‘Oneness’ Celebrated on Australia Day

Yellow leaves began falling with light rain during Tumut’s 2021 Australia Day celebrations in Stockwell Gardens this week, painting grey-blue skies over a region which was blanketed in smoke a full 12 months earlier. It was a dramatic shift, noted by virtually all of the day’s speakers. Australia Day Awards were given to key members of last year’s firefight, both on the ground and behind the scenes.

The crowd was generous in size, despite Covid-19 restrictions and caps, and was visibly relaxed in this year’s milder summer weather.

The Snowy Valleys Region Citizen of the Year for 2021 is John Cruise, a member of the local Golf Club, RSL Sub-Branch, the Tumut Rugby League Old Boys & Supporters Club, a veteran, and a supporter of the Camp Hudson Recreational Camp.

“I’m obviously honoured to receive this today,” he said.

“I’d just like to thank whoever nominated me, to my family for putting up with me over the years for not getting those little jobs done at home… and also the guys and girls that we work with on the voluntary basis at the golf club and Camp Hudson and at the RSL Sub-Branch. Everybody’s doing it for nothing… it’s the Australian way. 

“I’m happy to be Australian.”
Other nominees for the award included Dr Tarek Sari, Adrian Cass, David Crooks, Kerry Kelly, Christine Male and Emma Toohey.

Dr Tarek Sari was recognised with the Snowy Valleys Region Service to the Community Award, encouraging mateship and kindness in the community.

“Service to the community never stops,” he said, “What is service to the community? It’s all about mateship. You ask the diggers what were the strong qualities that they had, it was loyalty, it was trust.”

Dr Sari was thanked for his tireless fundraising efforts, helping raise close to $100,000 for the Tumut Hospital over the years of the Snowy Valleys Cycle Classic.

“We had hell on earth 12 months ago, we had this pandemic, 2011 we had the floods, one thing that Tumut brings is resilience and mateship,” he said.

Other nominees for the award included Ted Clarke, Adrian Cass, Kerry Kelly, Malcolm Baker and Dave Eisenhauer.

Auntie Sue Bulger, a Wiradjuri-Walgalu woman and CEO of the Brungle-Tumut Local Aboriginal Council, offered the Welcome to Country and spoke of the official change to Australia’s National Anthem. The single word change was endorsed by the state and federal governments and approved by Governor-General David Hurley, officially taking effect on January 1, 2021. 

The proposal to change the anthem from “we are young and free” to “we are one and free” was the result of a campaign led by Snowy Valleys resident Peter Vickery and an Executive Committee, which included Auntie Sue. She remembered the 2017 Australia Day celebrations in Tumut when she first suggested changing the anthem.

“Here we are, four years later, and something has happened,” she said.

Aunty Sue indirectly addressed conflicting opinions about Australia Day and the history of Australia’s colonisation during her address, focussing on the local community.

“There is much discussion about this day, which is Australia Day to us, it’s Australia Day to lots of people in Australia, it has a different name to other people in Australia,” she said.

“I am happy that I am part of this community and we are working together to advance Australia fair. Let’s hope that we can all work together.”

Around the country, ‘Invasion Day’ protests were scheduled, with debate over whether the date of Australia Day – which marks the landing of the First Fleet in 1788 – should be changed.

Aunty Sue continued to focus on the positives of the local area, and the achievements of the past year.

“We’ve come through hell last year,” she said.

“We are now here celebrating again that we have survived, that we are well and that we are happy and we look forward to a brighter future in our community. Welcome to Wiradjuri country.”

The anthem – with the word change – was sung by the Tumut Valley Voices, with audience members allowed to join in if they wore a mask.

Two new citizens were welcomed at the Tumut ceremony, conferring all the rights and obligations of being an Australian.

Snowy Valleys Mayor James Hayes told Richard Walsh and Duncan Ott that there was no longer any difference between them and any other Australian citizen. Both men pledged their loyalty to Australia, her laws and her people.

Wes Fang MLC was also on hand to present the Australia Day awards, alongside Snowy Valleys Australia Day Ambassador Peter ‘Wilko’ Wilkins.

The award-winning sports broadcaster brought plenty of energy to the podium, sending ripples of laughter through the crowd as he spoke of the resilience he saw in the town.

“Give us a ‘T’!’ he shouted, revving the crowd up,”Give us a ‘U’! Give us an ‘M’! Give us a ‘U’! Give us a ‘T’!

“Just like the beautiful place, and the spelling of Tumut, you’ve been turned upside-down, and you’ve come out the same way again in one year, congratulations to you. Well played! Happy Australia Day!”

