Local Legends Recipients 2024

Sue Saw

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The early years classroom is teacher Sue Saw’s happy place, and she cherishes every moment witnessing children progress.

“I love the interaction with different children and following their progress through each year, that’s the great joy I get,” Sue says. 

“Seeing the growth and the learning in each individual child through the months of the year, supporting the children and encouraging their learning … I love to be there.” 

Sue has spent the majority of her many years in education nurturing generations in Anglesea, teaching and volunteering at Anglesea Primary School and Anglesea Kindergarten. 

She remains a volunteer at both in retirement and her caring contribution has qualified her as Surf Coast Shire’s latest Local Legend. 

The Local Legends awards recognise and celebrate people making a difference and helping their community to thrive. 

“Sue helps the children with learning activities, from craft to puzzles and making playdough. She fosters an inclusive environment as well as encouraging children to develop confidence and resilience,” her nominee, Anglesea Kindergarten lead teacher Sarah Womersley said. 

“She makes every child feel special.” 

Sue – mum of Daniel, Adam, Elise and Laura, and grandmother of 11 – said the acknowledgement took her by surprise. 

“I feel very humble and grateful, I was quite taken aback,” she said. 

“It is wonderful and gives me a lot of pleasure. 

“I’ve been really lucky living in this lovely community. Everyone is very grateful and appreciative of what you do, and I am very passionate about helping young children and families. 

“I am so grateful to Anglesea Kindergarten and lead teacher Sarah for nominating me for this honour.” 

Sue counts her 1976 posting to Anglesea to teach at the primary school as a blessing and across the decades since has maintained a constant passion to give back to her community. 

Strong involvement with the town’s kindergarten while her kids attended led to her taking up a teaching position there in 1994, which she maintained until her formal retirement in 2007. 

Along the way Sue has contributed to various school and kindergarten parent groups and committees, was president of the primary school council, and volunteered to assist in the organisation of the celebration when the old school closed and the new Anglesea Primary School opened in 2011.  

She said in retrospect her retirement might have been a little premature. 

“I found that I really missed working in the field, and I had more to contribute so I offered my services as a volunteer to both the kindergarten and the school and that’s what I’ve been doing,” she said. 

“And I’m not quite over the hill yet! I love what I do, it’s keeping me on my toes, keeping me engaged and feeling as if I’m a worthwhile part of the community.”

Matt Benson

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Matt Benson is a long-time surfer but through Surf Coast therapeutic charity Ocean Mind he gets to experience times-over the thrill of catching waves for the first time.

As a dedicated Ocean Mind volunteer, Matt mentors young people dealing with life challenges, using surfing as a vehicle for life learning around overcoming challenges, developing skills and having fun being active.

“Some have never been in the ocean, and seeing their joy … that original joy that everybody gets from discovering the ocean, you see it through them, it’s pretty amazing,” Matt says.

“You see in them why everybody started surfing in the first place.

“That’s the thing with surfing, and it definitely is with these young people. Whatever else is going on … when they are in the ocean they are in the moment, and that’s a very good place to be.”

Matt has mentored with Ocean Mind for three years, initially inspired by his son Ryder mentoring a younger student through a program to help the transition into high school.

His devotion to the charity and the difference it makes has qualified him as Surf Coast Shire’s latest Local Legend, recognising his passion and inspiration helping young people to embrace challenges and thrive.

“Matt’s mentorship has positively transformed the lives of many young people,” his nomination said.

“And he’s played a pivotal role in fostering connections between Ocean Mind, local businesses and organisations.

“He’s not just a volunteer, he’s a connector who bridges gaps and enriches lives.”

Matt says he sees rewards during program sessions, and sometimes long after.

“One thing I really like is I see someone I have mentored, maybe a year later, and they’ll come up and say hello and have a big smile on their face,” he says.

“I see young people who when I first met them are going through difficult periods, and now they have transitioned to young adults well on their way in life.

“It is really satisfying to see that.”

He says while the focus is clearly on helping to make a difference in young lives, mentors gain as well.

“I guess everybody starts with wanting to help young people but ends up coming back because it does so much good for the adults as individuals as well,” he says.

“You get a lot out of just being involved. You never have a bad session. You always come away smiling, it’s fantastic.

“It is really special to be a part of it all and I encourage anyone looking for a connection into the community and a chance to make a difference to consider volunteering as a mentor.

“The more and different types of people we have in the mentor group, the more opportunities there are for different types of young people.”

Matt says he doesn’t think of himself as a Local Legend.

“It’s easy to contribute to the community via Ocean Mind, and in an environment that I love. There’s no downside there,” he says.

Jules Haddock

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Surf Coast Art of the Minds Festival founder Jules Haddock tells of an artist who contributed to the festival exhibition a few years back on strict proviso that her name not be revealed on her work.

The artist felt she needed anonymity in the emotional space that she occupied at the time.

But the following year she put her name to a new contributed piece.

The year after that she asked if she could volunteer for the week-long festival.

And the year after that she stepped up to join the organising committee.

Jules relates the story with measure of deep pride. As a mental health educator and passionate advocate she finds it resonates strongly.

“Her line was ‘I found my community’,” Jules says.

“That has always run with me.”

Art of the Minds is held during and celebrates National Mental Health Week each year, with the aim of activating, educating and engaging Surf Coast Shire and wider communities to creatively manage mental health and wellbeing.

Jules inadvertently founded the festival in 2015 with staging of her own art exhibition and sharing of her lived experience of mental illness.

A concept was born, and flourished. Last year’s festival incorporated 33 events involving hundreds of attendees. More than 130 people with lived experience of mental illness shared their personal stories through art, song and poetry.

Now the festival’s inspiring founder and president is Surf Coast Shire’s latest Local Legend, recognising her passion and leadership supporting and connecting people and helping her community to thrive.

“Her dynamic leadership in mental health awareness and community support shines through,” her nominators said.

“Jules fosters vital discussions, reduces stigma and empowers individuals through innovative education. She is an outstanding candidate and an inspiration.

Jules said Art of the Minds means so much to her.

“There’s nothing like it across Australia. We are really proud of our achievements. I couldn’t have done it without our committee of course,” Jules says.

“I guess I’m very big on connecting community and bringing people together and giving voice to people who are feeling really vulnerable. I guess that’s been my calling.

“I’m good at gathering people and I guess from an education perspective I’ve got the foundation of what our mental health is all about.”

The festival’s signature events include a launch on World Mental Health Day 10 October, community art exhibition, Surf Coast song contest, education seminars and many more offerings including wellbeing events with yoga, Qi gong, meditation and music.

Though Art of the Minds is a not-for-profit charity relying on the generous support of organisations including Geelong Community Foundation and Lions Club of Torquay, it also supports local businesses and venues which host its events.

“The beauty of this festival is that we tell businesses that they can make the money, they don’t have to donate to Art of the Minds,” Jules says.

“We use the platform to grab the microphone and remind people about the importance of them connecting and embracing knowledge about mental health.”

Art of the Minds also proudly supports Mt Duneed’s Foundation 61 Addiction Treatment Centre.

“Last year we raised $17,225 for Foundation 61 and grew ourselves, and I think that’s because there is a big synergy between substance misuse and mental illness,” Jules says.

Alongside Art of the Minds, Jules has her own mental health education business The Anxious Bird and her own online wellness program My Recovery Wheel, and has broadened her skill set to include qualification as a laughing yoga instructor.