When Brendan Johnston began picking up rubbish along the roads near his home, he thought nothing of it.
The Phoenix College teacher simply started to help cleaning up the roads around Bonshaw as an activity to help him get outside during the COVID-19 lockdown earlier in the year. Quickly, the bags of rubbish began to pile up.
"It started off during the remote learning period... I was feeling a little claustrophobic being at home all the time and wanted to get out into the fresh air," he said.
"I started to go out for walks and as I was walking along I just noticed there was so much rubbish along the sides of the roads.
"I started taking a bag with me to collect the rubbish and it just escalated from there... those bags all accumulated, I ended up having about 70 bags of rubbish."
It is because of this clean up effort that Mr Johnston has been nominated for the Awards Australia Community Hero Award, which aim to acknowledge those individuals making a significant contribution at a local level in regional and rural Victoria.
When he found out he had been nominated for the award, Mr Johnston was caught off guard.
"It was a bit of a shock to be honest," he laughed.
"I'm pretty overwhelmed by it all, I'm just one of those people who goes around doing normal stuff. When you receive an email like this it makes you think that something thinks you're making a difference, and that feels pretty cool."
The Community Hero Award is part of the 2020 Victorian Regional Achievement and Community Awards.
Better than the award nomination according to Mr Johnston is the impact his simple act has had within the community.
He said the positive response he has seen while picking up the rubbish combined with the fact he has begun to see other people do the same locally has made him feel like he has made a difference.
"It's been great because looking around, other people within the community have started to do this as well," he continued.
"All I wanted to do was help keep our community clean, so to have actually inspired a few people take the initiative and help clean up feels really rewarding."
Also nominated for awards within the 2020 Victorian Regional Achievement and Community Awards are Lou Ridsdale and the Food Is Free Green Space for the Regional Development Victoria Leadership and Innovation Award, and the City of Ballarat SONIKA - FReeZA Committee for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning Community Resilience Award.
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