There was an air of celebration and gratitude at the 2020 Campbelltown Australia Day civic ceremony.
Held at Ingleburn's Greg Percival Community Centre this morning, the event honoured some of the region's most selfless, dedicated and community-minded people while also celebrated the diversity that is so cherished in Macarthur.
The sounds of the Ingleburn Pipes and Drums band kicked off the ceremony, while attendees donned Australian flags and enjoyed their respite from the growing heat outside.
Campbelltown mayor George Brticevic opened the addresses by recognising the long and valued contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the community, which is part of the Dharawal Nation.
"Australia Day means different things to different people," he said.
"But we are all Australian and I am proud to be here today."
Cr Brticevic said Australia Day was a "sensitive time" for the Aboriginal people and he shared his pride at Campbelltown Council's work to become an organisation with greater Indigenous inclusion.
He thanked outgoing citizen of the year Ricardo Lonza for his unending community work in Campbelltown and Macarthur.
"Ricardo travelled to Lake Conjola on his own time, money and leave to help search for wildlife after the bushfires," Cr Brticevic said.
"We are so fortunate in Campbelltown not to have experienced the bushfires, but they definitely affected our neighbours in Wollondilly and Wingecarribee shires."
Campbelltown's Australia Day ambassador Sonia Gandhi also began her address with a heartfelt thanks to the members of Australia's firefighting community for all of their hard work and bravery in recent months.
She shared her own story of finding her place in Australia after arriving to study at university in 1998.
Ms Gandhi developed a passion for volunteering and was thoroughly impressed by the way Australian volunteering systems were set up.
She also appreciated the Australian "dignity of labour", where doctors and lawyers are treated no differently than retail attendants - something that was not so apparent in her native India, where an "ingrained class system" and celebration of "social climbing" exists.
The entrepreneur spoke of the valuable lessons she learned when buying her first business, and the importance of due diligence.
After attending her first Anzac Day dawn service, Ms Gandhi felt she finally fully embraced the Australian lifestyle.
"I became committed to storytelling," she said.
She said storytelling was the best way to learn about one another's cultures and values and come together as one.
After her speech Ms Gandhi joined Cr Brticevic to recognise a host of Campbelltown residents honoured in this year's Australia Day awards.
Emma Macfarlane was named citizen of the year, and said she was so humbled to receive the honour.
"Australia Day really highlights to me the diversity we have not just in Campbelltown but as a nation," she said.
"It's also heartwarming to hear the stories of contribution that come out on and around Australia Day."
Her fellow citizen of the year nominees were Noel Drayton, Brian Laul, Shekhar Mahajan, Sonya Moulang, Robyn O'Hare, Elwyn Spencer, Marsheal Walker and Brian Willott.
Riley Tonna was named young citizen of the year for his work in sciences and researching the Campbelltown koala population. He was awarded a Victor Chang School Science Award and is working on strategies to protect Macarthur's koalas.
His fellow young citizen nominee was public speaker Sweta Narayan.
Sportsperson of the year went to Special Olympics Macarthur track and field athlete Kurtis Becker. Fellow Special Olympics Macarthur representative Brooke McGrath was also nominated.
The Zonta Club of Macarthur was honoured for community group initiative of the year, narrowly edging out Macarthur Storm Chasers and Community Helping Campbelltown Pound Cats.
The Macarthur Hoarding Disorder Resource Network became the inaugural winner of the new disability community contribution of the year category, nominated alongside Dane Peters and Special Olympics Macarthur.
Flora Vidamour took out the other new category, named 2020 environmental citizen of the year for her work with Bushcare. Roslyn Brennan and Tracey McGuire were the other nominees in the new category.
"Congratulations to all our winners whose efforts in our community help to inspire and lift up others around them," Cr Brticevic said.
"Our Australia Day Award winners are great examples of the wonderful sense of community that exists within Campbelltown.
"We had many great and worthy nominations for this year's Australia Day Awards which ensured the choice of winner was a difficult one."
It has been Australia's lost summer. Drought, hail, floods and, worst of all, bushfires have ravaged communities all over the nation. But the selfless actions of friends, family, neighbours, strangers, local groups and volunteer organisations have inspired us and strengthened the bonds of community. Please join us in saying thanks to the heroes of the home front by sharing your stories of gratitude. To salute a person or a group, please use the form below.