Awards recognise community contributors

Ellie Cheesman is a finalist for the SA Community Achievement Awards. PHOTO: CHARLOTTE MARTIN 368308_02

Two Port Lincoln residents and a program have been recognised for their efforts and nominated for the 2023 South Australian Community Achievement Awards.

Ellie Cheesman and Madison Star Gotch are finalists for the prestigious annual awards ceremony, as is West Coast Youth and Community Service (WCYCS).

Ms Cheesman was nominated for the Ryde International Connecting Communities Award among three other South Australian contenders, while Ms Gotch was named a finalist for the Carers SA Young Carer Award and the WCYCS Healing Circles program was named a finalist for the Rural Doctors Workforce Agency, Rural Community Health and Wellbeing Award.

Ms Cheesman conducts art therapy groups and individual workshops throughout Port Lincoln, teaches dance to younger people and facilitates the general progression of arts programs in the city.

She said she conducts her art therapy predominantly out of her office on Washington street, but she also has contracted at Matthew Flinders Home.

“I do group sessions for art therapy on request as well, going out to people’s homes,” Ms Cheesman said.

“The dance classes I teach at Odette’s School of Dance [is] mainly contemporary and modern dance and whatever is fun for the kids and gets them into their bodies.

“I’ve found young people and even adults can reap benefits from many things in life if they stop caring what they look like and focus on the well-being aspects.”

Ms Cheesman said she had been involved in the arts for some time.

“I’ve been dancing for a long time, since I did vocational ballet school as a teenager,” she said.

“I’ve been working in the arts and wellbeing scene in general for three years.

“It’s great and even better since I graduated from my art therapy course last year.”

Ms Cheesman moved back to Port Lincoln through the pandemic and said that because she missed dance so much, it reinvigorated her passion.

Since then she has been further developing her skills, sharing and teaching those skills with the community.

Ms Star Gotch is a 15-year-old student assisting with her mother’s mental health needs and extending that care to her younger brother with his daily challenges as she also navigates adolescence.

She said she was very grateful to be an award finalist.

“I am humbled and surprised that I was nominated,” she said.

“I went without a lot while taking care of my mum and brother, it’s nice to be recognised for my sacrifices and hard work.”

Ms Star Gotch said in the short term she wanted to get a part-time job and continue schooling.

She said any other young carers in the community should not be afraid to reach out for support if they needed it.

The awards committee said Ms Star Gotch faced the unique struggles of a young carer, handling her caring responsibilities.

She has actively engaged with Carers SA for nearly three years, advocating for fellow young carers.

The WCYCS program is an alcohol and other drugs day centre service for anyone aged 18 and above.

Established in 2021, this centre has been instrumental in transforming lives, with 118 participants benefitting from its 227 group sessions and 166 individual counselling sessions during the 2022-23 fiscal year.

The service’s chief executive officer Narelle Biddell said it had received feedback from clients the program had become “family” for them.

“The Healing Circles Day Centre model was developed by previous CEO Jo Clarke and counsellor Bernie Joyce in collaboration with Port Lincoln Aboriginal Health Service, to provide alternate therapy options to one-on-one counselling and assist with a growing waitlist of clients,” she said.

“The centre is facilitated by peer support workers Josh and Jason as well as our AOD counsellors Maya and Jenny who provide DBT, art therapy and reality therapy.

“We also have volunteers that consist of past participants and family members all of whom have ensured the program’s success.”

Ms Biddell said the program organisers were humbled to be finalists.

A gala event will be held in Adelaide on November 10, where the winners will be announced.