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NSW Environment Awards honour the grassroots


April 4th, 2024 

The Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales (NCC), the state’s leading environmental advocacy organisation, has recognised grassroots conservation groups and individuals in the NSW Environment Awards. 

The NSW Environment Awards highlights and supports the good work for nature protection taking place across the state. 

“There are so many amazing grassroots campaigns across NSW protecting the places we love,” said Jacqui Mumford, CEO of Nature Conservation Council NSW. 

“The environment movement is made up of countless volunteers who dedicate their time, energy and effort to protecting the stunning natural places of NSW. That is definitely worth celebrating.” 

Statements attributable to Jacqui Mumford, CEO of Nature Conservation Council NSW. 

“All those nominated and selected as winners demonstrate the heart and drive that goes into fighting the good fight. It’s not always an easy path to take and so it’s vital that we honour the determination needed to keep showing up to protect nature.” 

As the peak body for two hundred environment groups, Nature Conservation Council NSW plays a role in supporting on-the-ground local groups to connect to the broader environment movement. 

The evening was emceed by NCC supporter, author and broadcaster Wendy Harmer. 

Statement ends 

Media contact: Anna Greer 
E: [email protected] M: 0493 733 529 PH: (02) 7208 9482 

Note: NCC CEO Jacqui Mumford is available for comment on request 


Contact details for winners available on request. Scroll below for full bios. 



Town, suburb, region 

Rising Star Award for an outstanding environmentalist aged under 30.    

Alexa Stuart 
Rising Tide Newcastle 


NCC Member Group Award for a group that has demonstrated an outstanding success in conservation.   


Climate Action Burwood Canada Bay 
President: Ken Enderby 

Burwood, Canada Bay & Strathfield 

Marie Byles Award for the most inspiring community action initiative. 

Walbunja Rangers 

Walbunja Country (Batemans Bay), on the Yuin Nation. 


Jack Mundey Award for fostering cooperation between the conservation and trade union movements. 

Unions NSW Pilliga Campaign Committee Standing With Gomeroi campaign 


Pilliga, Gomeroi 

Ziggy Megne  Volunteer Award for longstanding service. 

Scott "Sooty" Daines 
South East Forest Rescue (SEFR) 

South Coast NSW 

Dunphy Award for outstanding commitment and success in conservation (individual).   

Joint winners: 
Sandy Greenwood 
Gumbaynggirr Custodian 
Susie Russell 
North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) 

Gumbaynggirr Country, Mid-North Coast NSW 

North Coast NSW 

Alan Strom Hall of Fame Award  for untiring dedication to conservation and environmental education. 


Aunty Maria “Polly” Cutmore 

Gamilaraay Traditional Owner 

Gamilaraay Traditional Owner 

 Central Northern NSW 


Rising Star Award for an outstanding environmentalist aged under 30. 
Winner: Alexa Stuart 

Alexa Stuart is a 20-year-old climate activist from Rising Tide Newcastle who helped relaunch the group and has played a key role in organising big events, partaking in a speaking tour, multiple media appearances, inspiring action and leadership, and developing a public profile with Rising Tide. In the past 24 months, they have organised multiple direct actions that gained international media attention, were attended by key political figures, and ensured a response from the Australian government. The biggest event so far has been the People's Blockade of the World's Largest Coal Port 2023. It was attended by over 3000 people from across Australia and had over 100 people arrested in a planned escalation.  

NCC Member Group Award for a group that has demonstrated an outstanding success in conservation. 
Winners: Climate Action Burwood Canada Bay 

Climate Action Burwood-Canada Bay (CABCB) is a non-partisan body of concerned citizens in the Burwood, Canada Bay and Strathfield local government areas of Sydney on land whose traditional owners are the Wangal people of the Eora nation. The region encompasses the federal electorate of Reid and the state electorates of Drummoyne and Strathfield. Their goal is to inform and engage the local community about the worsening climate crisis and to influence business and governments to take strong and urgent climate action. A very active and innovative group, they engage in climate action through a range of activities such as engagement with schools, running a ‘Stich It, Don’t Ditch It’ fashion upcycling program, and hosting a CALD Forum at Burwood Library - to name a few. A stand out project was last year on World Environment Day, June 5 2023, Climate Action Burwood-Canada Bay organised ‘Speaking 4 The Planet’, a climate awareness-raising competition for secondary schools in the local area. Engaging younger generations in education and climate action is a movement-wide challenge, but one that is incredibly important.  

The creativity and drive of this group is commendable. 

Marie Byles Award for the most inspiring community action initiative. 
Winners: Walbunja Rangers 

The Walbunja Rangers Programme was established by the Batemans Bay Local Aboriginal Land Council in response to the Black Summer Fires. Andrew White leads a group of 10-15 young First Nations ‘rangers’ working on country undertaking cultural burning, pest eradication and species monitoring and conservation on Yuin country in the south of NSW. Julie Taylor Mills nominated the team for this award, having worked with the team in the aftermath of the Black Summer Fires to apply cultural burning practices on her property on the South Coast. Since then, Julie has watched the programme grow from strength to strength as more and more young indigenous youth from the area are trained and join the Ranger Programme to provide land management services which address the ecological issues on Walbunja country. This programme provides a ‘win win’ solution for both indigenous youth and for habitat, as time honoured ecological management principles are adopted and applied in a way that offers indigenous youth a pathway to employment that honours their culture’s ecological knowledge. They have been trailblazers in implementing and measuring the effects of traditional burning on their own lands long before many other groups have followed on.  

