Cessnock City Council inducts three new Hall of Famers

The City of Cessnock Hall of Fame has welcomed three outstanding citizens following an induction ceremony at the council chambers on Tuesday, December 1.

Established in 2006, the Hall of Fame seeks to recognise the outstanding achievements of current and former Cessnock residents who have excelled in their chosen field of endeavour.

Les Elvin, Geoffrey Bentley and Grant Elsley were inducted for excelling in the arenas of the arts, public service and sport.

Born in Kearsley in 1938, Les Elvin – better known as Uncle Les – lived and worked most of his life in and for the community of Cessnock.

A well-respected and much loved Wonnarua elder, he achieved great success and recognition as an artist and educator before passing away in August this year.

Uncle Les was named NAIDOC National Aboriginal Artist of the Year at the NAIDOC Week Awards in 2008—one of the highest accolades for Indigenous artists in Australia. 

In 2011, he was fourth person to ever receive the award of Freedom of the Shire of Muswellbrook and in 2012 he was named Cessnock City’s Citizen of the Year. 

He assisted the successful bid by Cessnock City Council to host an Asian Cup team in 2014, by hand painting boomerangs that were sent to all 16 countries to invite teams to use Cessnock City as their base camp for the Asian Cup. Asia’s premier team—the Japanese Samurai Blue—took up the offer, and symbolically the boomerang brought the team back to Cessnock.  

But Uncle Les’s greatest achievements were in the use of his knowledge and skill in art to teach, empower and improve the lives of Aboriginal people in his community, helping to create understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities.

Geoffrey Bentley was born in 1941 and moved to Cessnock in 1953, where he attended Cessnock High School and developed a strong connection with the region.

Geoffrey has had an impressive career, becoming the first University of Newcastle graduate to make a career in Australian diplomatic services.

In his year of recruitment, of the ten appointments made he was the sole recruit from NSW and from a public school.

From 1965-66 Geoffrey was Private Secretary to Foreign Minister, Paul Hasluck and in 1979, he was appointed Deputy High Commissioner to New Zealand and played a significant role in forging the ANZ Closer Economic Relations Agreement—one of the most comprehensive bilateral free trade agreements in existence.   

Geoffrey later held a range of senior Australian Government positions, including Head of Strategic Policy, Australian Consul-General to Hong Kong and Macau, Chief of Staff to the Foreign Minister and Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Gareth Evans QC and Australia’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation.  

In 2014 Geoffrey was awarded the University of Newcastle 2014 Alumni Medal for Professional Excellence and has since retired to Melbourne.

Grant Elsley was born in Kurri in 1971 and has competed successfully in archery on both national and international stages.

At the age of 14 Grant won the Junior World Title at the International Field Archery World Titles in Scotland and in 200 won the 3D World Titles.

He has competed at the International Bowhunting Organisation World Titles (1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2006), the South Pacific Titles (1995), Archery Shooters Association tournaments in the US, and the International Field Archery Associations Titles (2006).   

A five-time winner of Shooter of the Year at the 3D Australian Archery Association Championships (1998, 1999, 2007, 2008, 2009), Grant has also won the Steven Reeks Medal for outstanding performance and contribution to the betterment of archery in Australia.

The three inductees will be recognised with plaques on the Cessnock City Walk of Fame and in the town or village they are most associated with, and inclusion on the Wall of Fame at the Cessnock Performing Arts Centre.