A much-loved member of a Wodonga neighbourhood has been declared its Australian of the Year.
Christopher Parnaby has lived at the Elmwood estate in the city's south for 10 years and is known by all as a larger than life character.
He suffered a stroke at 23, which took away his ability to read, write and speak, but it hasn't held him back almost 30 years on from the setback.
"He was born with an AVM (arteriovenous malformation) which is abnormal cluster of blood vessels and it's like getting around with a time bomb," mother Judy Parnaby said.
"Thankfully he wasn't behind the wheel of a car or anything when it happened because he instantly collapsed and was in a coma."
Christopher has become an integral member of the Elmwood community, taking charge of security and keeping the estate clean with a street sweeper he purchased with his own money.
Mrs Parnaby said he is quite the socialite and his booming laugh can be heard almost anywhere.
"I think about 80 per cent of people in Wodonga know him because he's out and about all the time," she said.
"He laughs until he makes people cry and he has a big, loud voice. You can hear him all over the place.
"It's good at Elmwood because the hospital is nearby and he is very independent. He'll take himself to the doctors, chemist and bus stop.
"For someone who can't talk, you stand there talking with him for hours.
"He's got a little digital camera he operates with one hand and that helps him explain things. He takes a photo of people and he can remember things."
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Mrs Parnaby said Christopher has an uncanny ability to pick up on fine details most people would overlook.
"He hadn't been home long and there was a two-storey house on Beechworth Road that had been there for years. A man had a heart attack and his car went through the fence and knocked it all down," she said.
"We were driving along and Christopher had noticed the fence had been fixed.
"For someone with massive brain damage who is not supposed to be here, it proved it was all working up there."
Christopher's pet Whippet, Susie, is always by his side and he also has an African Grey Parrot which can mimic sounds to help him communicate.
Elmwood Living developer Brendon Collins said Christopher is a tireless worker in the community.
"He puts in constantly at the development," he said.
"It's only the second time we've done the awards but the development has been going for about 12 years.
"It was a way we could recognise people who work within the community."
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