Sonya’s labour of love rewarded with major Australia Day honours

LONG-time Brighton resident, Sonya Williams from Gagebrook was honoured with Brighton’s Citizen of the Year and Volunteer of the Year awards for her lifetime work of volunteering for community and advocacy groups.  The awards were part of Brighton’s Australia Day Awards and citizenship ceremonies.

A record number of six residents were made Australian citizens during the ceremony which was officiated by Brighton Mayor Tony Foster. 

This year’s Australia Day awards recognised the work of long-time volunteer in the community Sonya Williams who was presented with both the Citizen of the Year and Volunteer of the Year awards. Sonya, second from left, is with Mayor Tony Foster, Community Event of the Year representative Marie Bennett, representing the Breaking the Silence advocacy group, Woolworths Australia Day Ambassador Tetsuya Wakuda AO, and Paul Reed from Woolworths.

Woolworths Australia Day Ambassador internationally recognised chef and culinary genius Tetsuya Wakuda who is also an honorary international ambassador for Brand Tasmania, was an official guest at the proceedings.

Sonya Williams is a mother of three adult children and grandmother of three grandchildren with several ‘adopted’ children and grandchildren as well as the foster mother of three children.  Sonya has been an official foster carer for nine years and over that time has had many children in her care.

Sonya’s community volunteering activities go back more than a decade, when she was involved with the community fun days organised by BURP (Bridgewater/Gagebrook Urban Renewal Project). One of Sonya’s roles was to ensure there were donations of food and refreshments and goodies to give a way to the hundreds of people that regularly attended these fun days.

Sonya was also dedicated to providing food and companionship on a weekly basis to a group of residents that met for soup and sandwiches in the meeting room of the Housing Tasmania Albion Road units in Bridgewater.

For many years Sonya volunteered her time and energy to the needle availability program and gardening programs all run by BURP.

Sonya is a valued member of the Breaking the Silence advocacy group. Earlier this year the group presented self-care packs to staff of service providers throughout the community. Every item in the packs was handmade and included teddy bears.  With some 200 packs made and delivered Sonya almost single handily made each teddy bear herself, surprisingly no two teddy bears were the same!

Sonya is also the founder of Under One Rainbow – Community Coming Together where colourful rainbows have been painted on windows around Bridgewater and Gagebrook as a symbol of love and respect, signifying that everyone is welcome here, everyone has a place in our community.    For the last two years Sonya and a band of volunteers have participated in the Christmas Parade under the banner Under one Rainbow – Community Coming Together. 

She is a strong supporter of the annual Brighton Community Christmas Parade and has generously donated the meat for the barbecue for the past five years. Sonya was involved in the consultation process with Father Chris Riley from Youth of the Streets to start a youth program in the Brighton municipality.

The municipality’s Event of the Year Award was presented to the Breaking the Silence advocacy group for a DVD it made on domestic violence. The Breaking the Silence advocacy group is a group of community members in Brighton that promotes evidence-based primary prevention strategies with the aim of reducing violence against women and their children. The DVD is a powerful primary prevention strategy that is underpinned by the lived experience of family violence in the community. It tells the story of women from the Brighton municipality who have personally experienced family violence.

The group and its partner Red Cross have worked for more than four years to raise awareness and understanding of family violence.