Benalla has won two awards in Keep Victoria Beautiful’s 2020 Sustainable Communities – Tidy Town Awards. The awards recognise, celebrate and share grassroots initiatives and positive actions taken by community groups, educational institutions, businesses and councils in rural and regional areas in Victoria.

At a virtual awards ceremony on Saturday 10 October, Benalla won both the Social Well-Being and Community awards for Tomorrow Today’s Connect9 program and Wanna Play but Can’t Pay Sports Initiative.

“We were notified that an anonymous community member had nominated us for the awards,” reports Rosie Koop, Executive Officer of Tomorrow Today. “Our Education Benalla Program includes a wide range of activities that work with families, schools and the community to improve outcomes for children and young people. Three of the awards categories aligned strongly with what we are doing in Benalla. We chose some of our activities as examples and participated in a series of 6 interviews. We were so thrilled to discover on Saturday that Benalla had won two awards!”

The Social Well-Being award was the most hotly contested category in the 2020 Keep Victoria Beautiful Awards.  “This award recognises projects that contribute to an accessible community with resilient, healthy and happy people”, said awards host Charlie Ranger. The award went to Benalla’s Connect9 mentoring program, which trains local mentors to support young people as they try new things and meet new people in a 10-week program offered twice per year.

The Community award was a tie between Benalla’s Wanna Play by Can’t Pay – Sports Initiative and the Mornington Peninsula’s Emergency Mallacoota Evacuation. At the awards presentation, Mr Ranger said: “Benalla’s Sports Initiative helped 263 young people attend and try 30 different activities in 2019 – sports, hobby groups, music, arts, dance and drama, to name a few, improving the health and well-being of young people.” The initiative pays for equipment and membership fees for young people who would otherwise be unable to participate in sporting activities. Community donations and philanthropic support cover the costs of the initiative.

Ms Koop says Benalla should be proud: “The judging panel was clearly impressed at the way the whole of Benalla had come together to support our children and young people in these activities.” 

Benalla will now be in the running for a national Keep Australia Beautiful award in 2021.