Hawkesbury Gazette journalist Sarah Falson has been honoured at the ACM editorial awards in Sydney, for a story she wrote during the 2022 floods.
Ms Falson took home the Non-Daily News Story of the Year trophy for her story about a woman's ashes being taken away - then returned - by floodwaters.
The judges said it was a glimmer of hope amid a deluge of stories of loss and heartache during the flooding that hit the Hawkesbury in March 2022.
"Ms Falson told the story of how the ashes were recovered in a down-to-Earth, matter-of-fact way that celebrated the miraculous nature of the find," the judges said.
"This was a wonderful yarn, carefully spun into a heartwarming read".
The award was presented by Head of Content and Head of Travel, Kate Cox, at a dinner ceremony at Doltone House on the evening of Wednesday, December 7.
The story was chosen from articles published by ACM's 85 non-daily mastheads during the past year, and was shared out across ACM's network of publications across the country.
Ms Falson said she was pleased the story made an impact and people enjoyed reading it.
"Positive stories are so important during disasters, to remind us that there is hope," Ms Falson said.
"Hawkesbury has had its fair share of loss during the past three years - from drought, to bushfires, then COVID-19 and multiple floods.
"I was honoured to be given the opportunity to highlight something good that's come out of the hard times - and I was delighted that it resonated across the country.
"This story reminded us that there are no better neighbours than those who reside in the Hawkesbury, and this is shown time and again when our community rallies together through devastation and still finds a way to look on the bright side."
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Sydney editor Matthew Lawrence said: "Sarah's treatment of the material - letting the story tell itself and refraining from overused emotive editorialising - is testament to her maturity and understanding of her role as news reporter. This accolade is well deserved ... so proud to have her on my team."
The award-winning story was about St Albans resident Michael Hedger, who had been scattering the ashes belonging to his late mother, Laura Hedger, around the base of a maple tree on his property when the flood carried them away in March 2021.
Almost 12 months to the week later, another flood devastated St Albans - and this time, the flood returned the ashes, after they travelled almost 10 kilometres and were lost for a year.
Ms Falson also wrote a follow-up story after the ashes were reunited with Mr Hedger.