Australia Day in Port Stephens will be low-key but community parties will kick on

LEADER: Di Ball receiving a NSW Parliament certificate of commendation in 2018. Ms Ball is the Port's 2021 Australia Day ambassador.
LEADER: Di Ball receiving a NSW Parliament certificate of commendation in 2018. Ms Ball is the Port's 2021 Australia Day ambassador.

Karuah Aboriginal Land Council chief executive officer and Order of Australia Medal recipient Dianne Ball has been announced as the Port Stephens Australia Day Ambassador for 2021.

The community leader, who is also a co-founder and executive director of the Indigenous support service Wahroonga Aboriginal Corporation, will assist Port Stephens Council in the formal Australia Day celebrations that are still going ahead with some changes on Tuesday, January 26.

"Di Ball is a well-known and respected member of our community who has recently been recognised for her service to the Indigenous community of the Hunter," Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer said.

"She's an active member of our community who is always dedicating her time to helping others in whatever she does, whether that's through the Wahroonga Aboriginal Corporation, Awabakal, or as a founding member of the Raymond Terrace Driver Training Program."

In line with the 2021 Australia Day theme, Reflect. Respect. Celebrate., the council is encouraging people to reflect on the Worimi's (the traditional owners of the land in Port Stephens) contribution to the community and acknowledge frontline workers who have "put their lives and health on the line to help keep our community safe during the COVID-19 pandemic".

Australia Day will look different in Port Stephens in 2021.

The typically well attended community events that traditionally take place in waterfront parks in Raymond Terrace, Nelson Bay and Lemon Tree Passage will not go ahead as usual due to COVID-19 health concerns and restrictions.

Instead, Port Stephens Council will host a series of free community events at the Lakeside, Tomaree and Tilligerry aquatic centres.

Karuah's celebrations will be hosted as usual by the RSL club.

As the weather on Australia Day is typically hot - at the time the Examiner went to print the forecast for January 26 was a top of 30 degrees - the council will instead host a series of COVID-Safe "pool parties".

Entry into the Port's three pools will be free. There will be a barbecue, live performances and pool games at each. Additionally, Tomaree Aquatic Centre will host a movie night.

The Australia Day festivities at Nelson Bay's pool will be open 9am to 9pm with the games and activities running 10am to 5pm.

The pool in Mallabula will be open 9am to 1pm with activities from 10am to noon. Raymond Terrace pool will be open and activities running 10am to 4pm.

Karuah RSL club will host a community event from 11am to 3pm which will include a a fresh produce competition and auction with proceeds going to the town's RFS brigade.

The citizenship ceremony and announcement of the Port Stephens Annual Awards winners, which are typically held in Raymond Terrace and Nelson Bay, will this year be staged as an invitation only event at Medowie Social.

Port Stephens Council said the newly opened Medowie venue provided the "perfect backdrop" for the ceremony as it is a "central location for all of our invitees".

The civic ceremony will also be live streamed to Port Stephens Council's Facebook page for the wider community to watch.

Cr Giacomo Arnott presenting a Port Stephens Annual Award nominee with a certificate at the January 2020 Australia Day event in Raymond Terrace.

Cr Giacomo Arnott presenting a Port Stephens Annual Award nominee with a certificate at the January 2020 Australia Day event in Raymond Terrace.

Port Stephens west ward councillor Giacomo Arnott was critical of the council, however, for moving the civic ceremonies to Medowie.

"Raymond Terrace and Nelson Bay have strong histories in hosting civic ceremonies on Australia Day," he said.

"This council's failure to honour this tradition under the cover of COVID, when there's tens of thousands of visitors and tourists in Nelson Bay right now, is a stain on this council's legacy."

Cr Arnott encouraged the community to "find their own ways to make Australia Day special this year".

"Celebrate our new citizens, congratulate our award winners and take time to reflect on the traditional owners of our land in Port Stephens and the dispossession of their land that started on January 26."

COVID-Safe community events planned for Tuesday, January 26:

  • Tomaree Aquatic Centre, Salamander Bay: open from 9am to 9pm, activities from 10am to 5pm
  • Tilligerry Aquatic Centre, Mallabula: open from 9am to 1pm, activities from 10am to 12pm
  • Lakeside Leisure Centre, Raymond Terrace: open from 10am to 4pm, activities from 10am to 4pm
  • Karuah RSL: activities from 11am to 3pm

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