General practitioner Joe Romeo was a popular choice for the Narrandera Shire Council’s 2019 Citizen of the Year.
Dr Romeo was selected from a list of seven worthy recipients and presented with his award by Mayor Neville Kschenka at the Australia Day ceremony on January 26 at the Marie Bashir Park.
He was recognised for his contribution to the local community and dedication for attracting skilled medical practitioners to rural and regional areas.
Other Citizen of the Year finalists were Nicholas Jensen (posthumous), Neville Bamblett, Nella Smith, Betty Bradney, Warwick Heckendorf and Judith Findlay. Senior Citizen of the Year was Josie Middleton, Young Citizen of the Year awarded to Renae Galvin and Bidgee Boxing was announced as the Organisation of the Year.
Australia Day ambassador and fashion designer Charlie Brown was unable to attend the ceremony due to unforseen illness.
More than 200 people gathered to feast on a hearty breakfast provided by the Lions Club of Narrandera members. Vocalist Renae Galvin, backed by the Narrandera community choir, opened the program with a rendition of “I am Australian’’.
Cousins Jack and Alice Langley acted as joint master of ceremonies for the event while Australian Air League cadets William McLellan, 15, and William Beard, 11, were given the task of raising the national flag.
The finalists in Organisation of the Year were Narrandera Golf Club volunteers, Narrandera-Leeton Community Transport drivers, Bidgee Boxing and the Barellan Aged Care Support Group.
The not-for-profit Bidgee Boxing aims to engage with members and community in respectful and inclusive manner, to empower them to cultivate a safe and healthy community, resonating through the shire.
The contributions and hard work of dedicated committee members have constantly influenced the betterment of Narrandera Shire.
President Neville Bamblett paid tribute to committee members, coach, personal trainer and volunteers for the success of the organisation.
“I still remember the first day I went and saw Councillor Tracey Lewis with the idea,’’ he said. “It went from sitting down talking to driving around looking for a location – I had to try and hide the excitement of us going into the old squash courts.
“We set our first meeting up at Narrandera Ex-servicemen’s Club with over 30 people from all walks of life.
“They were there for all the same reason – to look after our youth and communities. We walked away with 15 committee members plus volunteers. The support we are getting from our communities is overwhelming and humbling. The people you get to meet on all different levels is something spectacular. The friendship we have is loving and caring and we support each other.’’
Mr Bamblett said all profits went back into Bidgee Boxing’s upkeep and the community. He said Narrandera Imperial Football Club, Kurrajong, Narrandera Lizards Rugby League Club, Karate club and Narrandera High School all use Bidgee Boxing’s facilities.
“Our goal was to get 52 paying members and to date we have 65 and still growing,’’ he said. “We fundraise at the John O’Brien Festival, Rockin’ on East, farmers markets and Narrandera Rod Run.
“On a weekly basis we have our own personal trainer, running boxing training and fitness, boxercise, youth boxing/fitness, low impact (seniors class), hip hop and soon to be spin classes.
“We pride ourselves on being an inclusive gym catering for all ages and people.’’
2019 Young Citizen of the Year Renae Galvin has used her talents over many years to benefit the Narrandera community. She has taken part in numerous charity events and a lead singer at Anzac Day ceremonies, Remembrance Day, Carols in the Park, and the Narrandera Christmas Fun Fair.
Last October, Renae orchestrated and ran her own charity concert with all funds raised donated to Can Assist. This year, she has established her own business, Renae Galvin Music, catering for weddings, dinners, fundraisers and corporate events. The finalists for the Senior Citizen of the Year were Judith Findlay, Barellan, Maureen Dodds, Beverley Absolom, Bruce Gawne, Shirley Fennessy, Josie Middle-ton and John Ryan.
Award recipient Josie Middleton has been a member of Royal Life Saving Society of NSW, encouraging many students to gain life saving certificates and medals from basic safety to instructor level.
Josie organised learn to swim classes at Lake Talbot pool where she organises swim teachers, classes and children. Her effectiveness and influence on swimming and water safety in Narrandera shire has benefited the lives of a huge number of people in the local area.
Josie has previously co-ordinated Meals on Wheels, served as a Narrandera Pre-School committee member, a member of Red Cross, St Mel’s Parish choir, Narrandera Local Arts and Crafts and a steward of the Narrandera Show Society.
Naturalised on the day as Australian citizens were Dr Babatunde Ayodeji Kuku and his three-year-old son Tifeoulwe, Yuxiang Pettigrew, May Bautista and Christopher Cerdena.
Mayor Neville Kschenka gave the citizenship pledge and presented them with certificates.
“Every one every story – Australia Day is a special day to all of us,’’ Cr Kschenka said. “On Australia Day we celebrate all that we love about Australia – the land, sense of a fair go, democracy, the freedoms we enjoy but particularly our people.
“Acquiring Australian citizenship is a public declaration of your commitment to Australia. As Australians you will be members of a community which is democratic and in which everyone has equal rights and freedom of opportunity.’’
The event, organised by Narrandera Shire Council’s Australia Day 2019 planning committee, wrapped up with a thong throwing contest, with Neville Bamblett a clear winner, and activities at the Lake Talbot pool.
At Barellan, residents and visitors enjoyed a barbecue lunch at the pool, flag raising ceremony, poetry, stories, damper judging and entertainment by the Riverina Men’s choir. At Grong Grong there was morning flag raising ceremony and breakfast in the Grong Grong park.