Mr Wilkins talked about ‘the real Australia’ and the importance of supporting one another. He urged people to look side to side, telling them, “They’re the people of Australia… you can’t do it alone.”

Reading the current mood in the country, Mr Wilkins said that he typically invites people to share an Australia Day hug, but this year asked the audience to exchange ‘a draining look’.

“Give them a draining look of thanks for the year that you’ve had, and what a year it’s been!” he said.

Mr Wilkins finished his address by encouraging people to continue supporting one another to ‘keep on keeping on’.

The Snowy Valleys Region Australia Day Awards were presented by Mayor Hayes and Mr Wilkins, wrapping up with the cutting of the Australia Day cake.


SNOWY VALLEYS 2021 AUSTRALIA DAY AWARD  CITATIONS 

SPORTSPERSON OF THE YEAR 

JACOB AMBROSE 

Jacob is a dedicated Tumut swimmer who has represented country titles and senior state  titles in the past 12 months. He trains 12 months of the year and travels to Wagga in the  winter months. He trains 10 sessions a week and clocks up around 30km in the pool a week.  

His progress is remarkable, gaining huge PBs in his swims at state, now working towards  national times. He helps with little swimmers in the Tumut Swim Club at training under the  guidance of coach Max Hargreaves and is a great role model for these up-and-coming sportsmen.

SNOWY VALLEYS REGION SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY 

DR TAREK SARI 

Dr Tarek Sari founded the Tumut Cycle Classic. The event raised just under $5000 in 2015  for the Tumut District Hospital, $20,000 in 2017 and $40,000 in 2018 and 2019. This money  has allowed the hospital to invest in many things, including an oxygen saturation machine,  mobility beds, an endoscopy machine and bariatric beds. Following the bushfires, Dr Tarek  worked alongside AusRelief to organise a convoy of goods to bring to the locals who had lost  part or all their homes. Dr Tarek and Dr Osman Darwiche raised $20,000 in the cancelled  2020 Tumut Cycle Classic which went to the hospital and he also handed a $10,000 cheque  to the Tumut RFS from the donated registration money. Dr Tarek showed a dedicated and  forward thinking approach to bringing quality medical services to the local Tumut District  Hospital and opened up avenues for the local town to benefit from the added tourism and  spending that the Tumut Cycle Classic generates. 

SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Steve Matthews 

Steve Mathews took over as coordinator of Adelong BlazeAid early in 2020 from Christine  Male and has served tirelessly since. This is an unpaid position which unfilled would have  halted BlazeAid’s efforts on behalf of Snowy Valleys’ fire affected community. There are  many stories from the fires of great contributions by citizens, however Steve’s extended  tireless efforts stand out. 

SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Geoff Molineaux (receiving award in Adelong) 

Geoff is instrumental in the upkeep of many of our open spaces in Adelong. He is one of the  community volunteers who mows Adelong Falls Walk and he has solely been mowing the  whole area for some time now. This is especially in summer a huge sacrifice of his personal  time and for that we say thank you. 

SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Khancoban Emergency Services & Community Members 

The following Khancoban community members/organisations have been nominated as part  of this application. 

• Bringenbrong/Khancoban Rural Fire Service Volunteer Members led by RFS Captain  Adrian Cass 

• Michelle Watson and Paul Clee of National Parks & Wildlife Service 

• Khancoban Police Officer Michael Cremona 

• Snowy Hydro personnel led by Drew Twigg 

• Community members Sabine Werrett, Cam & Dee Harmer

These members of the community went above and beyond in protecting the residents and  assets of the Khancoban township and surrounding areas. They ensured their own families  had evacuated to a safer area, while they chose to stay and help defend the community we  live and work in. 

SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Ted Clarke 

Ted is unstoppable. For over 25 years his volunteering at Tumut Golf Club is endless and it  is impossible to list all his varied skills and things he does. He is always the first one to put  his hand up to help anyone and he spends endless hours volunteering. He initiated the club’s recycling project and is constantly keeping that wheel spinning with the weekly  removal of items. Ted is constantly putting the club’s and everyone else’s needs before his  own and the club, clubhouse and course, would definitely not function as well without his  volunteering. 

SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Megan Schumer 

During the recent NSW bushfires around Tumbarumba Road, Kunama, Meg risked her own  life to save property, livestock and wildlife. She fought the fires for 3 days and 2 nights. This  involved moving stock from paddock to paddock as the fires advanced. Meg did this with  complete disregard for her own safety. She was able to save horses, cattle, dogs, cats and 3  wild brumbies. Family and friends pleaded with Meg to leave the area and take shelter in  Tumut, but she refused to leave. 

SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Kerry Kelly 

Kerry is one in a million. For the past 40 plus years she has provided exceptional care to the  aged. Her care of the elderly also extended to those in the community and she would always  think of others and in extreme weather, invite the elderly into the facility rather than have  them sit at home and when the fires were impacting surrounding areas, she again invited the  elderly to come and stay so families would know that their loved ones were safe. Her care of  others also extended to her staff. She would always be there to listen or to offer support in  any way. She is an inspiration to many and she has given so much over the years. 

SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Nigel Grant Contracting (receiving in Tumbarumba) 

Massive contribution to bushfire fighting when the community was in need of assistance. The  entire region was under threat. This company responded ASAP. 

SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Rudy Kopecny (receiving in Tumbarumba) 

Rudy Kopecny has been coaching Tumbarumba Swimming Club since 2006. He has also  been on the Swimming Club committee for the past 14 years. In that time, many swimmers achieved qualifying to NSW State level competitions. Rudy also established and coached  Snowy Mountains Judo Club between 2004 and 2016. In that time, several players achieved  placings in State and Australian judo championships. Rudy established the Snowy  Mountains Squab Farm in 1997 and has been successfully running this farm since then as a  family business. 

SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Malcolm Baker 

Every time people drive through Brungle, Malcolm Baker is sitting on a mower, mowing the  sides of the road, especially outside the Brungle Hall. It looks neat and tidy and he never  expects a pat on the back. Malcolm is very community minded and a great volunteer on the  Brungle Bushfire Committee. In the past he served as secretary on this committee for over  20 years. He has also been on the Brungle Hall Committee for the past few years, as vice  president and currently president.  

SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Emma Toohey  

Emma made food and drink packs that could be delivered to the RFS command centre at  the Snowy Valleys Council building. Fire crews were able to collect packs of food from there  before heading out to the fire fronts. After a few days, the operation of putting the packs together was moved to the old council building where Emma coordinated the collection of  donations, organised volunteers and liaised with local businesses who were amazing in their  generosity. Once the emergency period of the fires was over, all the items donated were set  up at the Tumut Boys Club hall and those in need were able to access donated items. An  amazing 5000+ bags of food/drink were put together under Emma’s coordination.  

SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Sounds of the Mountains Radio Station Team 

In the midst of all the bushfire media coverage, the team at Sounds of the Mountains Radio  Station provided continuous and the most up to date local information in the lead up to,  during, and post the January bushfire event and today still continue to support the regional  recovery. The committed team at Sounds of the Mountains delivered services well over and  above those expected of a predominantly volunteer group during this time. The team  provided around the clock communication on key information and updates included  community meeting events, meeting outcomes, evacuation centres, road closures and  unfolding events. It is hard to express the importance and value of their actions at that time  to the Snowy Valleys community. 

SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Talbingo Community (receiving in Talbingo) 

The events and impact of the Dunn’s Road bushfire on the Talbingo community and  surrounds were severe, harsh and long lasting. Within this area, there are many individuals  and groups that worked together and contributed to the defence of Talbingo. Without the  dedication and commitment from the Talbingo community members, in the preparations and  in the defence against the Dunn’s Road fire, our township would not have survived.

SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Christine Male

Christine was the first coordinator of BlazeAid in Adelong. She worked for several months  setting up and establishing what has gone on to being a substantial contribution to the  Snowy Valleys Shire. 

SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Adrian Cass 

Adrian has been a member of the Bringenbrong RFS brigade for over 30 years, the last 10  as captain. He has been the leader of the brigade through the 1993, 2003, 2009 and 2020  fire emergencies. He has coached and mentored new recruits, developed existing members,  campaigned for service improvements and helped the community immensely. Adrian was  president of the Khancoban Tennis Club and it’s successful installation of the current playing  surface. For the last 6 years, Adrian has been a part of the Khancoban Poker Run – a  charity event that has raised tens of thousands of dollars for charity. He is an all-round legend. 

SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Aaron Tuilau, Edward Smith and Arthur Smith (receiving in Tumbarumba) 

Aaron, Edward and Arthur saved a drowning man at the Tumbarumba Pool in December  2019. Aaron found the person at the bottom of the pool before alerting Edward. They swam  down and rescued the person with the help of Arthur, who joined in on the rescue mission  when he saw the boys struggling to bring the person to the surface. The brave actions of  these three boys saved this person’s life, they are to be commended.

