Adventurer and community worker Linda Beilharz has taken out Bendigo Citizen of the Year, joined by Amethyst Downing who received the Young Citizen of the Year accolade for her work in youth leadership.
The pair were named at a special media announcement in the Civic Gardens yesterday.
Ms Beilharz said she was “absolutely surprised and honoured” by the recognition.
The executive officer of Women’s Health Loddon Mallee has lived in Bendigo for 30 years and said if it wasn’t for her hometown, many of her achievements would not have been possible.
She helped establish the Bendigo Sustainability Group and is a search and rescue volunteer.
“I don’t think some of the things I have done would have been possible without living in Bendigo and the opportunities that provides,” she said.
“Bendigo is the sort of city where you get to have personal relationships with people and it has a village atmosphere, but it’s still got all those opportunities with the university and so on.
“I think it’s one of the best cities in the world.”
Ms Beilharz is no stranger to awards. She was named the National Geographic Explorer of the Year in 2010 and was placed on the Victorian Women’s Honour Roll in 2006 for her journey across the South Pole.
She was the first Australian woman to trek across all four of the world’s major icecaps at the North Pole, South Pole, and in Greenland and Patagonia.
But Ms Beilharz said being named Citizen of the Year was a “special” achievement.
“It recognises the adventure stuff but also the community stuff,” she said.
“The adventure stuff gets the headlines but the community stuff is who I am and what I do.”
Ms Beilharz said she was particularly proud of her recent work around promoting gender equity in the community.
“With Women’s Health we’ve been doing some fantastic work around looking at how to bring a conversation around gender equity to the community in a way that’s safe and friendly and accepting,” she said.
Ms Beilharz is hoping her and Ms Downing’s awards can be an inspiration to their peers.
“I think it’s important that women in particular know what they can do and achieve.”