Towns across East Gippsland celebrated the nation on Sunday, each in their own way as they begin the recovery from recent bushfires, celebrating all they are grateful for as Australians.
“This is possibly the most memorable Australia Day in Orbost’s history. Memorable because as a community we are still reeling from the effects of the worst bushfire experienced in Orbost and district, and especially East Gippsland, in living memory, as well as affecting southern New South Wales and other parts of Australia,” Orbost Rotary Club president, Don Osborne, said as he officially welcomed the gathering at Orbost’s Forest Park on Sunday morning.
“This has been a time of great loss – worst of all there has been loss of life, around 30 deaths. Thankfully none in Orbost, but two close by in Genoa and Buchan, and others who live in Gippsland.
“Apart from the loss of life, there has been considerable loss of property and income in our district. We express our sorrow to all affected and pledge our support in the rebuilding process.”
Representatives of firefighters, emergency services, government agencies, the Australian Defence Force and volunteers were in attendance at Sunday’s ceremony so the community could thank them for their outstanding efforts in protecting the community and helping it rebuild.
“Celebrating Australia Day is about recognising the characteristics that make Australia and Australians great,” Mr Osborne said.
“Against the backdrop of bushfire and adversity, the qualities of mateship and generosity stand out, extended to all in our community, regardless of background, circumstance or culture.
“This is what we are celebrating today, may these qualities shine in our community as we move forward together.”
TOP CITIZENS AND EVENTS
With nominations received in each of the three categories, awards were presented to Citizen of the Year, Ruth Christy, Young Citizen of the Year, Daniel Answer-Waddel, and two awards with a tie for Event of the Year presented to St Andrews Uniting Church 100th Flower Show and Orbost CFA Centenary Celebrations.
CITIZEN OF THE YEAR
While she was a devoted member of the Orbost Badminton Club for many years, it is Mrs Christy’s great achievement of supporting and investing in Girl Guides for more than 40 years that saw her win this year’s honour. She has conducted weekly meetings for the Orbost Girl Guides, organised camps, Rotary awards, encouraged the girls in badge achievements, ANZAC Day march and Clean Up Australia Day participation as well as significant support for the annual flower show. Mrs Christy’s dedication and commitment as a leader has seen her excel as a role model for generations of Girl Guides, helping them to achieve goals both in and outside of Guiding.
YOUNG CITIZEN OF THE YEAR
Daniel Answer-Waddell’s outstanding cation and passion to the Orbost Fire Brigade was the basis of his Young Citizen of the Year honour.
Daniel has completed two years of the CFA Advanced program at the Orbost Secondary College resulting in one year as leader and organiser of the program.
Within the Orbost CFA, Daniel has taken on a number of leadership roles including participating and helping to train juniors for the CFA and assisting in the brigade’s centenary celebrations.
Daniel is a huge asset to the brigade, his skills and personality being extremely valued and earning him the Tommy Brooks Young Fire Fighter of the Year at last year’ s centenary event.
He has also participated in Mohawks, a partnership between Orbost Regional Health and Orbost Secondary College, where students carry out garden work for aged and disabled clients in the community. His community spirit has also extended to helping with gardening at the Slab Hut, setting up for the rodeo and collecting firewood for the Masonic Lodge raffles.
EVENTS OF THE YEAR
A hard decision was made easier by calling Orbost’s Event of the Year a tie with Heather Richardson accepting the award for the St Andrew’s Uniting Church Centenary Flower Show and Orbost CFA captain, Dick Johnstone, accepting the award on behalf of the Orbost Fire Brigade’s Centenary Celebrations. The flower show committee consists of eight members, who, along with 16 volunteers, were honoured with the award for organising an extremely successful event that included refurbishing and rededicating memorial plaques, organising coverage on ABC Gippsland with future coverage of the area on the Back Roads television program, supporting the Orbost community and businesses, and providing economic benefit to business in Orbost through the many visitors attending the show. The flower show’s centenary celebration dinner was also very well attended. Just as worthy as an extremely successful event was the Orbost Fire Brigade’s 100 year celebration, which acknowledged past contributors to the local CFA with a great sense of pride that has been instilled in all current members.
A great deal of organisation went into the event that included the community with an exhibition and display at the Orbost Exhibition Centre and Forest Park showcasing the brigade’s 100-year history with photographs, medals and modern equipment of the local emergency services as well as historic pieces.
The celebration demonstrated how important these volunteers are to every citizen in the district.
IMAGE: Honours were bestowed upon Orbost’s top citizens and events at Sunday’s Australia Day celebrations at Forest Park on Sunday. Cutting the celebratory cake were this year’s winners, Heather Richardson, for joint Event of the Year - St Andrews Uniting Church 100th Flower Show, Citizen of the Year, Ruth Christy, Young Citizen of the Year, Daniel Answer-Waddell, and Orbost Fire Brigade captain, Dick Johnstone, for joint Event of the Year - Orbost CFA Centenary Celebrations. Heather also cut the cake as a member of the 26ers Club as she shared her birthday with the national day. S37-1056