FREMANTLE’S citizen of the year Maureen Maher has a fascination with creating community connections and an important message about dealing with the seemingly inevitable march of Covid to the port city.
“It’s much easier to reach out and help people you know rather than the people you don’t know yet,” the Hilton Precinct co-convenor tells the Herald.
Ms Maher received her award from mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge during Fremantle’s citizenship ceremony on Australia Day, which was held in the WA Maritime Museum so there’d been room for social distancing.
Ms Fitzhardinge said she’d noticed two important traits Ms Maher possessed.
“When Maureen is involved, no matter the roadblock, Maureen will make it happen,” Ms Fitzhardinge said.
“The other thing is that everyone always feels involved, but they never feel over-burdened, and that’s such an amazing skill.”
Ms Fitzhardinge said Ms Maher was an inspirational leader who identified opportunities and created relationships across diverse groups.
“Some of Maureen’s initiatives include the Hilton Primary School breakfast program, the Cooking from Home cross-cultural cooking program, the Hilton Magical Mystery Tram Tour, The Garden Party Collective, the creation of the Hilton Pocket park and the Neighbourhood Connect program – to name but a few.”
One of Ms Maher’s initiatives which has recently started to take off and spread to neighbouring communities is message in a teacup.
She said it came out of a precinct survey which showed residents were keen to see vulnerable people supported in the community.
Ms Maher came up with the idea of planting flowers in teacups and anonymously sending them, along with a message of kindness, to someone in the community.
“You make the teacup planters as a group and talk about what’s going on and how we can do something about it,” Ms Maher said.
She said it was inspiring to see a group of young indigenous girls at the Hilton PCYC come to one of the workshops, and despite being initially shy, they were soon shedding their inhibitions and discussing who they were going to surprise.
Fremantle’s senior citizen of the year was Philip Lansell for his support of the Fremantle Community Legal Centre, where he has been volunteering as a pro-bono lawyer for 15 years.
Young citizen of the year was Allie Messenger from the Fremantle Youth Network, Youth Pride Network and Australian Youth Affairs Coalition.
PortCare won the active citizenship award for supporting people in need, particularly during the Covid pandemic.
by STEVE GRANT