Wudinna recognises top citizens

The Wudinna District Council has named its winners for the 2021 Australia Day awards.

Minnipa's Peter Miller has been named the Citizen of the Year, the Event of the Year was won by the Wudinna Twilight Market and Christmas Pageant, Alicia's was named Business of the Year and Wudinna Meat Store's Elaine Shepherdson won the Employee of the Year award.

There were also two commendation awards to the Wudinna Foodland team and the Wudinna Vacswim program.

Mr Miller has been an active part of the Minnipa community for decades, including spending 24 years with the Country Fire Service, 16 years with the Gawler Ranges Friends of the Park group and a decade as part of the Minnipa Progress Association committee.

He also keeps busy by mowing lawns for senior citizens around town.

The 69-year-old said he was taken aback by the award win and that his motivation was remaining active.

"I was quite shocked to be honest," he said.

"I recently retied and didn't want to sit in front of the TV, so I am part of those groups and it keeps me mobile and active."

He said being community-minded was important in a small town such as Minnipa.

"I am finished with the CFS but will keep going with other groups until I can't anymore," Mr Miller said.

"It is important to keep small towns going and to take pride in where you live.

"We keep working and working together."

Elaine Seal, who was part of the organising team for the Wudinna Twilight Market and Christmas Pageant, said it was great to have community support for the event.

"It is fantastic to win the award, the pageant and market has been a success for the five or six years that we have run it and it is worthwhile when you get the support from the community," she said.

"It gives local artists and those with a hobby a chance to show their wares and a chance for the community to fill up their Christmas stocking, plus it is a good social outing.

"There is only a small organising group and we try to get new things each year, it is a great community event and great that the community gets behind it."

Alicia Dupree, owner of Business of the Year Alicia's, said she was proud of what the team achieved in a difficult 2020 and that it was "special" to win the award.

The cafe is celebrating its 10th year and Ms Dupree said the aim was to make the place "feel like home".

"Kids have grown up coming in weekly, it's always had home-cooked, much loved recipes and whatever growth we have had, we haven't moved away from that homely feeling," she said.

"I don't aim to stand out, rather I want to ensure Alicia's is a place that stands by the community, there for everyone, to keep on evolving, new styles, new products, new family recipes. Always growing, but continuing to be true to our foundations."

She said it was important for the business to be part of the community fabric and to help it flourish.

"It has been so important to us that we use local produce where possible, support local artists and be an employee of local staff, who have gone on to become wonderful friends," Ms Dupree said.

"One of my goals is to have that meeting place that brings an element of surprise with the high standard we strive to achieve at Alicia's.

"It's all about adding to tourists' positive experience of Wudinna and continue to provide a consistent service to locals.

Employee of the Year Ms Shepherdson has been with Wudinna Meat Store since July 2010, starting as a casual worker.

She said she was "overwhelmed" to win the award and that she was enjoying her time with the business.

"I try to bring excellent customer service and enthusiasm to the role, and I enjoy my job," she said.

"It's a great environment, we all get on well and the community is great.

"I'm a believer in learning every aspect of the role and it's not about the money but how much you enjoy your work. I couldn't imagine working anywhere else."

Ms Shepherdson also commenced a butcher apprenticeship last July which she said was going well and providing her with added experience.

Wudinna Foodland staff members received a special commendation for the way they responded to the increase in demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Store owner Greg Cook said he was happy for the team, which included nine full-time employees and 25 in total, and that it was a just reward for their efforts.

"I was pretty surprised and happy someone put the girls up for the award. They did a hell of a job with the early COVID restrictions and handled themselves well, going out of their way to explain what had to happen to customers and the customers responded well," he said.

"We have two good managers in Margaret and Sharlee, and Wudinna is a strong community where everybody knows each other.

"On an average week the girls at the checkout handle 20,000 items so they were at the pointy end of the spectrum when it comes to risk. We had protocols in place and mask use was optional, while QR codes have been accepted."

Mr Cook said staff did well to manage items which were running low and the response from the community was appreciated.

With more than 200 participants consisting of local children, families from Port Lincoln, Streaky Bay, Adelaide, Mallala, Cleve and Port Kenny, Wudinna's Vacswim program is one of the largest in the state.

Instructor in charge Susie Boylan said this was a great achievement for the program.

"It's a nice recognition for the program, which seems to be going well," she said.

"It has changed over the years and is more safety-orientated than being about the strokes, but any learn-to-swim program is important.

"Wudinna has a great teaching pool and there are also plenty behind the scenes who help to get the program going, including the swimming pool committee with Andrew Buckham and Simon Petty, the canteen people and Eleanor Scholz, who has helped with resuscitation."

The latest program had 13 bronze cross, 12 bronze medallion and nine bronze stars recipients and Ms Boylan said most award holders also volunteers with younger groups.

The awards breakfast will take place at Apex Park from 8.30am.