Like hundreds of other Australia Day citizenship award ceremonies throughout the country on Tuesday, the official ceremony held at Bangalow and led by Byron Mayor Jan Barham, was full of tradition, speeches and just a few tears.
The 14 new Aussies have originated from many different countries including England, Italy, Chile, France, The Netherlands, Scotland and Canada.
For French-born Lance Caloz now living in Brunswick Heads it was a day filled with emotion.
“I have been living in Australia for 10 years and I am married to an Australian girl,” he said.
“It’s taken a while to become a citizen, but I am really looking forward to it.
“I love to surf, I love the ocean, the people and the climate.
“The only disappointment today is that my wife and my three children couldn’t be here because my wife is visiting her elderly father on Norfolk Island.”
But, Lance’s friends Patricia McGeary and Sydney Keeling of Brunswick Heads looked on proudly as Lance became an Australian citizen.
The ceremony, which was attended by hundreds of people, started with a ‘Welcome to Country’ by Yvonne Stewart from the Arakwal Corporation.
“This is the first time that I have been at an official Australia Day ceremony and it’s a great honour,” she said.
“Australia Day is a great celebration of people coming together and a reflection of our past.
“It’s also a time acknowledge our future.”
Bangalow pig farmer John Singh, who delivered the Australia Day address, said Australia was a multi-cultural nation where people worked together.
“It’s the best country in the world and of course the best address in that country is Bangalow.”
Australia Day ambassador Ann Snell, the founder and managing director of Sydney’s prestigious Ann Snell Gallery, which specialises in indigenous art, told the crowd that Australians had lots to be thankful for.
“We only have to turn on the news to remind ourselves of how precious our society is,” she said.
“We enjoy clean air and water, freedom of speech, free education, a world-class health system and a peaceful political climate.
“Australia is a society where an individual can work towards his or her dream and eventually succeed.
“It’s home to so many different cultures, and I would encourage everyone to look for the wisdom and talents in our cultural diversity, learn, merge and laugh together.”
The ceremony also included the announcement of seven Australia Day awards.
Eleven-year-old Marlie Campton, was named the Junior Sports Person of the Year for her achievements in cross country and middle distance running, while the Senior Sports Person of The Year award went to club captain of the Bangalow Rugby Club Neil Moran.
The award-winning Green and Clean Awareness Team can now add another feather to its cap by winning the Environmental Volunteer Project of The Year award.
The Community Event of The Year was won by Carols By The Sea organised by the Byron Bay Ministers Fellowship and held at Main Beach Byron Bay every December.
Thinking he was attending the ceremony as a representative of the Byron Bay Rural Fire Service, a clearly emotional Gregg Miller was shocked when he was told he had won the Volunteer Of The Year Award.
Gregg has been a member of the fire service for eight years and now holds the rank of deputy captain and secretary.
Besides being active with the day-to-day emergency incidents with the brigade, Gregg also actively volunteers his time for many other brigade causes and committees.
A resident of the Byron Shire for 37 years, Cecile Sharp won the Citizen Of The Year (senior category) for her active community work.
“What you give is what you receive back,” Cecile said.
“I was bought up in a family of volunteers so it was only natural that I would volunteer as well.”
“I think I am going to burst into tears, but I want to thank my family and my supporters and I want to say that I support multi-culturalism in Australia.
“I am married to a Scotsman.”
Stella Barclay from Brisbane was one proud mum when her daughter Nicqui Yazdi was announced the Citizen Of The Year.
“I am so proud of her, she has done so much work in the community,” Stella said.
Nicqui’s daughter Lily Smith said she was also proud of her mum.
Nicqui has been a community worker for eight years and has been involved in many organisations including PAN (Professional Artists Network); BUDDI (Byron Underage Drinking and Drug Initiative); Schoolies HUB co-ordinator and the Homeless Breakfast.
She is also involved in improving the community’s abilities and skills in mental health and first aid, particularly with young people.
“I am greatly inspired to be part of a volunteer network and I hope to make a difference,” Nicqui said.
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