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Thursday, April 25, 2024

‘Wombat Man’ named Wingecarribee’s top citizen

A local legend, affectionately known as ‘The Wombat Man’, John Creighton has been named as the Wingecarribee community’s Citizen of The Year.

John’s selfless efforts to save the shire’s bare-nosed wombats were recognised at as part of the Shire’s Australia Day celebrations during a citizen ceremony at the historic Berrima Courthouse.

It was love that lured New Orleans-born John to Australia, where his love of Highlands wildlife has since led to decades of devoted care for wombats across Wingecarribee Shire.

Humbled to have been recognised by his community at this year’s Australia Day celebrations in Berrima Village, John said, “I didn’t see this coming. It’s heartening for me to know that the wombats I work to save matter to my community too. It makes the work I do all the more meaningful for me.”

John works tirelessly to save the local wombat population from mange and other factors that threaten their survival. Heading out at a moment’s notice in the middle of the night for rescues comes with the territory, and in his time-out from caring for wombats, John visits schools to share his knowledge with the next generation.

“I knew caring for wombats was my calling the moment I helped to bottle-feed a young rescue. We made a heart connection and that was it, I was hooked, I had to do more to help,” he says.

John was surrounded by family at Thursday’s Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony, where locals and new citizens alike were moved by what he shared of his heart for this place and its wildlife.

“I’m grateful that my family are so supportive because the days and night are long in wombat care and there is always more to do,” he said.

For John, the reward of his work is seeing orphaned, injured and managed wombats rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

Also sharing the occasion with John were 64 people from around the globe, excited to become Australian Citizens and find belonging in the local community. Families from Argentina, Botswana, Canada, China, Czechia, El Salvador, United Kingdom, Fiji, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Morocco, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, USSR, and the United States of America, were represented.

“There was real community spirit in the room at the Citizenship Ceremony and Citizen of the Year announcement in beautiful Berrima Village,” said the Shire’s Australia Day Ambassador 2023, Mel Thomas. “It was a wonderful experience to be part of.”

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