Refugee advocate named Blue Mountains citizen of the year

Refugee advocate George Winston was named Blue Mountains Citizen of the Year today [Saturday]. 

Mr Winston, 84, is a founding member of the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group, and currently co-ordinates the group’s fundraising activities. He was presented with the honour at a ceremony at the Blue Mountains Theatre, Springwood.

“George works tirelessly as a volunteer for Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group and provides emotional and practical support to refugees,” said Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill.

A post-war refugee himself, Mr Winston well understands the situation faced by people new to Australia, often with little resources and lots of barriers.

The Katoomba resident has shown excellence and leadership within the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group and he has campaigned for justice and human rights for refugees in Australia.

In 1985 he was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for his work establishing TAD – Technical Aid to the Disabled, using his professional skills as an engineer to invent and make aids for people living with a disability.

“For many of us who live within the area of the Blue Mountains, his humanitarian focus has provided us with a conduit to make our community a better place and a way through which the efforts of thousands of ordinary Blue Mountains residents can be channeled in order to make our world a better place for all,” said the mayor. 

Mr Winston said the honour was very moving “at such a late stage in life”.

He recounted how he was “a badly damaged individual” when he arrived in Australia, aged 16, from Europe in 1950 with his parents, following two wars and years of turmoil.

“We immediately got a normal life – school, work and a normal place to live – something we had not known since 1939,” he said.

Mr Winston said he shared the credit of the award with the members of the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group.

“I shall treasure this award for whatever time is left for me. Thank you,” he concluded.

Winmalee High School student Adisen Wright was named Blue Mountains Young Citizen of the Year for encouraging the youth of our community to stand up and have their voices heard.

But he said it was after observing some world political leaders in recent years that he was determined to see the world have inspiring leaders to generate positive change.

In 2017, he was an integral part of the Vote Yes campaign for the LGBTQI marriage equality survey, where he encouraged others to participate in democracy and make their vote count.

Adisen runs several social media sites, with the hope to achieve his biggest dream and goal, of instigating positive change in society.

“He aspires to be a politician of the future and believes the world needs to have inspiring leaders in order to influence that positive change,” said the mayor.

Accepting the award, Adisen said there were plenty of  young people in the Blue Mountains “doing incredible things” and he was humbled to be given the honour.

He used it to draw attention to climate change, which he described as the “greatest human rights issue in the history of the modern world”.

“Our young people are the future and they have the right to fight and speak up for what is right,” he said.

The volunteer-run Blackheath Community Op Shop was given the award for Community Achievement of the Year.

The shop is making a difference to those in need by creating a community hub where cups of tea are free, and help is always on hand.

Organisers invite senior citizens to be a part of running the shop, to encourage and foster community interaction.

Children’s toys and clothing are provided at no cost, with many parents and children bringing in something in exchange for another toy.

Every six months the four-person committee allocates profit to help with local projects and community events.