ELIZABETH Smee of Bermagui is the Bega Valley Shire’s Citizen of the Year for 2013.
The Bega Valley Shire Council in the lead up to Australia Day announced its Citizen and two Young Citizens of the Year.
The following story of Elizabeth’s accomplishments was provided by the council:
“A resident of the small coastal town since 1987, Elizabeth is described as the ‘quintessential quiet achiever’ by the Bermagui Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, and nothing could be more true.
Elizabeth fits the bill of any person in receipt of this prestigious award; a tireless worker for the community, helping and assisting people without question, and in no way expecting recognition for her efforts, let alone an award.
But she deserves it.
Following her move to the area she immediately she fell for the town’s charms, and although it wasn’t the tourist friendly town it is today – Elizabeth talks of her sister’s shock of not being able to find a cup of coffee in town during a visit in 1987 – she soon saw the potential for tourism and signed up as a volunteer for the local Visitor Information Centre.
That was 16 years ago, and Elizabeth is still there today, helping a steady stream of visitors to navigate the delights of this beautiful Sapphire Coast town.
Let’s weigh up what this means. Currently Bermagui’s major asset is tourism, and Elizabeth Smee is a central figure in the reason why so many people come back to the town year after year.
Its Elizabeth’s willingness to help anyone who walks through the information centre’s doors that reminds them of the helpful and friendly people found everywhere in Bermagui.
She cites the pleasures of meeting a wide variety of people as her main reason to keep coming back week after week, but what she perhaps is unaware of is the effect and influence she has on other volunteers and the community around her.
The effect of a person selflessly giving at least 15 hours of their time every week for the past 16 years has resulted in Elizabeth being a mentor for those who work around her.
It also means she is a treasured member of the community.
Seven years ago she and her partner were involved in a serious car accident in Bermagui where Elizabeth found herself stuck in her car on a day when the mercury rose to 44 degrees.
Her partner had a broken sternum, and Elizabeth had broken her neck. The temperature inside the car reached 55 degrees, but the community stepped in to help, with local tradies keeping them supplied with ice and cold face washers until help arrived. This is the community she loves.
Elizabeth has also dedicated her time to local residents, none more so than her disabled husband for whom she spent 30 years caring for him following a work-related accident.
For the past 18 years she has been one of the stalwarts of the Bermagui Sports Stadium, teaching many young people how to play her chosen sports of badminton and table tennis.
And as many in the community will know, Elizabeth is a talented and generous local artist, often giving her work to community organisations for use as fundraising prizes.
For Elizabeth, winning this award is hard to believe.
“It feels astonishing,” she says. “I can’t imagine anything like this happening to me.”
For those who know her, or for the people she helps every week at the Visitor Information Centre, they wouldn’t find it at all astonishing that she be presented with this award.
For the record, the Young Citizens of the Year have been announced as Adriana Kleiss and Adam Silverwood, both of Bega.