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Waroona Shire community comes together to celebrate community champions at official Australia Day ceremony

Headshot of Sean Van Der Wielen
Sean Van Der WielenHarvey-Waroona Reporter
The Shire of Waroona's Australia Day Award recipients with Shire president Mike Walmsley and Murray-Wellington MLA Robyn Clarke.
Camera IconThe Shire of Waroona's Australia Day Award recipients with Shire president Mike Walmsley and Murray-Wellington MLA Robyn Clarke. Credit: Sean Van Der Wielen/Harvey-Waroona Reporter

Five local residents and one community group received recognition for their service to the Waroona Shire in the council’s annual Australia Day awards.

The Waroona Memorial Hall was the centre of celebrations in the Shire on January 26 in a morning full of activities to mark the national day.

Commemorations started early in the Waroona townsite and Lake Clifton with community breakfasts, before the hall became the place to be for most of the morning with multicultural cooking demonstrations, a street parade and free entertainment.

The official proceedings started mid-morning with a Welcome to Country by local elder Robert Jetta.

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“Through history till today, we stand together — first people and second people — because we are one,” he said.

Fellow elder Jennifer Turner blew attendees away with a Noongar language rendition of I Am Australian.

“With the Noongar interpretation, instead of ‘we are Australian’, we put ‘we are all family’, so this is our dream, that we become one family in Australia,” Ms Turner said.

Noongar Elder Jennifer Turner sings a Noongar version of 'I am Australian' at the Waroona Australia Day official commemorations.
Camera IconNoongar Elder Jennifer Turner sings a Noongar version of 'I am Australian' at the Waroona Australia Day official commemorations. Credit: Sean Van Der Wielen/Harvey-Waroona Reporter

Master of ceremonies and Waroona Shire councillor John Mason later described being “strongly impacted” by the performance, with his voice notably emotional.

Waroona Shire president Mike Walmsley noted the debate surrounding the future of the date of Australia Day in his speech to attendees.

“It is important that we do celebrate this day and regardless of how you all feel about changing the day, I think that conversation is certainly growing strength and in time there will be an answer to that,” he said.

Cr Walmsley told attendees they should cherish Australia’s right to discourse because there was not always the same freedom internationally.

Three residents received the Shire of Waroona Meritorious Community Service Award for their various volunteer contributions.

Matthew Della Franca was the only winner in the under 25 category, picking up the accolade for his contributions through the Waroona Lions Club.

He is club secretary and is the youngest person in the organisation’s history to hold the position.

In the over 25 category, both Debra Tyler and Lynette Della Franca took home awards.

Ms Tyler has been president of the Waroona Historical Society for 12 years and is involved in the Yarloop CWA, while Ms Della Franca has supported St Patrick’s Church for more than 40 years and served as secretary of St Joseph’s School for 34 years.

Cadets from the Waroona Volunteer Fire and Emergency Services raise the Australian flag.
Camera IconCadets from the Waroona Volunteer Fire and Emergency Services raise the Australian flag. Credit: Sean Van Der Wielen/Harvey-Waroona Reporter

The official Australia Day Active Citizenship Award for Groups or Events was presented to the Waroona Men’s Shed for its work in improving mental health outcomes for members and community contributions.

George Blakey accepted the award and thanked his fellow members and their partners for their contribution.

“Without all you guys, this is not possible,” he said.

The Senior Community Citizen of the Year Award went to Marion Herkes for her services to the Preston Beach community, including 17 years as secretary of the progress association.

Ms Herkes said she was humbled by the accolade and was grateful to work with local volunteers.

“I’ve worked with some beautiful people over the years and they’ve all made an impression on me,” she said.

The Community Citizen of the Year Award was presented to Waroona St John sub-branch president Jenny McNamara.

Cr Walmsley described Ms McNamara as “one of the most highly dedicated and effective residents” of the Waroona Shire.

Alongside her paramedic work, she has worked with the Waroona Agricultural Society and Meals on Wheels service for more than two decades and has helped with leavers celebrations in Dunsborough for the past seven years.

Jenny McNamara speaks after being announced as Waroona Community Citizen of the Year.
Camera IconJenny McNamara speaks after being announced as Waroona Community Citizen of the Year. Credit: Sean Van Der Wielen/Harvey-Waroona Reporter

Ms McNamara said she accepted the award on behalf of her family and friends who have supported her.

“To be able to give to our community is very important to me, and I feel so lucky that this community has given me so much back,” she said.

Australia Day activities within the Waroona Shire wrapped with a community lunch at the Preston Beach Community Centre in the early afternoon.

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