast Shire Local Legend ‘doesn’t feel comfortable at all’.

“I know people through Rotary and other organisations who are real game-changers,” she says.

“I just do it because I enjoy it. Why should you be especially acknowledged for something you’re having a good time doing?”

Ian Convery

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Torquay had just three formal Friends of Taylor Park when Ian Convery joined the fold four years ago.

All were enduring and devoted but elderly, and when illness prevented existing long-time co-ordinator Eion Beaton from continuing in the role, Ian couldn’t help but step up.

“I was motivated, but also there wasn’t anybody else who was going to take it on,” Ian said.

“I couldn’t see it go by the wayside.”

With fresh energy and a new Facebook page as his principal point of connection with community, retired accountant Ian set about finding more Friends. A success story evolved.

Friends of Taylor Park now has about 30 regular active members and about 700 Facebook followers keeping watch on their good work. Working bees routinely attract fifteen to 20 volunteers.

‘We just keep chipping away at the park, planting, weeding, just gradually improving it,” Ian said.

“I love that it’s a native park right in the centre of Torquay.

“I’ve been connected with Torquay for more than 50 years and have seen the population growth,   this is a little protected pocket – it’s got history about it, it’s got native environment and bird-life, and right in the centre of town.

“It’s like our Hyde Park in the centre of Torquay and it must be kept for future generations.”

Ian’s leadership and devotion have qualified him as Surf Coast Shire’s latest Local Legend, acknowledging his commitment to helping his community and environment to thrive.

Ian has reinvigorated the group’s working relationship with park manager Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Authority and helped nurture working partnerships with Torquay Lions Club, and Men’s Shed members.

They recently had 20 bird and micro-bat nesting boxes made for the park.

The boxes were built by the men's shed in collaboration with the Surf Coast Secondary College, and the work was funded by the Torquay Lions Club.

The installation is going to be funded by GORCAPA, supporting a strong community effort.

Taylor Park has occupied its site on The Esplanade since being saved from development during the early 1900s.

It was named after one of the parks first trustees John Taylor in 1921.

Friends of the park missed an opportunity to celebrate the centenary of its naming due to the pandemic but will support adjoining Torquay Bowls Club in celebrating its 100th anniversary in February 2024.

Eion Beaton and his wife Betty were devoted members Friends of Taylor Park for more than 30 years, and their friend Peter Doyle assisted them across many of those years.

Ian Convery said he was proud to be continuing their work, and is grateful for all of the volunteers from all age groups who eagerly put their time and effort into helping the park and the environment.

The volunteers often have people saying to them ‘we really appreciate what you are doing’.

“It means a lot to us, it definitely does.” Ian said

People can find Friends of Taylor Park via https://www.facebook.com/friendsoftaylorpark

Michael Judd

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Michael Judd is living out his purpose shining forward his late daughter Estella’s vivid light and love.

Caring old soul Estella was only 8 when she was taken by brain cancer.

In her final hours her Dad promised her he would do something great to help others in repayment for the love and support his family had received, and three years on the product of his pledge may well be saving lives.

Michael became the founder of Surf Coast men’s group DIIGG Wellbeing – Doing Imperfect Inner Growth in Groups.

With over 110 local members it is bringing normal blokes from all walks together to talk, connect, reflect, learn and support each other.

The concept evolved in the months following Estella’s passing, as Michael shared his story with others.

“Catching up, connecting and sharing my story with mates not only helped me, it also helped my mates share their story and with their encouragement I started a men’s group,” Michael said.

“There is always going to be pain losing a child or a loved one but it’s what you do with those lessons and how you respond to life’s questions, as life is a gift and the silver lining can be found by paying it forward and helping other people through their obstacles.

“Estella was a light in our lives, and everyone can shine their light in someone else’s life. That’s basically the purpose behind it all, and it is putting more meaning to her life.”

Michael’s altruistic mission has qualified him as Surf Coast Shire’s latest Local Legend, recognising his positive impact helping men to survive and thrive.

DIIGG Wellbeing provides connection and storytelling for men through a simple format – with monthly Sunday evening sessions at different venues across the Surf Coast featuring a guest speaker and a co-created supportive space for attendees to share life experiences, lessons learnt and some fun along the way.

They also connect via a WhatsApp group.

“It’s basically creating a supportive space, so guys can feel safe to share their stories,” Michael said.

“It’s not church, it’s not AA, it’s not fight club, it’s blokes from all backgrounds blue collar to white collar getting together.

“Not all blokes have got life-changing experiences to share but it’s a great chance for storytelling, and some of the benefits we’ve had out of it … we’ve had guys who have changed their lives.

“Life is asking us all questions, every minute, every hour of the day, and we’ve got to respond and take action. That’s what we’re doing, and you don’t have to do it alone.”

