Casey crowns Jo Ann

Neighbourhood Watch Casey secretary and treasurer Jo Ann Fitzgerald was recognised as 2023 Casey Citizen of the Year. Photo: Stewart Chambers 317422_01

By Eleanor Wilson

For Narre Warren South’s Jo Ann Fitzgerald, the title Casey Citizen of the Year is still sinking in.

The secretary and treasurer of Neighbourhood Watch Casey, it was Mrs Fitzgerald’s tireless work to keep the community safe that earned her the title at the 2023 Casey Community Awards last week.

“I’m only just starting to realise just how big of a thing it is… I’m very grateful” she said.

Six years ago Mrs Fitzgerald answered a Facebook call-out searching for a new treasurer and secretary with the volunteer-run community crime prevention group.

She took on both roles, and has remained dedicated to the position ever since – something she puts down to her benevolent nature.

“I’ve always been one to give back to the community, it doesn’t matter if i’m talking to a veteran or whether it’s one of the scouts, they all have different concerns,’ she reasoned.

“If i can make any body feel a little bit safer and more comfortable in the community I’ll find a way to do it.”

A mouth piece to the community, Neighbourhood Watch Casey encourages City of Casey residents to participate with Police in the prevention of crime to ensure safe and secure neighbourhoods.

“We are the educational part of keeping people safe, that’s the overarching theme,” Mrs said.

“Whether its guiding the community on how to respond if there’s a fire, what to do during fire restrictions, or working with Victoria Police to inform residents about how to report problems in the community, when to dial Triple-Zero or when to use Crime Stoppers…If we can manage it anywhere we can possibly make a difference to make the community safer, you’ll find us,“ she said.

You’ll often see them at events like the The Doveton Show or the Casey Kids Carnival, which they volunteer their time at each year alongside other events.

In a municipality as diverse as Casey, Mrs Fitzgerald said catering to the varying needs of the community is no easy task.

She hopes her award can inspire other community members to join in the work of Neighbourhood Watch Casey.

“Hopefully we can get a bigger volunteer base, we’re a small group of volunteers so it can be difficult to find volunteers to attend every event,“ she said.

“We are all volunteers, so if there are any like minded individuals that could volunteer a couple of hours a month, we’d appreciate all the help we can get.“

“My hope is that we can grow a little bit so we don’t have that concern for the future…some other groups in Victoria have closed because they don’t have enough volunteers and I don’t want to see that happen.“