Bellingen Shire Citizen of the Year - Jo Brotherton

Jo Brotherton at the Australia Day awards, where along with Barbara Moore she was named Citizen of the Year

Jo Brotherton at the Australia Day awards, where along with Barbara Moore she was named Citizen of the Year

Jo Brotherton has packed a lot of community contributions into her 10 years in Urunga, but she nominates being a founding member of the Lions Club as the most significant.

Along with Barbara Moore, Jo was named 2020 Bellingen Shire Citizen of the Year at the local awards ceremony for Australia Day.

She said her interest in establishing Lions in Urunga, which she did with her husband Peter and another couple, Ken and Nora Brooks, sprang from watching her father, who was a doctor.

"He started Lions in Narromine and was in it for 40 or 50 years before he passed away," Jo said. "I hear him all the time - this wanting to help people came from him, I think."

Since the Urunga Lions began in April 2014, the club has done much to improve the town, from the electronic clock and weather display on the main street outside the primary school to the new barbecue facility near the Kalang Bridge.

They also won two awards for Australia Day - the Community Event of the Year, for the Save Sight Community Challenge, which raised $7000 for the Sydney Eye Bank; and Community Group of the Year, for tireless fundraising and energetic efforts to enhance community wellbeing.

Jo rates her next most significant contribution as her work with the Chamber of Commerce: she's been in it for six years and is currently vice president.

A very active chamber, it is behind most of the community's big events, like Father's Day, Carols Night and the new Australia's Day - the Peoples' Day celebration on January 26.

Jo Brotherton (left) at the Australia Day citizenship ceremony (with Lisa Kelly, Margaret Cairns and Dominic King)

Jo Brotherton (left) at the Australia Day citizenship ceremony (with Lisa Kelly, Margaret Cairns and Dominic King)

Their big initiative this year is a $50,000 project to paint the water tower, which will kick off with community consultation to find out what kind of artwork people would prefer.

Jo sounds regretful that another area she's been active in - Making Urunga Dementia Friendly Yes - seems to have lost its momentum, after initially having ambitious plans to change pedestrian crossings, public toilet facilities and the supermarket checkout process to make them less confusing for people with dementia.

"We went for a couple of years but we've kind of dropped the ball. That's stagnating at the moment, which plays on my mind."

Jo came across the dementia-friendly town idea at a conference she attended in Port Macquarie for Open Arms Care.

While it had a promising start, with positive reactions from businesses, charity groups and care providers, she feels it needs a dedicated coordinator with more time than she currently has available.

She's already running the Washing Well laundromat seven days a week with Pete and has just taken on a second job doing legal administrative work as well.

Jo worked at an accountancy firm in Maclean before Pete retired from high school teaching.

They moved to Urunga, where Pete's mother lived, and bought the laundromat business.

"I don't think I'd ever been in one before I bought one," Jo said.

Now they're looking to sell the laundromat - and Jo is hoping to go back to spending more of her working day sitting down.

She finds Urunga "a beautiful community to be involved in" and has decided she'd like to take on the challenge of representing its interests even more than she currently does, by standing for Bellingen Shire Council at the elections in September.

"This year, I'd like to put my hand up, with a couple of other people from here," she said. "I'd like to be ready for that. I don't like skimming over the surface of things - I'd want to commit 100 per cent."

Lions Club of Urunga. Photo https://urunga.nsw.lions.org.au/

Lions Club of Urunga. Photo https://urunga.nsw.lions.org.au/