Byron Shire celebrates with snags, mullet, paddle
In Brunswick Heads almost 1000 sausages sizzled their way into happy Australia Day stomachs as punters enjoyed the usual great singalong and flag wave inside the Housie tent beside the river.
Numbers were up from last year, despite the rain, with all the happy faces and bonhomie leading organiser Margaret Giles, in her 22nd year in the role, to declare, “I’ll probably be back next year”.
There were also good crowds at celebrations at New Brighton, Suffolk Park and Bangalow.
At the official ceremony in Mullumbimby author Robert Drewe gave an Australia Day address with a difference, engaging his audience with tales of the terrifying kindergarten teacher who labelled him a sissy for wearing shoes to school and who threatened him with death by slumping, and with his account of an ‘Australian epiphany’ at age eight when, buffalo grass beneath his outstretched arms and legs, heat on his eyelids and magpies carolling away, the thought came to him that ‘this place was where I came from’.
“I haven’t heard an Australia Day address quite like that before,” commented state MP Don Page, thanking Robert for both the food for thought and his latest book, The Rip.
Mayor Cr Jan Barham commended the many volunteers of the shire, urging all residents both new and old to get involved in one of the very many volunteer services, and adding that as the global financial crisis hit us all, a community made strong by its ethos of helping each other would make us more resilient.
The Community Event of the Year was won by the Disabled Surfers Association (DSA), with the award accepted by president Ted Kabbout.
Ted spoke of the association’s humble beginnings 23 years ago, when a surfer who had had a motor bike accident was told he’d never surf again, so decided to try to find someone to help him into the water. One person turned up to the original meeting, and now there are thousands participating all across the country, with DSA recently asked to start up a branch in New Zealand.
“Disabled people don’t want sympathy,” said Ted, “just the opportunity to have a fair go.”
Winner of a new award category, Volunteer of the Year, was ‘the mayor of Bangalow’ Michael Malloy.
Michael has been involved with an enormous number of organisations over the years (as well as being a former Byron Shire councillor) including the A&I hall committee, Christmas Eve in Bangalow, the Chamber of Commerce, the Bangalow Music Festival, the pool trust, the Byron Writers Festival, Bangalow Primary School and Kids in the Kitchen cooking school.
At the conclusion of the speeches and awards, a number of people left their seats in the audience as citizens of Israel, Brazil, Canada, the UK and the US, to participate in a ceremony that saw them sit back down again as Australians citizens, complete with the plants, certificates and medallions to prove it.