The group is open to men aged 18 and older, with attendees generally aged from mid-20s to mid-50s and the oldest clocking in at 80. Twenty-five to 55 attend each meeting, paying $20 each to cover food, non-alcoholic drinks and venue costs.

Guest speakers have covered topics including financial, physical, mental, social, occupational, spiritual, cultural, occupational, intellectual and environmental health.

Michael is husband of Trish, father of three and works as a Permit Authority planning and managing high risk work.

His and the leadership group’s major aims for DIIGG Wellbeing in 2023 are to connect, mentor and coach younger men, and for the group to attain registration as a not-for-profit organisation.

“We are working on obtaining not-for-profit status at the moment and actively seeking pro bono assistance but are really finding it hard to engage a law firm,” he says.

“We are operating off community love but it’s not enough to make a massive difference, and everyone knows where men’s wellbeing is at in the present moment”.

“I don’t accept the suicide, anxiety, depression rate. I don’t accept the family violence, I don’t accept the drug and alcohol abuse and people wasting their lives away, I don’t accept the crime rate and number of men in jail.

“There are so many things to improve but it can’t be done by only a few people.”

Not-for-profit charity status will enable the group to receive sponsorship to help cover operating costs, including entry fees to ensure sessions are available to all men, and to expand into other communities.

People can connect with DIIGG Wellbeing via diigg_wellbeing on Instagram or email info@diiggwellbeing.com.au

Rayson Kobayashi Baggs

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Rayson Kobayashi Baggs volunteers a couple of weekends each month at activities with Surfers For Climate, and spends lots of spare time picking up plastic from beaches, bush and parks.

He talks to his mates about environmental issues that matter, and laments people treating the earth like a big garbage bin.

He inspires people of all ages, and he is 11 years old.

Rayson’s passion for the planet, commitment and leadership has qualified him as Surf Coast Shire’s latest Local Legend.

The award recognises his positive impact in helping his environment and community to thrive.

“Every day I try to be conscious of my decisions and actions, try to use less waste, pick up rubbish when I find it on the beach and in the bush and parks,” he says.

“I also ride my bike or walk to school every day to use less emissions from the car, and try not to ask for anything I don’t need.

“I volunteer with Surfers For Climate, helping with their events and also talk to my friends about the issues that matter.”

Rayson lives in Aireys Inlet and is vice-school captain in year 6 at Aireys Inlet Primary School.

He credits his parents Belinda Baggs and Jarrah Lynch with having helped ignite his passion for the environment.

“My parents surf, so we’re always at the beach, either on the sand or in the water,” Rayson says.

“It made me realise how much you need to protect it and nourish nature, as it is vital for these ecosystems to be healthy in order for it to look after us.”

Rayson’s devotion has even extended to donating money from his eighth birthday to the Fight for the Bight campaign, opposing plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

“I was worried about an oil spill hurting the whales, dolphins, turtles and fish,” Rayson says.

“I didn’t really need more toys, but I did need a clean beach and for the animals to be safe.”

He is modest about being referred to as inspiring.

“But hearing that I’m inspiring makes me feel happy to know that others are also caring about the planet,” he says.

“We need to look after it because if we have children we want them to be able to have the same experiences as we do as kids now.

“Some adults seem to look at the earth as a big garbage bin or a resource, but really we are connected and depend on nature to live.

“Please help us look after the future and stop destroying the climate for money, because there is no planet B for us."

Brooke Murphy

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Brooke Murphy made a pact with the universe when her eldest daughter made it home to Australia from India 45 minutes before international airspace closed in the shadow of the pandemic.

She knew her daughter would have been OK with lifelong family friends in India if she didn’t make it.

“But I wanted her home with us safely,” Brooke said.

“And the thoughts of the hundreds of thousands of other young people stranded in many parts of the world, unable to make it home to their families never left my thoughts.”

Brooke was at Melbourne Airport when the last plane touched down with returning passengers.

“And in that moment, I simultaneously thanked the universe for getting my daughter back home to me, and vowed I would do anything in my ability to assist any person stranded in our community who didn’t make it home,” Brooke said.

Inadvertently the big-hearted charity Feed Me Surf Coast was born.

“I’m a big believer in the universe always having a plan, as long as you are prepared to listen and follow the signs,” Brooke said.

“The universe did deliver a sign, and shortly after I was introduced to Lana Purcell, the founder of Feed Me Bellarine.

“I had been working at a homeless drop-in centre in Geelong that was closed down as a result of COVID-19 and it really affected me. I was at a loss wondering how the most vulnerable in our community would be supported during this unprecedented time.

“Feed Me Bellarine was already responding to the rolling disastrous effects as COVID-19 hit our shores, and many families on the Surf Coast were experiencing incredibly difficult times through job loss, children at home and uncertain future.

