Twenty-seven people from countries all over the world were officially inducted as new Australian citizens at Lismore’s Australia Day celebrations yesterday, one more than in the Canberra citizenship ceremony.
Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre was packed as the community gathered to cheer on the new Australian citizens and recognise the achievements of the Australia Day award nominees.
Nigeria, Fiji, India, Philippines, South Korea, Sierra Leone, United Kingdom, Sudan, Scotland, United States and New Zealand where the countries of origin for the new Australian citizens.
2013 Aboriginal Citizen of the Year Aunty Thelma James conducted the Welcome to Country with a message about racism.
‘It is usually ignorance and people who haven’t experienced many things, that have so much anger who blame everybody else for what has happened in their lives,’ Aunty Thelma said.
‘If you can take responsibility for what is happening in your own life and back yard then you can make this a better Australia for everybody.’
Aunty Thelma also suggested that Australians start listening and learning to our elders about tolerance and patience.
‘Our old people have experienced a lot of atrocities and have learned a lot since realising that their old world was changing,’ she said, ‘to learn to survive they had to change and grow.’
Volunteering was also encouraged by Aunty Thelma who said younger people could learn from their elders whilst volunteering.
She told Echonetdaily that in all races people need to learn from their elders.
‘You can’t put old heads on young shoulders but the wisdom from our elders can be in the back of your mind, we discard our elders too easy when we have such a wealth of knowledge amongst them.’
Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell thanked Page MP Kevin Hogan for choosing Lismore to celebrate Australia Day as she said he had many other places in his electorate to choose from.
Mr Hogan had taught 2014 Young Australian of the Year award winner Jacqueline Freney at a Casino school and shared the daily challenges of mobility that she experienced.
Ms Freney was born with cerebral palsy and through hard work and determination won eight gold medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
‘Jacqueline is an amazing young woman who has had many challenges, the way she has come through to not only be a sporting champion but her whole approach to life is a true inspiration,’ Mr Hogan said.
Cr Dowell acknowledged the different meaning of Australia Day to people in her electorate and paid homage to those who have reconciled the past and are making Australia a better place.
‘I would like to acknowledge 2014 Australian of the Year Adam Goodes, not just for his football prowess but for his work in reconciliation,’ she said.
Arrogance and racism are still prevalent, says Cr Dowell.
‘Australia Day should be celebrated with pride and without arrogance, declaring our allegiance without excessive nationalism and celebrations without excess.
‘Celebrate with fun but never with superiority, never with violence or excluding others.
‘There is no rule that says you need to love surfing, beer and vegemite to celebrate Australia, nor do we define ourselves with T-shirts and towels with the Australian flag on them,’ Cr Dowell said.
‘I am not saying those things are bad and I celebrate with you, but let’s not use those symbols to exclude others or say that we are better than anybody else.’
Cr Dowell said the theme of this year’s celebrations is ‘our way, that is to recognise mostly the volunteers who enrich our lives. As Aunty Thelma said, you never meet a miserable volunteer.’
Australia Day Ambassador John Clarke is a veteran ABC presenter and is involved in the ABC’s management and online projects.
Mr Clarke joined the Lismore celebrations and said the irony was not lost on him that he would plug the sponsor of the awards, a multinational supermarket chain.
He said that Australia Day has a different meaning to when he was a youngster.
‘Once upon a time it meant a few more days until we went back to school, but now it has a life and vibrancy of its own.’
Mr Clarke echoed Aunty Thelma’s ‘elder’ message, saying he felt privileged as a broadcaster trainer to pass on his experience.
‘I would like to see more retirees gather their expertise and share them rather than a farewell party and see you later type send off,’ he said.
Fire and rescue volunteers were honoured by Mr Clarke.
‘It would be a rare summer indeed if there were not life threatening situations, this time of year is synonymous with extreme weather events, but it is the volunteers out there who are on the ground helping who have my admiration,’ he said.
All nominees for Australia Day awards were acknowledged before the category winners were announced.
The winners are:
2014 Citizen of the Year – Cecil Harris
‘Cec’ is a long term volunteer in many roles. He is president and a life member of the Lismore RSL Sub Branch, bus coordinator for Richmond Valley Day Club, a member of the Tuncester Fire Brigade and bus driver for Ozanam Villa and Caroona.
Ces told Echonetdaily he was very grateful for his nomination.
‘I have been volunteering for ten years and have been in the fire brigade for nearly twenty years,’ he said.
‘I have spent more time out helping other people than myself-that is why my garden is neglected.’
2014 Service in Community Group – RED Inc Singing Choir
The Realising Every Dream (RED) Inc signing choir has been coming together for eight years and helps members overcome difficulties and celebrate ability. The group perform at community events and facilities promoting inclusion and belonging.
Karen Southon teaches signing for the choir and told Echonetdaily the members disabilities include Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia and cerebral palsy.
‘This is the most exquisite choir to be part of because you can go there with a clear intention of what you will be teaching and by the end of the program they have self directed and this provides self empowerment,’ Ms Southon said.
The choir’s response to winning their award went beyond delight and the audience displayed rousing support.
‘The members start their day with songs in their hearts, but they do have a hard road and they do find it difficult to be part of the community sometimes so this acknowledgement goes a long way,’ she said.
‘The signing has become such a small part of the choir as they all sing too!’ said Ms Southon.
2014 Services in Community – Angela Mathew
Ms Mathew is the mother of three children, two with disabilities. She advocates for an inclusive community in her leadership roles at Summerland Early Intervention, Cerebral Palsy Alliance, Wilson Park School and the Developing Foundation who organises the River Walk fundraiser.
Ms Mathew told Echonetdaily she was shocked by her win.
‘There was a high calibre of nominees so the last thing I expected was for them to call my name,’ she said.
‘One of the philosophies I follow in my life is to seek respect not attention so it is humbling to receive this award but more importantly it raises the profile of what I am doing and helps the people I am doing it for.’
2014 Aboriginal Citizen – Cindy Castella
Ms Castella is a proud Worimi woman (near Dungog and Karuah) who has lived in Bundjalung country since she was nine and works through the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) program at SCU to assist Aboriginal students to finish high school and pursue further study.
Ms Castella recently won an SCU Community Partnership award for community engagement and has been selected for the Indigenous Leadership Council.
Ms Castella told Echonetdaily that since last year AIME has come to Lismore in a full time capacity.
‘We have grown from three schools to 16 and engage over 211 Indigenous kids from local high schools,’ she said.
‘We are putting Indigenous education and high expectations on the map.’
2014 Sustainable Environment – Lismore High School Sustainability Festival Committee
This committee took a whole school approach to sustainable management when they ran a festival in 2012 involving 500 visiting students and 10 exhibitors. In 2013 the festival attracted an Inspiring Australia grant and was attended by 700 visiting students and 20 exhibitors.
2014 Sports Team – Lismore Netball 12 yrs rep team
This team of nine won the state age championships in Sydney, having been together for just six months. Their teamwork and commitment led to outstanding success.
2014 Junior Sportsperson – Anna-Leeza Hull
Ms Hull has participated at state level in swimming, athletics, cross country and is skilled in soccer and touch football.
It is in the sport of cycling that she has displayed exceptional talent. She will be the youngest woman in Australia to compete in the National Road Series Women’s Open Elite. For this event she wakes at 4am most days to train and ride 40-150km.