Life & Style

Celebrating the winners of 2024

Every year, Lake Macquarie City Council holds their Lake Mac Awards, a celebration of the region’s quiet achievers and unsung heroes who embody the spirit of Lake Macquarie – inspiring positive change across the city through their everyday actions.

Do you know someone going out of their way to create positive change in the Lake Macquarie community? Someone who inspires those around them in their everyday actions?

To share your suggestions with Lake Macquarie City Council, click here and follow the prompts.

To celebrate all those that have made a change in the local community, we caught up with three of the winners for the 2024 Lake Mac Awards to hear about the journey of becoming a Lake Mac Award winner, their actions in the local community, and what it is that they love most about our beautiful city.

Matt Hall – Lake Mac Ambassador

Matt Hall is a third-generation pilot whose life in aviation has involved military, near death experiences, and reigning Red Bull Air Race World Champion. Today, Matt Hall Racing is based at Lake Macquarie Airport in Marks Point and offers a range of exclusive experiences including aerobatic flights.

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Matt Hall

Additionally, Matt Hall Racing is the long-term primary charitable partner to Wings4Kidz which provides air transport for children in regional communities for medical appointments as well as supporting numerous charitable causes, veterans causes, fundraising events, and more.

This year, you won the Lake Mac Ambassador award in the Lake Mac Awards – how did this accomplishment make you feel?

Being someone who grew up in Lake Macquarie, then running a business and living back in Lake Macquarie, I am always looking around at the amazing people that come from our city.

We have Olympic champions in many sports. We have world champions. We have successful business leaders, ambassadors, and a range of outstanding citizens from everyday life. To be selected as the ambassador from all of the successful people in the area is quite humbling, and something I do not take lightly.

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The Matt Hall Aerobatic Joy Flights take off from Lake Macquarie Airport – for those who haven’t seen Lake Mac from the air, how would you describe the view?

Lake Macquarie is one of the most spectacular places to fly in the world. The water is typically crystal clear with bright blue and the natural surrounds of the lake are unspoiled as far as the eye can see. The beaches stretch endlessly from the Port at Newcastle, down toward the Hawkesbury.

The Watagans in the west light up in the morning, and cast a silhouette in the afternoon. Meanwhile, the lake is a hive of activity from yacht races, speed boats, jet skis, and large pleasure craft. There is so much to look at.

Who is the typical person who takes a Matt Hall Aerobatic Joy Flight? Daredevils, joy riders, or anyone in between?

Typically, it is going to be a bit of a daredevil, though we often take people who are trying to tackle their fears, be it flying, or just under confidence.

The bottom line is we cater for all people who walk in the door, and we show them what level of experience they are after and can handle. Each flight is a unique experience, which keeps it interesting for us, the pilots too.

You’re originally from the Hunter region, and you’ve called Lake Macquarie home for 16 years – what are your top three favourite things to do in the area?

My favourite 3 things to do in the area are sailing, paddle boarding, and flying (quite obviously)!

For anyone being nominated in the next round of Lake Mac Awards – what one piece of advice do you have?

Embrace the community and look at what you can do for them. Then be the best you can be for the community.

Anna Noon – Volunteer of the Year

Anna Noon is the Director of Lake Macquarie based not-for-profit group, The Groundswell Collective – a collective of changemakers with a vision to create a thriving, connected, and sustainable community.

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Anna Noon

Anna, can you tell me a little bit about your favourite projects?

 We have a range of fabulous projects at The Groundswell Collective – it’s hard to pick a favourite, but some absolute highlights include The Urban Hum Tiny Forest.

It came off the back of the local (traumatic) attempts to contain the Varroa mite outbreak. The project epitomises the best things about our community. It’s a leading example of what positive, future-focused outcomes can be achieved when the community, businesses, and schools all work together.   

The Lake Mac Seed Library is also a favourite of mine. Born out of the depth of COVID lockdown with firsthand experience of the vulnerability of our supply chain and increased time and interest in gardening, the Seed Library has grown to include over 500 members and has five local branches.

This year, you were awarded Volunteer of the Year at the Lake Mac Awards – when you found out you were the winner, how did that feel?

Humbled and honestly, a little bit surprised. I know several of the other finalists in this award category and knew firsthand just how hard they work in the Lake Mac community. It was very stiff competition. I was chuffed to be chosen.

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The Groundswell Collective is based in Lake Macquarie – where do you take visiting friends and family when they come to Lake Macquarie?

We regularly have family who visit, and we tend to frequent activities with our kids around the lake and beaches. Whether it’s some fun fishing off a jetty at Warners Bay, Valentine, or Pelican, a picnic along the foreshore at Warners Bay or maybe a trip to Caves or Redhead Beach. These tend to be our regular spots.  

What does the future for The Groundswell Collective look like? 

Busy and bright! We’re currently working with a range of partners (landholders, schools, and corporate sponsors) to deliver another 7 tiny forest projects over the next 12 months. We’re continuing to build and deliver our biodiversity workshop offerings for preschools and schools.  We’ll also soon be initiating our energy equity project and continuing our Seed Library activities and regular Eco-Drink community meet ups.

Sophie Berude – Young Citizen of the Year

Leukemia survivor Sophie Berude celebrated her ‘cured-day’ by launching a ‘Joy Campaign’ for John Hunter Children’s Hospital, contributing over $20,000 in gifts, adding to her cumulative $40,000 donations.

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Sophie Berude

As a key participant in Redkit’s national fundraising, acknowledging her seven-year commitment, Redkite’s CEO nominated Sophie for the NSW Women of the Year awards where she was recognised as ‘one to watch’.

You were diagnosed with leukemia when you were just six years old. Can you tell me how that experience transformed you into becoming a prominent figure in Redkit’s fundraising efforts? 

I remember feeling so sick and missed my friends from school so much that I started thinking that all the kids in the hospital were probably like me– that they must all need help and cheering up, so I asked mum what we could do to help the other kids and families like ours. 

Redkite had done so much for us, so we decided to start fundraising for them and to see whatever else we could do to help. We know how tough it is for kids going through cancer and for their families, so it means a lot to us to be able to give back and help make the journey a bit easier for others.

We also started donating gifts to the hospital to cheer up everyone. I loved taking gifts to the hospital every time I had to go for treatment or a check up. It made it feel like a positive reason for going into the hospital.

You were named Young Citizen of the Year in the 2024 Lake Mac Awards – how did receiving that award make you feel?

I feel so honoured. It’s a very special award and I’m so proud to represent the youth of Lake Macquarie. 

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Have you always called Lake Macquarie home? What are your favourite things to do with friends?

My family moved here when I was 12 weeks old, so it’s close to my whole life! I love going shopping with friends, going to the beach, and fishing in the lake.

If you had one piece of advice to those nominated in the next round of the Lake Mac Awards, what would it be?

Be proud of yourselves, it’s a very special award and even being nominated is amazing! Thank you for everything you’re doing within our fabulous community! 

To get your suggestions in for the 2025 Lake Mac Awards, click here.