SNOWY VALLEYS REGION YOUNG CITIZEN OF THE YEAR 

AARON TUILAU, EDWARD SMITH & ARTHUR SMITH (receiving in  Tumbarumba) 

These boys have been nominated due to their bravery act in saving a drowning man at the  Tumbarumba Swimming Pool in December 2019. The incident occurred during a fun day.  Aaron found the person at the bottom of the pool before alerting Edward. They swam down  to the person and noticed he was unresponsive before coming to the surface of the water  and calling out to the pool manager. They then swam back down to the floor of the pool and  took things into their own hands, with one boy holding onto the person’s head and the other  onto their legs. Their actions got the attention of Arthur, who dived into the pool and helped  Aaron and Edward bring the person to the surface. The three boys displayed smart instinct  and quick thinking and were able to save the person.  

YOUNG CITIZEN OF THE YEAR ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Indiana Everingham 

Indiana gives freely of her time and is the only child to continuously show up to help with the  erection of the Christmas decorations each year. This year Indiana was in charge of putting  all the children’s Christmas baubles on the Christmas trees at the club. She collected the  baubles from her school and with a step ladder in tow, set about tying 100 odd baubles on  the trees with the help of her mum Carly and some other volunteers. Thank you Indi.

SNOWY VALLEYS REGION CITIZEN OF THE YEAR

JOHN CRUISE 

John has been involved with the Camp Hudson Recreational Camp for nearly 40 years and  has been a member of the executive Camp Hudson 355 committee for 10 years. John is a  life member of the Tumut Golf Club, having been a volunteer for over 20 years. He has also  served on the executive committee for nearly 10 years and as the president for 6 years.  John completed his National Service Military Obligations during the Vietnam War period. For  his service he was awarded the Australian Defence Medal and the National Service  Commemorative Medal. He joined the Tumut RSL Sub-Branch in 2017 and was elected to  the committee of the Sub-Branch in 2020. For the last 8 years, John has volunteered his  services to assist the Tumut Rugby League Old Boys and Supporters Club in many ways including working on the gate and in the bar to ensure the committee can continue to  function and support rugby league in Tumut.  

CITIZEN OF THE YEAR ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Dr Tarek Sari 

Dr Tarek Sari founded the Tumut Cycle Classic and since 2015, the event has raised over  $100,000 for upgrades to the Tumut Hospital. Following last summer’s bushfires, Dr Tarek  worked alongside AusRelief to organise a convoy of goods to bring to the locals who had  lost part or all their homes. Dr Tarek and Dr Osman Darwiche raised $20,000 in the  cancelled 2020 Tumut Cycle Classic which went to the hospital and he also handed a  $10,000 cheque to the Tumut RFS from the donated registration money.  

CITIZEN OF THE YEAR ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Adrian Cass 

During his 30 years of service with the Bringenbrong RFS brigade, Adrian has been the  leader of the brigade through four devastating fire emergencies and he has spent the last 10  years as captain of the brigade. His role has involved coaching and mentoring new recruits,  developing existing members and campaigning for service improvements. For the last 6  years, Adrian has been a part of the Khancoban Poker Run – a charity event that has raised  tens of thousands of dollars for charity. He was also president of the Khancoban Tennis Club  and its successful installation of the current playing surface.  

CITIZEN OF THE YEAR ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Christine Male 

Christine was the first coordinator of BlazeAid in Adelong. She worked for several months  setting up and establishing the camp. BlazeAid Adelong have gone on to remove over  300km of fire damaged fencing and completed 210km of new fencing for landholders across  the region. 

CITIZEN OF THE YEAR ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Dave Crooks

Since taking over leadership of the Adelong branch of Elders, Dave has lifted the profile of  the shop from near closure to five employees (at present). Since joining the Wondalga RFS,  Dave has shown outstanding fortitude during the 2019/20 devastating bushfires. When not at  the fire front, Dave was preparing the Elders Shop for what would come after the fires. He  spent every day doing personal deliveries and orders of anything and everything that  farmers needed. He was a personal counsellor to so many and his humble and quiet  demeanour enabled others to communicate with him in regards to their personal struggles  after experiencing such trauma.  

CITIZEN OF THE YEAR ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Emma Toohey

During the bushfires, Emma made food and drink packs that were delivered to the RFS  command centre at the Snowy Valleys Council buildings. Emma then coordinated the  collection of donations, arranged volunteers and worked with local businesses. Later, all the  items donated were moved to the Tumut Boys Club Hall and people were able to access  donated items. Over 5000 bags of food/drink were put together thanks to Emma’s hard work  and organisation. 

CITIZEN OF THE YEAR ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 

Kerry Kelly 

Over the last 40 plus years, Kerry has provided exceptional care to the aged. Her care of  others also extended to her staff. She would always be there to listen or to offer support in  any way. Her care of the elderly also extended to those in the community and she would  always think of others and in extreme weather, invite the elderly into the facility rather than  have them sit at home and when the fires were impacting surrounding areas, she again  invited the elderly to come and stay so families would know that their loved ones were safe.