Numbers at Merimbula’s Australia Day at Rotary Park may have been a little down on last year but it made no difference to those who attended and especially to those for whom it was a significant day as they became Australian citizens.
Seven local people pledged their allegiance to Australia and were welcomed as new citizens by deputy major, Russell Fitzpatrick.
Australia Day Ambassador for Merimbula, John Liston, focused much of his talk on service and the people who regularly gave so much. He called them the living local legends, the quiet achievers and spoke of the impressive list of previous Rotary Community Service Award recipients.
“Where would we be,” Mr Liston asked without the volunteers in the emergency services, the service groups such as Rotary, APEX, Lions and the Red Cross.
“I marvel at the Op Shop ladies at Imlay House, the Salvos and Vinnies. They enrich our society.” But he said that the baton should also be passed to the younger generation as well.
One of Mr Liston’s passions is the Somalian Op Shop where $46,500 has now been raised in 25 days to help those fleeing fighting and starvation.
The service theme was reiterated as the Merimbula Marine Rescue was given a Community Service Award. A special Community Service Award was given to the Rural Fire Service in recognition of volunteers efforts during the fires.
In accepting the award for the RFS, Gavin Mills said: “As a volunteer organisation we are very humbled. It is very pleasing that the 1000 representatives of the RFS in the Bega Valley Shire get recognition.” He added that 90 per cent of the volunteers were on call during the recent fires.
“Were it not for their dedication, it would have been a lot worse,” Mr Mills said.
Jeff Hinde in accepting the certificate for the Marine Rescue said that it was nice to be remembered by a fellow voluntary organisation. He also thanked the community as the $25,000 shortfall in running costs was made up by donations locally.
Youth speaker, Ruby Dein, from Eden Marine High School asked what it meant to be an Australian.
She said as well as mateship, equality, loyalty and friendship there was an ever-lasting willingness to pitch in and help each other out.
Ruby said she had seen how crises affected families.
“I have seen pain with many causes; inexperience and speed on the harsh country roads causing fatality, the loss of homes and properties under a fires control and through all the darkest hours and saddest times, I have seen my own community stick together, help each other out, provide supplies to those in need as well as a safe refuge and a shoulder to cry on. This to me, is what being Australian is all about.”
As well as the serious side of Australia Day there was entertainment by the Sapphire Coast Concert Band, led by Peter Ongley and from Footprint Theatre who enacted some of Banjo Paterson’s poetry. Rotary cooked breakfasts for the crowd with food provided by Woolworths. The gold coin donations from breakfast will go towards Rotary’s good causes. Rotarian David Hede was MC for the event.
Rotary’s treasurer, Graeme Skinner said 540 egg and bacon sandwiches had been provided which was about 15 per cent down on last year. This he attributed to the celebration being on a Saturday when some local people such as shop-keepers and shop assistants would have been working rather than enjoying a public holiday.
But he said that overall it had been very successful thanks to the 42 Rotarians, their partners and volunteers to all helped.