Jack Mundey Award for fostering cooperation between the conservation and trade union movements.  
Winners: Unions NSW Pilliga Campaign Committee Standing With Gomeroi campaign 

“Unions NSW Pilliga Campaign Committee” was formed as a body through which the NSW union movement could organise in solidarity with the Gomeroi and in opposition to Gas Mining in the Pilliga.The campaign brought together unions, Gomeroi leaders, environmental groups, and many other groups including the Country Women's Association in an alliance against a proposed coal seam gas project by Santos. This collaboration between unionists, First Nations people and environment groups has been historic and inspirational for many. 

There are many key individuals to acknowledge for their involvement including Suellyn Tighe, a Gomeroi leader who generously hosted two big convergences to the Pilliga, Vanessa Seagrove for coordinating Unions NSW involvement, Shane Reside for playing a key role including through the MUA, Paddy Gibson for helping bring many unions on board, and to Bubbly for his help in getting the campaign together. 

Ziggy Megne Volunteer Award for longstanding service. 
Winner: Scott "Sooty" Daines, South East Forest Rescue (SEFR) 

Scott ‘Sooty’ Daines (nickname, Sooty) has tirelessly worked for an end to native forest logging in New South Wales for at least 20 years. He has pioneered tree sitting techniques applicable in civil disobedience actions to stop work in logging operations. These strategic interventions have achieved valuable publicity, which in South Coast operations, has combined with citizen science initiatives, also led by Scott particularly in the last year in relation to the greater glider. Furthermore, Scott has initiated legal action in the land and environment court and has established a precedent whereby his organisation has gained standing as a third party. 

Dunphy Award for outstanding commitment and success in conservation (individual).  
Joint winners: Sandy Greenwood and Susie Russell 

Sandy Greenwood is an award-winning Actor and Writer from the Dunghutti, Gumbaynggirr and Bundjalung clans/nations of NSW. Raised on Bowraville Mission and the eldest child of a stolen Generations survivor, Sandy is the first person in her family to go university, graduating with a First-Class Honours degree in Theatre from Queensland University of Technology in 2002.  Sandy has worked for Australia’s Leading Theatre Companies including Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Belvoir Theatre and tread the boards Internationally for the Atlantic Theater Company in New York City and the Seattle Children’s Theatre Company in Washington.  

Best known for Critically Acclaimed One Woman Show "Matriarch" about Four Generations of Gumbaynggirr Women, Sandy won the award for Best Writing and Best Actor in Independent Theatre at the Prestigious Green Room Awards and produced a highly successful national tour. Founder and Director of Jinda Productions, a First Nations Production and Consultancy Company, Sandy aims to tell stories from a female Indigenous perspective.  
As a Gumbaynggirr custodian and native title holder, Sandy was raised on her traditional homelands, speaking her language, practising her culture and advocating for the protection of her land.  

In 2020, Sandy became the First Aboriginal woman in history to take NSW Forestry Corporation to the Land and Environment Court and won, protecting significant Gumbaynggirr Cultural Heritage. Sandy was instrumental in two successful campaigns to halt logging in both Nambucca and Newry State Forest on NSW’s Mid North Coast. Sandy is making her directing debut with film “Murruy” about the Nambucca and Newry States Forest Campaigns and the historical alliance between Gumbaynggirr Custodians and Allies.  

Susie Russell has been working tirelessly for the environment since the early 1990s, holding crucial roles in the North East Forest Alliance, North Coast Environment Council and more recently Rainforest Information Centre. Over the years her roles have varied from President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. She has devoted her considerable expertise and networking skills to keeping these organisations functioning, while also being an active and effective campaigner and lobbyist. Susie's activities and networking have extended well beyond north-east NSW, including being involved in the Red Gum and Nandewar decisions.   

Susie has represented conservation interests on numerous committees, including as Chair of the Board of the Forest Stewardship Council (Australia). Susie's roles have varied from organising forest actions, community surveys, catering for the Coffs Harbour Koala conference, to the Trees Not Bombs cafe for the community after the disastrous 2002 Lismore floods. Susie says what she thinks, with diplomacy when required, has supported NEFA's recent court challenges and been instrumental in organising advertising as a Third Party Campaigner in the last two state elections. Susie has strong integrity, ability to motivate and engage people, solve problems and resolve disputes. 

Susie's passion for forest protection was sparked in 1992 when she first visited an old growth forest, was awed by its magnificence and shocked that we could be so stupid as to still be destroying living beings hundreds of years old. Since then she has volunteered for the North East Forest Alliance and been active in spreading awareness and taking action towards seeing our precious forests saved. There have been some successes along the way but there is much to do. So there is no retiring in the foreseeable future.  

Alan Strom Hall of Fame Award for untiring dedication to conservation and environmental education. 
Winner: Aunty Maria “Polly” Cutmore 

Aunty Polly Cutmore is a powerful Gamilaraay Traditional Owner and fierce defender of her Country. Aunty Polly has been fighting the Santos Pilliga CSG project since 2016. She recently led a successful appeal in the Federal Court to overturn a previous decision by the Native Title Tribunal, with Chief Justice Debra Mortimer finding that the tribunal should have taken public interest in the mitigation of climate change and its impact on Native Title into account. Santos have been strongly encouraged to leave the Pilliga by the Gomeroi Nation.   

Aunty Polly has worked closely with NCC in the fight to reign in unsustainable levels of water harvesting from the fertile floodplains of the Northern Murray-Darling Basin. Aunty Polly joined the Murray-Darling Conservation Alliance in Canberra last November, playing a key role in the successful campaign to strengthen the Restoring our Rivers Bill and get the Murray-Darling Basin Plan moving again.

Aunty Polly features in the moving film Heart of Country produced by the ACF. 

Aunty Polly is a sharp, witty, fearless and respected social commentator on social media. 


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