A lifetime of community work, particularly with refugees and asylum seekers, has been recognised with one of the City of Ballarat’s highest accolades.
In a special ceremony on Thursday, Kath Morton was announced Ballarat’s Citizen of the Year.
Ms Morton was recognised for her lifetime of community work, including her dedication to improving the lives of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia.
In accepting her award at the Ballarat Mercure Hotel, Ms Morton said she was honoured by the title of the city’s Citizen of the Year.
“I feel very honoured that I have been chosen out of many people. I never really dreamed I would get it,” she said. Ms Morton’s family, including her two daughters from Melbourne, helped her celebrate the award.
Ms Morton is a foundation member of Ballarat Rural Australians for Refugees; she organises regular visits to people detained at Melbourne Immigration and Transit Accommodation; raises funds for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and lobbies the federal government for changes to refugee policies.
“I am very happy to meet our refugee friends and asylum seekers ... we all need support in the community,” Ms Morton said.
“To be helpful to someone you must be accepting of them.”
Ms Morton said some who initially felt indifferent about people seeking asylum in Australia, often changed their minds after meeting them.
“You want to create a welcoming community and if you’re walking down Sturt Street or anywhere in Ballarat and see someone who comes from somewhere else, you should give them a warm welcome to Ballarat,” she said.
As well as her work with asylum seekers and refugees, Ms Morton was also recognised for her commitment to multiculturalism and the value of diversity and her involvement with the social arts project Rebel Elders, the Ballarat Interfaith group and the Bereavement Team of St Patrick’s Cathedral.
The City of Ballarat received a large number of nominees for the citizen, young citizen and community activity of the year categories in the Australia Day awards.
Other nominees for the Citizen of the Year section were Trevor Chapman and Geoff McRae.
Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh congratulated all nominees and winners of the awards and those presented with their Australian citizenship.
“It is incredible to see people such as Ms Morton taking their time to contribute to the community that they love and to help shape the community for the next generation,” Cr McIntosh said.