Sarah Luke, Sam Crothers and Liam Durkin
AUSTRALIA Day was celebrated across Wellington Shire on Tuesday, with a events going ahead despite rain and drizzle.
In one of the most Victorian things that could happen on Australia Day, the mercury plummeted from 42 to 18 degrees Celsius overnight, and people swapped bathers and thongs for raincoats and gumboots to attend local Australia Day ceremonies.
In Sale, the Scouts raised the flag, Sale City Band played the national anthem, and Sale Lions Club president Roger Lurz hosted dignitaries as they spoke on what an exceptional day this year was.
Most reflected on 2020, and how through drought, bushfire and a pandemic, Gippslanders and – more broadly, Australians – had banded together.
Emergency services and essential workers were also thanked for keeping people safe.
Wellington Shire citizen of the year, Newry’s Kate Mirams, referred to 2021 Senior Australian of the Year Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM’s speech, and the notion of ‘dadirri’ – “the deep spring that is inside us” or “contemplation”.
Ms Mirams said while Australians spent 2020 fearing bushfires, climate change, self-isolation and the politics occurring overseas, she hoped everyone had embraced dadirri to contemplate what they had to give the country to make it a better, fairer, more equal place to live.
“Is it time to embrace all nations of this country?” she asked.
Representing the community group of the year winner, Sale-based charity A Better Life For Foster Kids founder Heather Baird spoke about her work, and said the generosity of the community was one reason why Australia was such a great place to live.
A Better Life For Foster Kids received the award for its extensive work providing crisis cases and other items to foster families and children who cannot live with their biological families through no fault of their own.
COVID Hero Cathy Cook from Yarram, who received the inaugural award after ensuring Scouts did not miss out on any programs during the pandemic and co-ordinated local volunteers to sew face masks and prepare and deliver meals for the vulnerable and disadvantaged, was unable to attend the Sale ceremony.
In Heyfield, celebrations were held at the town’s wetlands information centre, where a number of local residents were recognised for their service to the community.
The team from Heyfield Community Resource Centre was formally acknowledged for its work preparing and distributing community lunches during isolation.
Amazingly, the centre has produced more than 4500 meals in the past six months.
Others acknowledged were Rhonda Stuart, for her extensive work at Heyfield Primary School helping students overcome a range of issues, and Bernadette ‘Pip’ Killeen, for her outstanding customer service working as a personal trainer out of her appropriately named ‘PipFit’ gym.
Youngster Remy Crogan was named junior citizen of the year after involvement in a number of school and community events, while Corey McGrath was recognised for his work helping put together the Heyfield and District News.
Because of inclement weather, Maffra’s Australia Day celebrations were transferred from Victoria Park to Duart Homestead.
The Maffra Rotary Club and Gippsland Times Quiet Achiever Awards were handed out during the event, recognising contributions of people to the community.
Julie Landon, who has been involved with many local groups and events, was presented with the main Quiet Achiever Award.
Kaleb Sclater received the junior award, with parents Richard Sclater and Celeste Gieschen accepting the honour on his behalf, for his extensive involvement and volunteer work in the town’s basketball scene.
Maffra Amateur Basketball Association received the community group Quiet Achiever Award.
In Rosedale, citizens were awarded for their community efforts.
For those braving the wet weather, the barbecue was fired up and a musician entertained.
The Rosedale Citizen of the Year was given to business-owner and artist Sue Coppock, and Rosedale IGA was recognised for its work helping the community through COVID-19.