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2021 Citizens of the Year show dedication to their community

The Boroondara Citizen and Young Citizen of the Year Awards, presented at the Australia Day citizenship ceremony, recognise the work of members of the Boroondara community who demonstrate exceptional leadership or commitment towards improving others’ quality of life. A veterinarian who spends her free time caring for animals impacted by natural disasters, the founder of Yarra Gospel Community Choir and a young community volunteer are the recipients of this year’s awards.

Dr Elaine Ong started doing welfare work as a volunteer vet in the aftermath of the Boxing Day tsunami. She has volunteered as a vet and expert wildlife rescuer in significant bushfires and flood in Victoria for the last 20 years, including the Black Saturday bushfires and recently in the Mallacoota fires. Dr Ong is the founder of Vets for Compassion, a volunteer group that helps displaced and injured wildlife. She has also trained vets who deliver animal welfare work in Bali and China for the last 22 years.

I arrived in Melbourne 40 years ago as a teenager to complete my tertiary studies. I feel a duty to give back to Australia and to the animals that I feel do not have enough voice or support.

Yvonne Giltinan founded Yarra Gospel Community Choir in 2004. Over the past 17 years, she has grown the choir from just four original members to more than 70. A professional musician with 40 years’ experience, she uses her skills and experience to mentor young accompanists and build a supportive community. 

Our choir members really appreciated all the work we did to keep the choir going throughout a most challenging year, so I accept this award for them. Our time together was a lifeline in a year we will never forget. Thank you very much for acknowledging our very valuable work as a singing community.

Young Citizen of the Year recipient Aidan Dimitriadis has spent nearly half his life giving back to his community. The year 5 student volunteers at Four Golden Hearts, a group that supports local families.

His “Build Anything, Be Anything by Aidan” campaign has provided children in need with their own packs of Lego. 

When I heard about the many children who are removed from their home each year in Victoria, it made me incredibly sad. I do my charity not expecting a reward, but the best reward is knowing that I am helping people in a tough situation. I hope to inspire others to do the same.