First Nations voice amplified by 2023 Newcastle Citizen of the Year accolade

First Nations voice amplified by 2023 Newcastle Citizen of the Year accolade

A passionate advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities has been selected as Newcastle’s 2023 Citizen of the Year.

Nathan Towney was crowned Citizen of the Year at an award ceremony on Wednesday, in recognition of his leadership as The University of Newcastle’s Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Strategy and Leadership.

Wiradjuri man, Nathan was pivotal in the successful launch of Ngarrama in 2022, in partnership with Awabakal Ltd and supported by City of Newcastle. Nathan will oversee the event’s return to King Edward Park on Wednesday 25 January 2023.

The free public vigil, the name of which translates to ‘to sit, listen and know,’ is held on the eve of Australia Day to engage the community in meaningful reconciliation through truth telling and historical acceptance. The event will feature performances and informative talks from local Aboriginal elders.

Newcastle Lord Mayor, Nuatali Nelmes said Nathan’s worthy conferral as Citizen of the Year came at a significant time in the national discourse on Indigenous affairs, ahead of the forthcoming referendum to establish a Voice to Parliament.

“Mr Towney is a dedicated community leader who is passionate about building positive relationships and creating greater awareness and understanding of the path to reconciliation,” Nuatali said.

“A member of City of Newcastle’s Gurakai Aboriginal Advisory Committee, Mr Towney freely and generously gives his time and knowledge and is an exceptionally worthy recipient of the Citizen of the Year title.”

Nathan said it was an honour to receive the award, which gave weight to the incredible work being done in the community to shift public perceptions and improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“I’m really proud to be part of this community,” Nathan said.

“Newcastle has been a place of opportunity for Aboriginal people for many years and there are a lot of people who do amazing work across this region.

“I feel this personal recognition has been made possible by the foundational work of many people who have advocated for Aboriginal people, history and cultures in Newcastle across generations.”

The 2023 Young Citizen of the Year title was awarded to local entrepreneur Dominic May, Founder of CoastXP, a unique coastal sightseeing experience.

As well as actively contributing to the diversity of local tourism offerings and Newcastle’s post-pandemic economic recovery, Dominic was lauded for his rescue efforts when the crew onboard the fishing vessel ELLIE-K issued a mayday call off the Newcastle coast in July.

Dominic and a group of whale watchers arrived on scene with seconds to spare as the vessel was taking on water, rescuing the entire crew including the family dog.

In recognition of its work with all levels of government to tackle coastal erosion, Stockton Community Group Inc. was announced as the 2023 Community Group of the Year.

Led by Co-Presidents Alison Rigby and Melanie Taggart, the volunteer group was congratulated on its efforts to highlight erosion at Stockton Beach and call on the NSW State Government to “step up and act” through organised campaigns such as the Red Line Rally in July.



IMAGE | Community Group of the Year recipients Melanie Taggart and Alison Rigby, Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, Young Citizen of the Year Dominic May, and Citizen of the Year Nathan Towney.

City of Newcastle

In 2030, Newcastle will be a smart, liveable and sustainable city.

Council developed and adopted a suite of strategic documents to guide delivery of Council's seven key strategic directions, outlined in the Newcastle 2030 Community Strategic Plan.

  •  A Connected City
  •  A Protected and Enhanced Environment
  •  Vibrant and Activated Public Places
  •  A Caring and Inclusive Community
  •  A Liveable and Distinctive Built Environment
  •  A Smart and Innovative City
  •  Open and Collaborative Leadership

This planning strategy has assisted in the delivery of a City Revitalisation Program that has encouraged a large investment in the City by both Government and private investors that are willing to prove that Newcastle is ready for change.   

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