THAT Aboriginal people are entitled to a brighter future was a theme that ran through a number of the speeches given at the Bega Australia Day ceremony on Saturday.
Bega Valley Shire Mayor Bill Taylor said in his speech he had just been reading the Koori stories of local Aborigines and “it really touched me to read our history from a Koori perspective”.
Both the Australia Day ambassador, Bruce Venables, and the young Shire Citizen of the Year, Adam Silverwood, also spoke of the plight of Aborigines and the need to close the gap between them and the rest of the population.
Ian Campbell, manager of ABC South Coast, was master of ceremonies in his laid-back Aussie gear of shirt, shorts and thongs.
Sarah Campbell led the singing of the national anthem, followed by the Girl Guides and Scouts unfurling the Australian and Aboriginal flags.
Roger Jones gave the prayer for the nation and then the mayor gave an acknowledgment of country and a welcome address.
He said that in Australia we feel we’re all part of this one big country that rejoices in its democracy.
He then presided over the citizenship ceremony where Jennifer, Amandine, Charlotte and Christoph Ahrens, Clara and Eddie Blewitt, Snjezana Cowles, John Deborre, Cornelis Groen, Brian Hartin, Jessica Mather-Hilon and Anne Robinson, either took the oath or made an affirmation.
Cr Taylor then presented the Bega Valley Shire Citizen of the Year award to Elizabeth Smee of Bermagui, who for 16 years has been manning the Bermagui Visitor Information Centre and dedicating her time to help local residents.
The shire’s Young Citizens of the Year awards were presented next to Adam Silverwood and Adriana Kleiss.
“Today is a day to reflect and celebrate; a day to acknowledge the essential beauties of life in Australia such as compassion seen in the community,” Mr Silverwood said.
“No longer do we have to look to the distant Anzac legend to find camaraderie and compassion, because it is within this community.
“It is it is within the actions of every volunteer firefighter who selflessly fights to save a house, every individual who smiles at another person as they walk down the street, every person who today acknowledges that the Aboriginal people first lived on this land and are entitled to a brighter future, every man or woman who endeavours to understand an asylum seeker, a refugee, without the predication of cynicism.
“I am proud to have attended Bega High School where the education by dedicated teachers went far beyond simply the intellect.
“I am proud to live in a community where I can promote change; where I can genuinely advocate the assistance of those who seek asylum in this country; where I can stand here and say that we must close the gap between Aboriginal people and the rest of the population.
“This freedom of expression is something in itself to celebrate.
“Today we as a people reflect on the facets of the community that we value.
“In our daily activities we must remember and enact the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, which I feel you will find aptly describes the nature of today’s recipients.
“‘I am only one, but still I am one, I cannot do everything, but I can still do something.’
“This is at the heart of the community and this we are truly gathered to celebrate,” Mr Silverwood said.
Adriana Kleiss also gave a moving speech and said she was passionate about the power of youth and asked everyone to get behind young people and their endeavours.
The Australia Day address was given by the ambassador - actor, author and poet Bruce Venables.
He thanked Woolworths for its sponsorship of the ambassadors’ program and said at the function given in Sydney before Australia Day, each ambassador is presented with a set of stamps printed for Australia Day and this year they featured Aussie musicians such as Jimmy Barnes and John Farnham.
Mr Venables presented the stamps to Mrs Smee as he was so impressed by her tireless devotion to the community.
Of Mr Silverwood, he said “if he wants to start a political party I’ll be the first one to vote for him”.
Mr Venables said he and his wife, Judy Nunn, as ambassadors had visited 51 towns in 17 years.
He then recited his poem “G’Day” which espoused his philosophy in a good Aussie way.
At the end of his speech he reminded everyone that Australians are all mongrels.
“They make the best dogs and they make the best people.
“We’re all in this together,” he said.
Mr Venables was presented with an ambassador pin by Matt Jorgenson, store manager of Woolworths, Bega, and a Bega Cheese gift from the mayor.
The president of the Bega Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mal Barnes, presented Helen Slater with the award of Bega Community Citizen of the Year and Sam Hodder with Bega Community Young Citizen of the Year.
Cr Taylor announced the winners of the 2013 “Australian Image” photo competition and thanked the Lions Club for the breakfast, Essential Energy, Family Day Care, Woolworths and particularly his staff who organised the ceremony.
Live entertainment and activities followed.