Marie Hobson was “honoured, privileged and humbled” to be recognised as the Gunnedah Shire 2024 Citizen of the Year.

The long-serving newspaper journalist, devoted historian, grandmother and fiercely proud Gunnedah resident accepted the award at last week’s Australia Day awards ceremony.

Ever gracious, she used her acceptance speech to praise the Gunnedah community.

“As I look around the town hall and see the many incredible people who do so much to make our community the wonderful place it is – you all go beyond the call of duty and are amazing citizens – this award is also for you,” Marie said.

“It has been my privilege to write about their activities.”

The award recognised significant contributions in a voluntary capacity as well as values of citizenship and ethical leadership.

Marie’s nomination in part described her as a highly respected professional journalist who helped to launch the Gunnedah Times after an earlier career with the Namoi Valley Independent.

“I feel so privileged to have been involved in the launch of the Gunnedah Times and I would like to thank Wanda and Ian Dunnet and Dylan Smith for inviting me on this journey.

“I came out of retirement because I was so desperate for Gunnedah to have a local newspaper again – I believe that all country towns need their own newspaper.”

Marie has also played an important role as a member of the VIEW club, as swimming coach, has strongly supported the historical society and served on St Joseph’s Parish Council and St Mary’s board of management.

“Former Gunnedah mayor Gae Swain always championed the volunteers in our community – ‘Gunnedah runs on its volunteers’ she would say. There are so many amazing volunteers out there who are the lifeblood of community organisations from sporting bodies to service clubs,” she said. “Gunnedah has always been a community that helped itself. When we look back in history the airstrip and swimming pool would never have been built without the huge contribution of volunteers.”

As one of eight children, Marie’s family history to Gunnedah spans generations.

“My ancestral family roots are buried back in Scotland and Germany and my grandchildren are the fifth generation to be born in Australia with an unbroken line of descendants in Gunnedah since 1855 – how is that for a great connection to the place I love,” she said.

Gunnedah’s awards ceremony was also attended by federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton.

The former government minister also spoke highly of the depth of talent in Gunnedah – from the youngest award winner in Hugo Holmes (Junior Sports Person of the Year) to those such as Marie who have spent a “lifetime dedicated to community”.

Mr Coulton said there was immense joy which resonated through Gunnedah Town Hall on the awards night.

“If people were to sit in that hall, they would have seen what Australia Day is all about,” he said. “There was a lot of pride for those who won.”

The Nationals MP said although “our history does have some dark past”, he encouraged the next generation of Australians to embrace the good our country offers its people.

“It is a big mistake making children ashamed of their past,” he said.

“You can’t change history, all you can do is learn from it.

“Australia Day is about uniting people of all ages, from all backgrounds.

“We celebrate Gunnedah, its people and more broadly Australia.”

Australia Day Working Group chair and councillor Juliana McArthur congratulated the 13 category winners.

“Every person has made a huge contribution to the Gunnedah community and should be very proud,” she said.

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