WHAT'S ON

Lower Hunter councils offering modest set of events for Australia Day 2021

CANCELLED: Organisers of the Newcastle Harbour Australia Day swim pulled the pin on the iconic event late last year. Picture: Picture: Marina Neil
CANCELLED: Organisers of the Newcastle Harbour Australia Day swim pulled the pin on the iconic event late last year. Picture: Picture: Marina Neil

Australia Day in the Hunter will look a whole lot different this year with a string of festivities scrapped, but there are still plenty of official events to attend.

Lower Hunter councils have had to dramatically alter the programs they usually run or support this year due to COVID-19 regulations.

In Newcastle, the traditional harbour swim will not be held for the first time since 2017. Organisers Stockton SLSC held out in the hope it could go ahead but were forced to cancel before Christmas after the Northern Beaches outbreak.

The event, which is the richest ocean swim in Australia, attracted more than 550 swimmers last year.

Newcastle council has shifted its attention away from the harbour foreshore this year to the city's suburbs.

A picnic-style event will be held from 10am to 4pm at Richley Reserve in New Lambton featuring produce stalls, food trucks and roving entertainment for the family.

There will also be parties at the same time at the Beresfield, Mayfield, Stockton and Wallsend pools.

Lake Macquarie council is working with NSW Police to confirm whether its Lake Mac Festival will go ahead and expects to announce a decision next week. It had planned fireworks displays around the lake for the weekend before Australia Day.

The citizenship ceremony will proceed as planned regardless. About 45 residents will become Australian citizens at an exclusive event at Rathmines Theatre.

In Port Stephens, the usual community-organised events in Raymond Terrace and Nelson Bay have been cancelled. The council, which received $20,000 from the National Australia Day Council to rearrange the program, will host pool parties at its swim centres in Salamander Bay, Lemon Tree Passage and Raymond Terrace. Activities will also be held at Karuah RSL.

"Our community can come and enjoy a family-friendly and COVID-safe pool party where they can swim, enjoy a BBQ feed, listen to local performers and have some fun with giant pool games," Port Stephens mayor Ryan Palmer said. "We'll also be holding a movie night [at Salamander Bay] for those who want to stay a little longer."

The council announced Karuah Aboriginal Land Council CEO Dianne Ball as its 2021 Australia Day Ambassador on Friday.

Maitland council will host its invite-only ceremony at Town Hall where about 30 people will receive citizenship and the Young Citizen and Citizen of the Year Awards will be announced.

The council will hold free breakfasts at multiple sites across the city and throw open the doors of Maitland and East Maitland Aquatic Centres. There will also be a Tiger Moth flyover at 10am and light projections on the town's buildings.

This story Hunter set for a low-key Australia Day in 2021 first appeared on The Maitland Mercury.