Long-term Gunning resident Krystaal Hinds was recognised as Upper Lachlan Shire's 2020 Citizen of the Year on Australia Day for her significant contribution to the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS).
Mrs Hinds has been Captain of Gunning and Fish River Rural Fire Brigade for six years. She is also a Deputy Group Captain in the Southern Tablelands, delivering state-wide training to NSW RFS members on leadership and women in firefighting.
Mrs Hinds has increased female membership in her brigade by 30 per cent and is also a finalist for NSW Regional Woman of the Year.
Upper Lachlan Shire (ULS) mayor John Stafford recognised how hard NSW RFS volunteers, including Mrs Hinds, had worked during Australia's bush fire crisis.
"Our RFS crews have been involved everywhere and Krystaal has been an integral part of that," Cr Stafford said.
"This award couldn't come at a more appropriate time and I want to recognise what our local RFS has been doing as well, supporting places like Taralga."
An overwhelmed Dorothy Brennan was incredibly thankful to be named Crookwell Citizen of the Year.
Ms Brennan was nominated for a lifetime of service with the Country Women's Association Crookwell Evening Branch, Binda Progress Association, Five Mile Tree P&C, Binda Anglican Parish and Crooked Corner Landcare.
Cassandra Sava was named Gunning's Citizen of the Year for her establishment of Dalton District Archers, which she has shared her passion with people of all ages in the community through.
Taralga recognised lifelong resident Judith Chalker as its local Citizen of the Year, for her contribution to the community through Red Cross, Sunset Lodge, Taralga Historical Society and Taralga Golf Club.
For the first time, 11 people were welcomed as new citizens at Gunning. There have never been citizen ceremonies in Gunning on Australia Day, according to Upper Lachlan Shire Council.
Three people were welcomed in Crookwell, including Susan Banfield, originally from the UK; Botanica 'Ivy' Huang, originally from China; and Maria Morato, orginally from the Philippines.
Upper Lachlan Shire Australia Day award winners
- ULS Citizen of the Year - Krystaal Hinds
- ULS Young Citizen of the Year - Elysia Mackay
- ULS Sportsperson of the Year - Emily Chalker
- ULS Young Sportsperson of the Year - Elijah Wilson
- ULS Event of the Year - Taralga 200 - A Taste of Taralga Festival
Crookwell Australia Day award winners
- Crookwell Citizen of the Year - Dorothy Brennan
- Crookwell Event of the Year - Crookwell Potato Festival
Gunning Australia Day award winners
- Gunning Citizen of the Year - Cassandra Sava
- Gunning Event of the Year - Bears of Hope Charity Ball
Taralga Australia Day award winners
- Taralga Citizen of the Year - Judith Chalker
- Taralga Event of the Year - Taralga 200 - A Taste of Taralga Festival
'An honour': 2020 Australia Day Ambassador
Fittingly, this year's Australia Day Ambassador was Australian media presenter Susie Elelman AM, whose parents immigrated from Poland.
Ms Elelman said it was "an honour" to be Upper Lachlan's 2020 Australia Day Ambassador and explained what it meant to her to be an Australian citizen.
"As a city slicker, I always ask to get out of the big smoke and come to what I call, 'Australia's heartland,'" Ms Elelman said.
"While I was lucky enough to be born here, my parents and eldest brother came to Australia as refugees in 1950 from war-torn Europe. Dad was a holocaust survivor.
"While Mum was technically born in Germany, her French mother and Polish father brought a whole set of problems of their own while she was growing up under Hitler's reign, including having her home bombed by the Americans, burying her alive in the cellar and rendering her unconscious for three months."
"They realised they had to get as far away from the horrors they experienced in Europe."
Sadly, Ms Elelman, her parents and siblings experienced racism and bullying during their early days in Australia. Her father's service station was vandalised with swastikas and her mother was laughed at the first time she tried to use English in a supermarket.
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"There was no doubt that life was a struggle to begin with here, but as soon as they could, they became naturalised Australians," Ms Elelman said.
"Living in Australia gave my family the greatest gift of all: freedom.
"Dad used to say, 'Australia, best country on earth mate.'
"Being Australian means you can do anything and achieve anything and we have so many international success stories in all walks of life to make us proud to say they're Aussies too."
Mayor Stafford thanked Ms Elelman for coming to the Upper Lachlan.
"Susie really is the absolute Australia Day enthusiast and beyond that, she's just a wonderful person and we really appreciate her being here today," Cr Stafford said.
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