Australia Day in the park

WITH the Lions Club-cooked breakfast cooked and consumed and the cockatoos wheeling and squawking in the blue sky above, Australia Day proceedings at Cohuna got under way in Garden Park.

Around 100 people had turned out to celebrate the national day, and when U3A singing group Young At Heart fronted the stage for the anthem quite a few of them knew the words.

RECOGNISED. Lions Club of Cohuna Community Service Award winner, Brooke Southern, back centre, with her family, husband Jade and daughters Mackenzie, Mnotanah, Amalie and Scarlett.

RECOGNISED. Lions Club of Cohuna Community Service Award winner, Brooke Southern, back centre, with her family, husband Jade and daughters Mackenzie, Mnotanah, Amalie and Scarlett.

There was one new citizen created at the ceremony. Teal Point beef farmer, Xiaohui He - also known as Mike - took the pledge with his wife and young daughter looking on, while his proud father filmed on a smartphone.

Australia Day ambassador Alma Besserdin, who established a support organisation for professional immigrant women, was introduced with an extensive resume.

Ms Besserdin acknowledged the Yorta Yorta and Barapa Barapa traditional custodians of the area, congratulated the women of the shire for their organisation of Australia Day events, and suggested the town's long-term plastic bag ban might be related to John Farnham's first hit 'Sadie the Cleaning Lady'.

John Farnham had been discovered in Cohuna, she had been reliably informed, and signed his first contract in the town.

At her own citizenship ceremony more than two decades ago, Ms Besserdin had mixed feelings, she said, because her family was still back in war-torn Bosnia.

They are now living safely in Australia, and the former lawyer and advocate of multiculturalism counts herself a citizen of "one of the best countries in the world", which offers "a landscape of diversity and opportunities" despite some ongoing challenges.

Taking up the microphone, the mayor, Cr Lorraine Learmonth, highlighted some of Gannawarra shire's achievements over the past year in program and service provision.

She also gave the next Quambatook silo cinema screening a plug and expressed "great optimism" for the future.

Young Citizen of the Year, Kaila Wilson was recognised for her impressive contribution to the Cohuna Secondary College Student Representative Council and the Cohuna FReeZA group. She thanked all involved in supporting her in her work and those who proposed her for the award.

Lions Club of Cohuna president Anne Graham announced two Lions Club awards.

The Lions award for community service was presented to Brooke Southern, who since 2015 has led the organisation of the Challenge Cohuna Camp for children with cancer and their families.

The final item on the program was the presentation of a new Lions Club honour, The Quiet Achiever Award, which was awarded posthumously to Greg Rodwell. 

Mr Rodwell's accounting acumen, friendship for his clients, love of family, tireless work for the community and passion for tennis were outlined in a speech by Mrs Graham.

His wife, Mary Rodwell came to the stage to accept his award. Mr Rodwell died suddenly a short time after he had been playing tennis in Cohuna's Division 1 grand final team. He and his wife both played in the team, which won the Northern District Lawn Tennis Association premiership at Barham.

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