“Feed Me Surf Coast was quickly established as the second location to the already established ‘Feed Me’ charity.”

Brooke became its co-ordinator and remains its mainstay, and her leadership and devotion to its altruistic mission has qualified her as Surf Coast Shire’s latest Local Legend, recognising her positive impact on the lives of others.

Feed Me Surf Coast rescues food fit for consumption which would otherwise end up in landfills, and helps deliver it to people in need.

Volunteers collect from 10 supermarkets every day – more than 3000kg a week – as well as restaurants, cafes, bakeries, wholesalers, growers and farmers.

“We have 117 volunteer ‘Feedsters’ as we call ourselves, plus Torquay Lions, Surf Coast Secondary College and Bellbrae Primary School students, along with young adults with disabilities and their carers,” Brooke said.

“We load, unload, unpack, pack down, stack, reload and unload 600 to 700 crates a week.

“Put simply, we rescue gigantic amounts of food that would otherwise end up in landfill. We feed hundreds upon hundreds of families, we cover our expenses and we are not funded by anyone.”

Brooke said their feed me efforts were initially focused on 210 international seasonal workers stranded on the Surf Coast without employment, housing or support, and 270 international students who had arrived just a few weeks before the international lockdown.

 “We also quickly felt the burdens that everyday Australians in our community were experiencing – hardships that were not planned or expected but unimaginable by our middle-class standards, Brooke said.

“A small and committed group of community members spent day and night quietly responding to the needs of those who required support.

And Brooke says the by-product of ‘all this back-breaking work’ is fairly extraordinary.

“We have created a community within a community of multi-generational and multi-skilled, compassionate, intelligent, funny, sensitive, politically correct and terribly wayward, vibrant and shy, loud and quiet, flexible and firm, carefree and stern gang of ridiculous misfits doing amazing work,” she said.

“We relieve hundreds of families from the daily burden of increased living costs.” 

Victor Goldsztein

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Victor Goldsztein and his husband Chris bought land and built near Deans Marsh 14 years ago with the partial aim of getting away from it all.

Then he discovered how irresistibly vibrant his new community was and couldn’t help but get involved in it all.

Now after years of volunteer service to organisations including the Deans Marsh Community Cottage board, festival, community market, and hall and reserve Community Asset Committee, Victor is being hailed as Surf Coast Shire’s latest Local Legend.

His nomination recognises and celebrates his commitment and passion for helping his community to connect and thrive.

“Victor has been an integral part of the Deans Marsh community, volunteering in numerous ways for the best part of a decade,” his citation read.

“He has shared his expert skill set generously and thoughtfully, in particular being an active leader for the Deans Marsh Community Festival, markets and recycling initiative.

“Victor has enviable organisational skills and a friendly willingness to undertake anything. His non-judgemental and enthusiastic attitude encourages others to join the ride!”

Victor said he felt slightly embarrassed and very humbled to be acknowledged.

“The reality is I’m one of many in Deans Marsh,” he said.

“It is very nice that someone made this recommendation about me, but the community is full of people who do lots.”

He said that in establishing a weekender away from Melbourne, he and Chris bought 11 hectares at Pennyroyal ‘so that we couldn’t see another living soul’.

“But then the first really lovely thing about the experience was the neighbours in our street,” he said.

“We just found this amazing connection with people, some full-timers, some weekenders like ourselves.”

Something special flourished, but really it was an ad on the local store noticeboard which unlocked his community involvement.

“The community cottage was running a program called Chainsaws for Chicks and I rang them up and said I’m not a chick but I know nothing about chainsaws, would you consider taking a bloke,” Victor said.

“The workshop was a great experience. That was on the Saturday, and on the Tuesday they were running a first aid course, so I figured on Saturday I’ll learn how to chop my arm off and on Tuesday I’d better learn how to stop excessive blood loss!”

During the first aid course he was effectively recruited onto the community cottage board by the then co-ordinator.

“Turned out I was on the cottage board for three years and it was a great way to meet people in the community and really get a sense of how the community runs,” Victor said.

One volunteer role led to another, and with professional skills honed by years in hospitality and event management, Victor moved on to the Deans Marsh Festival committee, and spent seven years running the town’s popular community market, pre-pandemic.

“I think one of the nicest times I’ve had in the community is the first market that we ran after the 2020 lockdown,” Victor said.

“It wasn’t a large market but there was such a buzz from the stallholders and from the community, just being able to be at the oval and be together. It was a special day.”

Victor has also helped establish the Deans Marsh Community Action Network, develop a community strategic plan, and played a central role in compiling a Deans Marsh community emergency phone contact list.

After the rigours of the pandemic he has taken a breather from community work during 2023 but has pledged to be back.

“My involvement will continue,” he said.

“I don’t know, I enjoy it.”