National celebration

National celebration

With the weather thankfully cooler than the previous day, with temperatures in Orbost reaching 44.5 degrees Celsius on Friday, Saturday’s Australia Day celebrations enjoyed much more pleasant conditions with a mid-20s day seeing a mix of locals and visitors enjoy breakfast and family fun to celebrate the national day and acknowledge the significant efforts of a well-known and beloved local identity.

With Rotary Club of Orbost member, Don Osborne, as emcee for the morning, the patriotic gathering was welcomed to the formal part of the day’s proceedings by Rotary Club of Orbost vice president, Peter van den Oever, with Orbost RSL’s Dick Roebuck, who served in the Royal Australian Navy for 25 years, raising the national flag.

Marlo resident and shire councillor, Mark Reeves, addressed the crowd with a message from the shire council, thanking the local Rotary club for organizing the day’s celebrations.

“Australia Day is more than a public holiday,” Cr Reeves said.

“It’s a celebration and a day to reflect on who we are and what we value as Australians.

“The character of our community is based on Australian values and culture that have been built up over generations.

“Volunteering, community service and respect for others have taken pride of place. We see this at our most urgent times of need with volunteer firefighters and emergency personnel and at times of great pride with volunteer sporting coaches and more.

“Today is also the day for all of us to reaffirm our commitment to making Australia an even better, stronger and fairer place for the future.”

With more than half the nation’s population attending either an organised community event or getting together with family and friends to celebrate, Cr Reeves said it was “timely to reflect on the achievements of our national and our local community at least once a year”.

“It is very easy to take what we have for granted, and to forget that other countries don’t enjoy the same freedoms and quality of life,” he said.

“Australia is a special country with more than 200 languages spoken and 25 per cent of Australians were born overseas. 2019 is the International Year of Indigenous Languages. In Australia, of the estimated original 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, only around 120 are still spoken. Of these approximately 90 per cent are endangered.”

Cr Reeves said Australia Day is a day for all Australians - whatever their background.

“Our multicultural nation, and our acceptance of diversity, is one of the things that makes Australia truly unique,” he said.

“We are one people living together and blending our beliefs and experiences to learn from one another and grow together.

“We are also proud to be a compassionate society, committed to providing access to employment, housing, health and education. We have a generous society committed to helping others, as those who have endured hard times or experienced problems will attest.

“We share our land with our first indigenous peoples whose rich cultures and resilient spirituality, together with their knowledge, art and history, contribute so much to our social fabric.

“Australia Day is a proud day of celebration in our country. It is observed as a public holiday in all states and territories to give us time to reflect and then to celebrate.”

Cr Reeves’ reflections were followed by the reciting of Banjo Paterson’s Mulga Bill’s Bicycle by local identity, Bev Weir.


With no nominations received for Orbost young citizen of the year or community event of the year, the morning was all for the town’s citizen of the year – a well deserving Tracey Barnett – who was unable to attend the celebrations, her husband, Jim, accepting the award on her behalf.

A very active community member, Ms Barnett certainly has the interests of Orbost and its community members at heart.

“We have recently celebrated a great Christmas Eve Street Festival, and over the Christmas period had our hearts lifted as we have appreciated the marvelous main street decorations, and the decorated Christmas tree at the intersection of Tarra and Nicholson streets,” Mr Osborne said.

“Many community spirited people helped install these decorations, but possibly none of this would have happened without the enthusiasm and leadership of our 2019 citizen of the year. Over the Christmas period our town looked alive, bright and welcoming, something appreciated by locals and visitors alike, thanks to the work of this decorating group and its leader.”

Mr Osborne said Ms Barnett is also a very active member of the Orbost SES unit, “but in recent times has gained our admiration that while pursuing her own ongoing battle with cancer, has maintained her enthusiasm for all things Orbost, and for helping those less fortunate than herself”.

“Our citizen of the year has not let her personal health battles lessen her contribution to the community, but provided her with the initiative, vision and drive to form the Snowy Flamingo Cancer Support Group, which has been most active in 2018, raising thousands of dollars, which have been directed to needs at Orbost Regional Health,” Mr Osborne said.

“I would like to congratulate Tracey on being our citizen of the year – she is a great representative of the fine community spirit that exists in our town and district.”

The Orbost citizen of the year award presentation was followed by the cutting of the Australia Day celebratory cake, which was provided by Friends of Orbost Op Shop, by Mr Barnett, on behalf of his award-winning wife, and Heather Richardson, who is a member of the 26ers club, an exclusive club for those who share their birthdays on Australia Day.

Mr Osborne also congratulated and thanked those who had pulled the town’s Australia Day celebrations together.

“An event such as this does not just happen,” he said.

“I would like to publicly thank Judy Van der Vlugt and her committee for all the work they have done in organising today’s celebration. Special thanks to Rotary members and friends for all the work in making today happen.”

The East Gippsland Shire Australia Day award recipients were presented in Bairnsdale last Tuesday, with Mallacoota’s June Drake announced as the shire’s citizen of the year, Bairnsdale’s Torin Troy young citizen of the year, and Cann River volunteer Appreciation Day the community event of the year.

PICTURED: Tracey Barnett’s passion for the Orbost community and her initiative, vision and drive to form the Snowy Flamingo Cancer Support Group, saw her announced on Australia Day as Orbost’s citizen of the year. Unable to attend the celebrations this year, her husband, Jim Barnett, accepted her award on her behalf.: Jim had the honour of cutting the celebratory cake with Heather Richardson, who, sharing a birthday with the national day, makes her a member of the 26ers club.