The Lithgow community gathered for a COVID-safe ceremony at Queen Elizabeth Park on Tuesday, January 26 for Australia Day celebrations.
Masks were available but not compulsory, QR codes were ready to scan and a free water was on hand to beat the heat. A section was cordoned-off under a shady tree for the official ceremony.
This year's theme was 'Reflect, Respect, Celebrate'.
Lithgow City mayor Cr Ray Thompson welcomed community members, Councillors and Council staff, Australia Day Ambassador Peter McLean and soon-to-be Australian citizens.
He also made a special welcome to elder Aunty Helen Riley who was representing the Wiradjuri nation through the Mingaan Wiradjuri Aboriginal Corporation.
"Today is about working together and keeping our culture alive," Aunty Helen said.
A Welcome to Country was presented by Helen's daughter Sharon Riley.
"We weren't allowed to [say it] when we were younger, I was four years-old when I lost my mum," Aunty Helen said.
Cr Thompson said Australia Day was a day to reflect on our country and our people.
"This past year has thrown us many challenges, fire recovery is still happening and hearts are still mending, and now we are amid a global pandemic," he said.
He praised emergency services, and front line workers for their dedication through these challenging times.
Cr Thompson also paid his respects to the recent passing of Senior Constable Kelly Foster who paid the ultimate sacrifice trying to save another life.
"Thank you for your service," he said.
Cr Thompson said he felt honoured to be Lithgow mayor and celebrate Australia Day.
"I'm proud to be mayor of Lithgow and represent this beautiful region."
Australia Day Ambassador Peter McLean then gave his address and asked community members to touch on this year's theme and reflect on their past challenges and mistakes, respect each other more and celebrate each other equally and our stories.
He thanked volunteers and achievers who continue to make Lithgow strive.
"I know there are amazing groups and thousands of volunteers around Lithgow, so keep doing what you're doing and inspire others to do the same," he said.
The ambassador also received a pin as a small token of Lithgow's gratitude.
Local citizenship awards
Cr Thompson presented the local citizenship awards which recognise individuals and groups who make a significant difference to the community.
Young Volunteer of the Year: Alisha Cook, for her commitment and contribution to supporting and representing young people in the region through her involvement in the Lithgow Youth Council and as a committee member of Headspace.
Volunteer of the Year: Kas Hilton for establishing a Dementia Alliance for the Lithgow community.
Citizen Achievement Award: Thomas Ebersoll, for his contribution to the enhancement and protection of the Wolgan Valley area. Thomas has maintained parts of the original track to the Glow Worm Tunnel, promoted ecotourism and a caretaker of the historic Newnes Hotel.
Service to the Community Award: RFS Clarence Dargan Brigade. The nomination was made by a Dargan resident who watched exhausted RFS members face the Gospers Mountain bushfire, putting themselves at risk to protect their community. Some members lost their own homes while fighting to protect others.
Outstanding Event of the Year: Sharron Bowman, for Live 'n' Local After the Fires. The event was to support local musicians and venues, provide local employment and community relief following the fire season and the start of COVID-19.
Cr Thompson congratulated the award winners who continue to make achievements and important contributions to the Lithgow community.
Mayors Special recognition Award
Cr Thompson made a special presentation in recognition of front line workers during the Gospers Mountain Fire.
"Whilst we recognise that there are countless individuals who selflessly gave so much of themselves to protect our community during the fire season there are three individuals that I'd like to present a special award with," he said.
Owen Sharwood, Adam Sharwood and David Peters were highlighted for their involvement in planning, preparation and daily fire control.
Following formalities residents were treated to a sausage sizzle by Lithgow Lions Club, coffee served by the Tin Shed coffee van and a selection of cakes from Hometown Cafe.
Entertainment was provided by Lithgow City Band and Lithgow Highland Pipe Band.