City Recognition

Mildura Rural City Council will, under appropriate circumstances, recognise and provide official recognition to individuals and groups for outstanding achievement of service to the community through the bestowing of the honorary title of Freeman of the City or Key to the City.

Freeman of the City

The titular honour of Freeman of the City is bestowed upon an individual or organisation in recognition of outstanding community contribution, high service of community duty and public spirit.  It is relevant to residents or former residents of this municipality.

The criteria for this title includes:

  • Bestowing of the title Freeman of the City will only be by resolution of Council and in accordance with the City Recognition Policy.
  • Consideration of the bestowing of such a title should stem only from either recommendation from the community or Council.
  • Bestowing of Freeman of the City shall be limited to five living recipients to maintain both the significance and prestige of the title.

The title of Freeman of the City may be presented to organisations or individuals as deemed appropriate, with the following considerations:

  • Benefit of contribution to the community.
  • Personal integrity.
  • Demonstrated public spirit, and
  • Level of community service (impact, duration, etc). 

Mildura Rural City Council currently has four Freemen of the City:

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Margaret Kelly - 22 September 2005

Mrs Kelly moved to Meringur from Echuca in 1960 and since that time has served on countless local, regional, state and national organisations, and has been recognised with numerous awards. 

Margaret Kelly has organised many Mallee wildflower tours and field trips, along with lecturing and publishing books about the Mallee flora.

Mrs Kelly’s achievements further afield include negotiating to have a water pump connected to a small African village after being declared a regional winner and Victorian finalist of the Rural Woman of the Year award.

Margaret was a driving force behind a Millewa reunion and a Millewa Schools event, which drew thousands of people back to the region. This led to the Millewa Pioneer Village which is a living memory to all the original settlers.

Mrs Kelly has also written a paper on the reallocation and compensation to the pioneers of the area’s Closer Settlement Scheme.

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John Burfitt - 22 July 2010

It has been said that Mr Burfitt is one of those genuine community-minded people who loves where they live and is always willing to get involved and lend a hand. 

At the time of his award, Mr Burfitt had been an active Rotarian for 19 years and served as president on two occasions.  He has raised in excess of $140,000 (2010 figures) for countless local and national charities over the years, including the Red Cliffs Nursing Home, Mildura Base Hospital, Sunraysia Rural Counselling Service, NSW Bushfire Appeal, Queensland Drought Appeal, Gunnedah Flood Appeal, Ronald McDonald House and Camp Quality, just to name a few.

John’s fundraising efforts invariably involve physical activity and he has walked, both forwards and backwards, cycled, ridden a scooter backwards, ridden a penny farthing, and walked on a treadmill in the name of a charity.

As well as supporting charities, it is not uncommon to find John out and about in the region helping people or picking up litter.  John has been named Australia Day Citizen of the Year in both Coburg and Mildura.

Mr Burfitt is a Life Governor of Red Cliffs District Hospital and Live Governor of the Mildura Base Hospital.

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Denis Ryan - 24 April 2018

Denis Ryan sacrificed his career as a Victorian Police Officer to uncover and seek justice for the many victims of institutional abuse in the Sunraysia area.  This impacted on him and his family significantly and 47 years later, he still suffers injustice.

Mr Ryan's advocacy and quest for justice helped change the culture of our community.  He taught our community to find its voice and not cower to power and authority in the face of criminal behaviour and injustice.

Much has been written on Denis Ryan.  His courageous efforts and sacrifices are well known within this community and this was no better reflected than with Council awarding him the Mildura Rural City Council Australia Day 2018 Citizen of the Year.

Mr Ryan was also announced on Australia Day 2018 as a recipient of the Order of Australia for "significant service to the community of Victoria through a range of roles, particularly in the area of child protection investigations, and to local government".

Jocelyn Lindner

Jocelyn Lindner - 6 October 2018

Jocelyn Lindner was officially made a Freeman of the City at a special ceremony at Kow Plains Homestead - one of the numerous projects she has had a pivotal involvement with.

