27 January 2023

Sister Patricia Johnson named Griffith Citizen of the Year 2023

| Oliver Jacques
Start the conversation
Australia Day Ambassador Khushaal Vyas with Sister Patricia Johnson and Griffith mayor Doug Curran on the podium

Australia Day Ambassador Khushaal Vyas with Sister Patricia Johnson and Griffith mayor Doug Curran. Photo: Griffith City Council.

A woman who has spent decades helping refugees and immigrants settle into Australia was named Griffith Citizen of the Year 2023 in an Australia Day ceremony at the Griffith Regional Theatre on Thursday 26 January.

Sister Patricia Johnson, who is part of the Sisters of Mercy, an international group of Catholic women who have vowed to serve people who suffer from poverty, sickness and lack of education, took out Griffith City Council’s annual award which recognises outstanding community-based achievements.

“When I came to Griffith, our mandate was ‘Don’t worry about money, you’ve got your pension, alleluia, just use your expertise and do what you can’,” she said in her acceptance speech.

“I thought I’d go down to Banna Avenue, and Yambil Street, and go into the agencies and go in and say, ‘I’m a retired social worker, what do you think about me helping you out?’. They said, ‘Yes, [come in] tomorrow’.”

READ ALSO Didgeridoo ace nominated as Griffith Young Citizen of the Year 2023

Sister Johnson, who recently left Griffith to move to Canberra, helps run the Women on Fire program, which won council’s Australia Day award for Community Project of the Year. The program teaches refugee women new skills to help them integrate into Australian society, such has how to swim and sew. Former Griffith councillor and teacher Pat Cox, who was also nominated for Citizen of the Year, was another driving force behind Women on Fire.

The Sisters of Mercy have also been working hard to establish affordable housing in the town, which is struggling with a chronic rental shortage.

Zavian Williams, a 13-year-old boy known for his expert didgeridoo skills, was named Griffith’s Young Citizen of the Year. He also played his instrument to introduce the awards ceremony, before his mum Yana rushed him over to the Griffith Regional Aquatic Centre so he could perform at an Aboriginal Land Council event known as ‘Survival Day’.

Zavian Williams holding his baby brother

Zavian Williams and his baby brother Nylan. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

The Australia Day ceremony also saw a number of sporting awards handed out. Basketball referee Blake Testoni was named Senior Sportsperson of the Year, while Australian Futsal team member and goalkeeper Jack Johns was named both Young Sportsperson and overall Sportsperson of the Year. The all-conquering Murrumbidgee Regional High School U14s Rugby League Team was awarded Sports Team of the Year. Although absent from the ceremony, Griffith Hockey Association president Michael Crosato was named Clubperson of the Year.

READ ALSO Griffith’s oldest resident Berta Johnstone dies aged 106

The final award of the day was the Local Hero Award, which went to Carrah Lymer, the marketing manager for Riverina Winemakers Association who has been a driving force behind Griffith’s tourism resurgence.

Carrah Lymer giving her speech

Carrah Lymer gives her speech. Photo: Griffith City Council.


Citizen of the Year – Sister Patricia Johnson
Young Citizen – Zavian Williams
Community Project of the Year – Griffith Women on Fire
Local Hero Award – Carrah Lymer
Young Sportsperson of the Year – Jack Johns
Sports Team of the Year – Murrumbidgee Regional High School U14s Rugby League Team
Senior Sportsperson of the Year – Blake Testoni
Clubperson of the Year – Micheal Crosato
Overall Sportsperson of the Year – Jack Johns

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Riverina news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riverina stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.