Tomorrow we celebrate Australia Day and what it means to be Australian.

It is a chance to recognise how fortunate we are to live in Australia. We live in a country where it is possible to find employment, to work hard, to have a family and, to enjoy a lifestyle that is free from war.

In Gunnedah shire, we are doubly blessed to live in a beautiful, peaceful part of the world in a community where people support each other.

Tonight, on Australia Day eve, we will celebrate some of those people. Gunnedah shire’s Australia Day awards honour people and organisations who go above and beyond to contribute to their community.

There will be 13 categories announced at a dinner for the nominees and the community as a whole, with special guests 2024 Australia Day Ambassador, performer and television personality Todd McKenney and Australian poet Murray Hartin.

These awards are an important date on Gunnedah shire’s calendar. Community members and organisations who give their time and skills to make this a better place to live are, and have always been, the heart and soul of our shire. We thank not only this year’s award winners, but all of those who have been nominated, and the many nominees and winners from years past.

Australia Day in Gunnedah will once again be packed with events and activities, from the combined church service and citizenship ceremony, to the Australia Day Cake-Off held by the CWA and the Australia Day Splash at the pool. Come and join in the fun.

We will also soon be seeing kids head back to school, including some young ones who will be sitting in a classroom for the first time.

It can be a learning curve for both kids and parents, and I urge everyone to watch out on the roads as the school year starts and obey the road rules. Please be aware of the school zones and the parking areas, and have patience with those who are navigating the adventures of a new school.

We wish all new and returning students and families all the best for the 2024 school year.

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