Jocelyn has lived in the Tutye, Cowangie and Murrayville districts for the close to 50 years, during which time she has given selflessly to her community, contributing to the many essential community organisations and services in these areas.

Jocelyn’s community involvement started almost the instant she arrived in the Mallee, joining the Cowangie branch of the Country Women’s Association of Victoria (CWA). She has been a member for this entire period, serving nine terms as Branch President, spanning 18 years, including two terms as Mallee Group Leader (2012 and 2013).

Jocelyn has made significant contributions to education in the Mallee, donating hundreds of hours to improve education outcomes for the region’s young people.

One of Jocelyn’s largest community projects, and the most significant, has been Kow Plains Homestead. She worked tirelessly for 15 years to restore the Homestead, including working through the myriad of regional and state regulations required to obtain historical classification for the site.

Her dream to have Kow Plains Homestead restored was realised in October 2001, when the first stage of restoration works was opened. Jocelyn also researched and wrote a history of the homestead and surrounding area, which was launched at the opening.

Past Freeman of the City

  • 1999 Murray Willersorf (dec), former Councillor, Shire of Walpeup
  • 1999 Roy Burr (dec), former Councillor, City of Mildura

Key to the City

This is an honour bestowed upon an individual or organisation in recognition of outstanding achievements in any field and includes the following criteria:

  • Bestowing the Key to the City will only be by resolution of Council in accordance with the City Recognition Policy.
  • Consideration or presenting the Key to the City should stem only from recommendation from either the community or Council.

    The key may be presented to organisations or individuals as deemed appropriate, with the following considerations:

  • Contribution to the community or outstanding achievement in any field.
  • Personal integrity.
  • Affiliation with the Mildura municipality.

Mildura Rural City Council currently has three recipients of the Key to the City:

Desiree Wakefield - 1996

Olympic Bronze medallist in women’s double trap, Atlanta, 1996

Leigh Adams - 24 January 2008

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In 2008, Mr Adams was recognised for his outstanding achievements in sport including:

  • Second place in World Speedway Grand Prix series.
  • Scored over 1,000 Grand Prix points, taking him to 5th place in all GP standings.
  • Named British Elite League Rider of the Year in October 2007.
  • Topped season averages in British Elite League and Swedish League and was second in Polish Elite League.
  • Nine times Australian Speedway Champion.
  • Captain of Team Australia, having led Australia to wins in 1999, 2001 and 2002.

As well as the above, Leigh returns to Mildura for 10-12 weeks every year where he freely gives his time to talk to schools regarding road safety as well as providing coaching and mentoring to young riders.

Siobhan Stagg – 25 January 2023


Ms Siobhan Stagg was recognised for her outstanding contribution to the arts and her affiliation with the municipality.

Ms Stagg was born in Mildura in 1987 and undertook her secondary schooling in the area before completing a Batchelor Music (Hons) at the University of Melbourne in 2009. She then took her career overseas, completing a Master of Music Performance in 2012 along with a Master of Advanced Vocal Technique from Wales International Academy of Voice in Cardiff the following year. Ms Stagg also studied privately in New York, Austria and Italy.

Ms Stagg’s performances drew a host of prestigious awards including:

  • The Australian International Opera Award (2012)
  • First Prize in the Stuart Burrows International Voice Award in Wales (2013)
  • Belvedere Singing Competition, where she won the Prize of the International Media-Jury (2014)
  • International Mozart Competition in Salzburg, where she was also awarded the Special Prize for Best Interpretation of a Strauss Song (2014).
  • Green Room Award for Best Female Lead in an Opera (2019)
  • Oakleaf Award from Trinity College for services to the performing arts (2022)
  • She also performed opera across the globe, including in Berlin (Germany), Zurich (Switzerland), Salzburg (Austria), Aix (France) and Dijon (France).