By Alana Mitchelson and Victoria Stone-Meadows
The many and varied people that make up Cardinia shire’s multicultural society came together on Australia Day for a day of celebration and national pride.
Events took place across the shire with the largest crowds swarming to the Cardinia Cultural Centre in Pakenham for the 2017 Cardinia Shire Australia Day awards presentation and citizenship ceremony.
Longest serving chairperson of the Victorian Multicultural Commission and Australia Day Ambassador to Pakenham George Lekakis AO addressed the crowd before the awards were announced.
Wayne Collins was named this year’s Cardinia Citizen of the Year.
Mr Collins, who founded the Emerald Centre for Youth and Outreach (ECHO) more than 30 years ago, has dedicated himself to improving the lives of others through developing youth programs, effective disaster relief support services and programs that are designed to strengthen family life.
Mr Collins volunteers seven days a week and is a regular speaker at emergency planning and resilience forums.
Cardinia Relay for Life took out the Community Event of the Year award for its continued support, engagement, and funding.
Since 2013, the events have raised more than $315,000 towards Cancer Council research, prevention and support services which benefits cancer patients across the state including the 300 plus Cardinia shire residents who are diagnosed with cancer each year.
Michael Allery was named Senior Citizen of the Year while the Young Citizen of the Year award recognised 16-year-old Emily Bloxidge.
Cardinia shire Mayor Brett Owen delivered a passionate and tearful speech about his family’s history in coming to Australia and finding a life that has bought him great pride and happiness.
He congratulated the winners and nominees, thanking them for their many contributions and ongoing commitment to Cardinia communities.
“We live in the lucky country, and indeed this is true for Cardinia shire.
“It takes people of all ages and backgrounds to bring the diverse wealth of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm that makes our community such a welcoming and wonderful place to live and work,” Cr Owen said.
“Certainly, our Australia Day award nominees have all made invaluable contributions to our community.
“The Australia Day awards each year are just one way we can all gather to recognise their efforts and thank them for their commitment.”
The winners were presented with their awards at the free Australia Day ceremony and citizenship event at the Cardinia Cultural Centre.
Cr Owen also welcomed 97 new Australian citizens living in Cardinia shire.