Honour for our heroes
Exmouth Volunteer Marine Rescue deputy commander George Simmons was one of a host of grassroots heroes recognised at Australia Day Award ceremonies around the region on Thursday. New Australian citizens, community events and fireworks were other local highlights of the national day.
Local heroes and new Australian citizens were recognised on Australia Day at ceremonies across the City of Karratha and Shires of Ashburton and Exmouth.
The City of Karratha acknowledged its most dedicated residents at an awards breakfast at the Karratha Leisureplex.
Volunteer with the State Emergency Service, Pilbara Wildlife Carers’ Association, Baynton West Canteen and junior soccer Joanne Waterstrom-Muller was announced as the citizen of the year.
She said she was honoured to have been selected from such a strong group of nominees.
“I’ve been here for pretty much most of my life, so it’s good giving back to the community,” she said.
“I’m just that type of person, like a lot of other people in the room … they don’t do one thing in town, they do a lot of things, and that’s what brings the community together.”
Athlete Ayden Saylor was announced as the young citizen of the year and the Karratha Dampier Lions Club, SAFE Karratha, Stuart Otto and Dory Blackney were also winners.
The City’s 2016 citizen John Lally gave a speech thanking nominees for their tireless contributions behind the scenes.
“When you see soccer going on or football or teeball or events — anything that’s happening, behind all of those is an army of people giving up their time for our community, and that’s something to really celebrate,” he said.
City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long said the national day was an ideal time to appreciate those people who contribute most to their communities.
“Australia Day is a chance for our community to come together and celebrate our country — it is a chance to appreciate those people who make it such an incredible place to live, and it is an opportunity to remind ourselves how lucky we are to call Australia home,” he said.
“Today, we join with the rest of the nation to recognise those grass-root heroes of our community, those people who are the first to raise their hands, who give up their weekends, who spend hours organising and contributing ... because they love being part of our community.”
In the Shire of Ashburton, people celebrated the national day with free barbecues, Australian music and plenty of community spirit at popular events in Tom Price, Paraburdoo, Onslow and Pannawonica.
A host of community groups pitched in to make the most of the day and Aussie games including thong-throwing, obstacle courses and thong races provided plenty of entertainment and laughs.
Each town also hosted awards ceremonies to acknowledge the individuals and groups who consistently go above and beyond for their fellow residents.
Annette Wilson was announced the Tom Price citizen of the year for her volunteer work with St John Ambulance, Tom Price Emergency Services, and Cadet Corp among others, and Corbann Macale, Sister Margaret Culhane and Tom Price Youth Support Association were also acknowledged. In Onslow, Cameron McGurk was awarded citizen of the year with Dawn McAullay, Jake Stratford and Onslow Sports Club also receiving awards.
Sandra James was the Paraburdoo citizen of the year and its Emergency Services Cadets won the active citizenship award, while in Pannawonica Stacey Rutherford received the top honour and Pannawonica Swimming Club were recognised for active citizenship.
Shire of Ashburton president Kerry White said the Shire was proud to host free and familyfriendly Australia Day events. “We recognise it is important to celebrate what makes our country such an amazing place to live, which is personified within each of our wonderful towns,” she said.
“It is also a fantastic opportunity to acknowledge outstanding residents who contribute so richly to our communities.”
In Exmouth, George Simmons was presented with the Shire’s citizen of the year award by acting chief executive Keith Woodward for his long-term service volunteering with Exmouth Volunteer Marine Rescue.
“As Deputy Commander,
George has been involved in hundreds of rescues but he also spends countless hours on dry land making sure the group is ready whenever they get a call for help,” Mr Woodward said.
“He is always the first person to volunteer his time, whether it be to get a boat serviced, install and maintain equipment or man the radio. Our community is a better place as a result of George’s years of service.”
Kyle Preest was awarded youth citizen of the year for his work with Exmouth PCYC and junior sport and the Carols by Starlight committee won the active citizenship gong for their successful annual Christmas event. Mr Woodward thanked all the award recipients for their tireless work.
“Their efforts enrich our community and sustain our local sporting clubs, community groups and emergency services,” he said.
New citizens were another focus of the day, as many used the opportunity presented by the national day to take the pledge and officially become Australians.
Thirty-six people were sworn in at a City of Karratha ceremony at the Leisureplex.
Among those were Kishan Pathak and his parents Sanjay and Vaishali, who moved to Australia from India almost five years ago.
Mr Pathak said he felt “a mixed bag of emotions” at changing his citizenship, sad to leave behind the old but excited for the new.
“My sadness is overcome by my joy that I can be part of the land of the fair go,” he said.
Danish-born artist Mette Clifton, who has lived in Australia for 16 years, including 12 in Karratha, said she liked Australia because it was “an easy life”.
“I think for me, it was really easy to choose Karratha. The kids are safe here,” she said.
Picture: Shire of Exmouth
Children raise the Australian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags at the Tom Price Australia Day ceremony.
Grant Cucel and City of Karratha Citizen of the Year winner Joanne Waterstrom-Muller.
City of Karratha Community Spirit winner Stuart Otto and his wife Michelle.
Shire of Ashburton councillor Peter Foster with Tom Price Australia Day Award winners.
New Australian citizen Karen Bailey with Keira, 3, Elisha, 5, and Michael Bailey.
City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long, centre, and Australia Day Award winners Dee Finch, Kerry Donohoe, Wayne Donohoe, Joanne Waterstrom-Muller, Sue Hedley, Stuart Otto and Dory Blackney.
Shire of Exmouth Australia Day Award winners Donna Koontz, Kirra DeJong, Deb Versteeg, Jess Dixon, Josh Koontz, George Simmons and Kyle Preest.
Vaishali, Kishan and Sanjay Pathek became Australian citizens at a City of Karratha ceremony.