Cessnock City celebrated Australia Day with a heart-warming ceremony at East Cessnock Bowling Club on Friday, honouring community-minded residents and welcoming new Australian citizens.
Heddon Greta resident Paul Hughes was named Cessnock’s citizen of the year in recognition of his involvement with Kurri Kurri Rotary Club and Kurri Kurri Rugby League.
Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent said Mr Hughes has made a remarkable difference to the lives of many in the Cessnock community.
Mr Hughes is the current president of Kurri Kurri Rotary Club and was instrumental to Rotary’s Bourke-to-Kurri Kurri and coast seaside exchange, a Rotary program dedicated to the development of young indigenous children
Through Rotary he has also coordinated and operated a number of breakfast clubs in local schools to ensure the more vulnerable children in our community don’t go to school hungry.
Mr Hughes said he was surprised to receive the honour.
”It’s brilliant – I would have never expected it,” he said.
Cessnock’s Laurence Ellis won the senior citizen of the year award in recognition of his work with many local organisations, including the Retired Mineworkers Association of Australia.
Olivia Palfreyman, of Quorrobolong, was named young citizen of the year for her achievements in equestrian, and her role as a mentor for youth in the sport.
The Cessnock Stomp Festival received the community event of the year award, and the environment award went to Colin and Pamela Fitzsimons.
Appreciation awards were presented to Karen Blandon, Bryce Gibson, Sonia Sharpe, Matthew Orr and Jordan Fallon.
The Marthaville Arts and Cultural Award went to local musician Ron Jackson.
“Our city is fortunate to be home to so many community-minded individuals who make an outstanding contribution to our community every day,” Cr Pynsent said.
Another highlight of the day was the citizenship ceremony.
Fourteen people were inducted at Cessnock, joining 13,000 new citizens naturalised at 330 ceremonies across Australia on Friday.
Cessnock’s Gopal and Shilpa Halai and their daughter Harshi were among those taking the citizenship pledge for the first time.
Mr and Mrs Halai were both born in India and moved to Kenya, where Harshi, 11, was born.
They moved to Australia in 2008, first living in Sydney before moving to Cessnock in 2012.
They have since welcomed a son, Kush (aged three-and-a-half) to their family.
Mr Halai previously owned the Aberdare Shell service station and Aberdare Newsagency, and now owns a service station in Teralba.
He said his family enjoys living in Cessnock.
“It’s a quiet place, with good people,” he said.
The crowd of about 300 were entertained by Anthony Coyle and Tara Naysmith and enthralled by the stories of Australia Day ambassador Narelle Campbell.
Ms Campbell has spent half of the past 10 years living in Antarctica, where she has led four over-winter team at the remote Australian Antarctic Territory, where temperatures reach minus-40 degrees.
She said many of the people chosen to work on these teams come from rural and regional areas, as they understand the importance of participation and support to communities.
“It’s a life-changing experience… every person learns so much about themselves and human interaction,” she said.
Watch Anthony Coyle and Tara Naysmith’s performance of I Still Call Australia Home in the post below.
4PM UPDATE: MAYORAL CRICKET CUP
The festivities continued at East End Oval, with the second annual Mayoral Cup Twenty20 cricket match between the Cessnock District Cricket Association rep team and the Mayor’s Eleven.
The trophy once again went to the rep team, which posted a score of 7/155 from their 20 overs, before reducing the Mayor’s Eleven to a total of 82.
Nathan Hudson received the best-and-fairest award after top-scoring for the winning side with a half-century, well-supported by team captain Nathan Stapleford with 45, and Jason Orr with 24.
Zac Sneesby (3-26 from four overs), Ben Read (2-38 off four) and Allan Heath (2-15 off four) shared the wickets for the Mayor’s Eleven.
Daniel Foster (20) and Stephen Hedger (18) were the pick of the Mayor’s Eleven batsmen, with Stapleford taking 2-4 off two, Tim Goldman 2-9 off three and Joey Butler 2-17 off two in a dominant bowling display from the rep side.
Cr Pynsent congratulated both sides for their sportsmanship.
“The spirit between the players was again fantastic, as it was last year,” he said.
Earlier on Australia Day, a crowd of about 60 people gathered at the Cessnock TAFE grounds for a combined church service, to pray for Australia and the city of Cessnock.