The Eurobodalla Shire welcomed 18 new Australian Citizens this Australia Day while Bega Valley welcomed 11 new Aussies.
It was a sunny day with blue skies on the South Coast as both ceremonies took place out the front of council chambers in Moruya and Bega respectively.
Both Councils recognised and celebrated the achievements and community contributions of the 2023 Citizens of the Year and Australia Day Award winners.
Rod Slockee provided the smoking ceremony and didge at the Eurobodalla ceremony, Bunja Smith did the Welcome to Country, local army cadets provided the flag raising, and Stella Lloyd Jones was the lead anthem singer. Federal Member for Gilmore, Fiona Phillips, and State Member for Bega, Dr Michael Holland, assisted Eurobodalla Shire Mayor Mathew Hatcher with the honours of presenting the awards and welcoming 18 new citizens from around the world.
Gary Traynor from Moryua took out the Fergus Thomson Heritage Award from Yvonne Thomson.
Meanwhile Bega Lions Club members got the day off to a good start at Littleton Gardens, providing a free barbeque breakfas while Bega Chamber President John Watkin hosted the day, local musician and Australia’s Got Talent contestant, Sam Stevenson, welcomed everyone to the special ceremony, at which he also performed a rendition of the Australian National Anthem.
Bega Valley Citizen of the Year Philippa Street, Senior Citizen of the Year Daphne Sweeney and Young Citizens of the Year Daytona Porter and Zoe Pentin were all celebrated.
While the ceremony also paid tribute to others who help their community in numerous ways, with Bega Valley Medallions presented to Bev Walker, Cherie White, Christine McDowell, Doug and Robyn Blair, Maureen Volentras, Mick Pryke, Nicholas Sticotti, Patricia Jones, Cherie Mercado, Michael Palmer, Nigel Ayling and Damien Tilley.
Australia Day Ambassador Jay Allen OAM provided a heartfelt and emotional speech on his battle with cancer and advocacy work.
Bega Valley Shire Mayor, Russell Fitzpatrick, was joined by federal Member for Eden Monaro and Bega Valley local, Kristy McBain, to induct 11 new Australian citizens to the shire.
The new citizens came from across the globe including Fiji, Hong Kong, Italy, the United Kingdom, India, Thailand and the Philippines.
One of those new citizens was the owner of Bega Cafe, Osteria Da Franco, Francesco Bocha (pictured above with federal MP Kristy McBain) who describes his road to citizenship as “a long journey”.
“It started in 2009, I’ve been through a lot,” Mr Bocha said.
“I’m a bit emotional but I feel blessed and lucky,” he said.
“From my first visit from Napoli (Naples), I got a chance to get to know the community and understand the values of this beautiful country and that family feeling, it felt like being home and that’s what made me stay.
“It’s(the process) had its obstacles but it’s really been worth it for me, and now I’m here to stay.
“It’s a big milestone for my family and for me, to prove to the community that I’m here to support them and as the anthem says ‘we are one’ and we all share these Australian values which I share and I will preach as well.”
Images: Eurobodalla Shire Council, Our Merimbula, James Fennessy – East Coast Radio