Hundreds of people gathered at the Camden Civic Centre this morning to congratulate the Australia Day Award winners and welcome Australia’s newest citizens.
Camden mayor Lara Symkowiak welcomed all guests to the civic ceremony.
“Australia day is a very significant day in Australian history,” she said.
“As Australians we are well known for being friendly, fun-loving and good-humoured – and we embrace a strong sense of community and pride.”
The Camden Citizen of the year was Camden community stalwart and former Camden councillor, David Funnell.
You couldn’t a Camden resident more proud to be named the citizen of the year than David Funnell.
The Ellis Lane resident has been a stalwart of the Camden community for all of his almost 73 years.
Serving as a Camden councillor in the late 70s and again from 2004-2012, Mr Funnell has also dedicated countless hours to inspiring Camden’s youth and looking after the town’s heritage items.
He was shocked when he found out he’d taken Camden’s top honour.
“It’s absolutely fabulous,” he said.
“Just getting nominated was reward enough, but to win it was really, really good. I definitely couldn’t have ever expected it.”
Mr Funnell, who retired from work with his electrical company more than three years ago, has particularly loved spending time working on the Camden Town Farm, the Camden Bicentennial Equestrian Park and the Camden Men’s Shed.
He said the best part of the community work was leaving a mark for the future.
“Looking back over your shoulder and seeing what you’ve achieved and left behind for the future generations is why I do it,” he said.
“Just leaving the place a little better than when you found it.”
His love for Camden is second to none.
“I was born here,” he said.
“I’ve been overseas plenty of times but to come back to Camden, it’s just paradise.
“It’s the country atmosphere – when you go into Sydney you really appreciate Camden.”
The Young Citizen of the Year was Lubna Sherieff.
Ms Sherieff said she was surprised to be named as the winner of the award.
“When I found out I was nominated, I just thought ‘oh my goodness’,” she said.
“It’s an amazing feeling to win – it really is a great honour.”
Ms Sherieff grew up in Camden and currently lives in Mount Annan.
The 19-year-old is well-known in the Camden community as a youth volunteer and an active member of the Camden Youth Council.
“I really like volunteering at Camden Council events like Camden Shorts or the Kids Day,” she said.
“In terms of everyday things, I really like just driving around.
“It sounds weird but with going to uni and having a life in the city it’s nice to come back to Camden and appreciate how beautiful this community is – not just the people but the landscape as well.”
The Community Group of the Year winners were Camden Lioness Club and Everyone Can Dance Charity.
The Community Event of the Year was the Macarthur Lions Australia Day Parade.
Camden’s Young Sportspeople of the Year were netball siblings, Amy and Natalie Sligar.
The Sportsperson of the Year was talented kayaker Maddison Lewis.
There were 37 Camden residents who became new citizens today from 12 countries including Egypt, India, England, Ireland, Canada, Fiji, United States of America and Scotland.
Cr Symkowiak commended the new citizens who have chosen to call Australia home.
“On behalf of the Camden community I hope you have a great Australia Day,” she said.
The 2017 Citizen of the Year and Young Citizen of the Year, Robynne Meek and Johann Marais, addressed the crowd.
“It has been a great honour and a privilege to be a part of the community,” Mr Marais said.
“Robynne and I are proud to welcome everyone with open arms into our community.”
Camden MP Chris Patterson said austrlai was a great place to live.
“We are a lucky country, we shouldn’t just remember that on Australia day,” he said.
“[Multiculturalism] is what makes our country so unique and special.
“Those of us who were born in Australia know how special Australia is - and those of you who are becoming citizens appreciate that as well so we should be very proud of that.
“Have a wonderful Australia Day.”