Gunnedah’s Australia Day award ceremony last Thursday night celebrated the citizens who have made an impact in the shire.

Chair of Australia Day Working Group, Juliana McArthur saw the event as a success.

“We had a fantastic night of celebrations [on Thursday night],” she said. “We were privileged to have Todd McKenney and Murray Hartin join us to celebrate the best in our community, our volunteers and our sporting heroes.

“We are culturally diverse, we have a long history, we have got a lot to celebrate in our community and we are stronger together.”

A highlight of the evening was Gunnedah’s Australia Day ambassador Todd McKenney singing I Still Call Australia Home with children from the Gunnedah Conservatorium choir.

“I think that is what Australia Day is about, bringing the whole community together,” Todd said. “For me personally, inspiring young kids to have an experience of singing on stage with somebody from the ‘big smoke’, if you like.

“I can imagine how exciting that is for them and, for me, as a young kid growing up I would have jumped at the opportunity to do that.

“It was nice seeing [the children] be a little bit nervous and being incredibly excited at the end of the song. I was just watching their faces as they were singing and it made me feel great as well.”

He mentioned that he was no stranger to Gunnedah and had friends from the area, so when he was asked to be the town’s Australia Day ambassador, he was thrilled.

“It is great to get out of the city and really get the feel of what the regional communities care about and how proud they are of their volunteers,” he said.

“[The] Citizen of the Year Awards was a really heartfilled evening of fun and I got a good sense of community and how important volunteers are in this area [along with] how volunteers really are the backbone of any society.

Cr Rob Hooke, Cr Jamie Chaffey and Gunnedah’s Australia Day ambassador Todd McKenney.

“I was there amongst 250 of them [on Thursday night], I felt very welcomed, it was very relaxed and I was really honoured and moved to be here.”

Gunnedah was also treated to Australian poet Murray Hartin who shared his art with the audience.

He opened with the poem Spirit which examined Australia from different angles.

“One [of the poems I performed is] called Rain From Nowhere which is about a farmer doing it tough in the drought and he gets the letter from his dad,” Murray said.

“We had a lot of fun, Todd was fantastic, he got up right in the middle of the crowd and did Tenterfield Saddler and I just love that song. I think it is one of the greatest Australian songs ever written.

“[It] was a fantastic night, as Todd mentioned, the kids were sensational, all the citizens that got awards [were great], even the ones that did not.

“I think you get out in the bush and everyone gets together, there is a wonderful community spirit and that was shown in the town hall [on Thursday] night.”

He mentioned he enjoyed hearing about Hugo Holmes’ story, who had won the Junior Sports Person of the Year.

Murray is also well aware of the area and readers may even recognise him outside of his poetry.

“I wrote a camp oven cookbook with Pete and Jack Lorimer and we had a lot of fun with that and I used to play rugby with the Tamworth Pirates,” he said

“I have got a lot of friends in the Gunnedah area so it has been fantastic to be here. [It was] a wonderful invitation to get me involved and I have just really enjoyed it.”

To order photos from this page click here