Cessnock's Australia Day 2017 awards and citizenship ceremony | PHOTOS, VIDEO

Tara Naysmith got the surprise of her life when she was announced as Cessnock’s citizen of the year at the Australia Day awards on Thursday.

Mrs Naysmith, who was the MC for the event, was recognised for her contribution to the community, particularly through singing at numerous local events.

Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent said it was an honour to recognise Mrs Naysmith’s work in the community.

“Tara has immersed herself in our community over the years with her involvement in a vast array of community activities,” he said.

“Just a few of these include the Olympic Torch Relay, Mineworkers Union, View Club and Rotary, along with a number of local primary schools.”

Another well-known local entertainer, Ron Jackson, was named senior citizen of the year.

Mr Jackson performs at nursing homes and community events, and was also involved with the Cessnock Tennis Club.

The young citizen of the year award went to Kurri Kurri girl Shae Panormo, 16, in recognition of her involvement in Scouts and as a leader for local youth.

Community event of the year went to Strive For Autism’s seminar ‘Autism – Developing The Individual’, which was attended by more than 450 people at Cessnock Performing Arts Centre in September.

The environmental award was received by Native Nursery, which is run by the Cessnock Men’s Shed, while the heritage award went to Coalfield Heritage Group for its efforts in operating the Edgeworth David Museum at Kurri Kurri and preserving local history.

The Marthaville Arts and Cultural Award went to music teacher Jacqueline McMichael.

Appreciation awards went to Dianne Foulger (for her volunteer work at Kurri Masonic Village), Kylie Gray (Cessnock Girl Guides), Joy Potts (Wheeling and Able), Catherine Parsons (Abermain Heritage Preservation Society, Abermain-Neath Tidy Towns and Abermain Eisteddfod), Max Lewis (Cessnock RSL Sub-branch) and Ruby Adamson (for organising funds for various charities including Make-A-Wish Australia, Down Syndrome NSW and Wildlife Warriors).

“We are very fortunate to have so many community-minded individuals in our local area, it is a privilege to have the opportunity to recognise and thank them for their contributions,” Cr Pynsent said.

Another highlight of the event was the induction of 24 people as new Australian citizens, and the 500-strong crowd was invited to affirm their citizenship by taking the pledge.

The emergency services, volunteer groups and service clubs and other organisations and agencies that assisted at the city’s recent bushfires were formally acknowledged.

Cessnock’s Australia Day ambassador, Lyndey Milan OAM spoke of her experiences in the food and media industries and the significance of food in Australia’s multicultural society.

The inaugural Mayoral Cup cricket match was held in the afternoon, finishing with a win to the Cessnock District Cricket Association rep team.

The Mayor’s Eleven batted first and posted 160 from their 20 overs.

Cessnock needed eight runs from the last over to win, and captain Brent Watson hit the winning runs on the second-last ball of the day.

Pete Brennan from the Mayor’s Eleven was named man of the match.