By Jessica Anstice
Hundreds of Kooweerup residents celebrated Australia Day the old-fashioned way: a breakfast barbecue, surrounded by friends, family and community.
The flag was raised, traditional custodians of the land were recognised and community standouts were applauded at Kooweerup Community Centre on Sunday 26 January.
The Kooweerup Australia Day ambassador was Holocaust Survivor Richard Rozen OAM, who shared his chilling story about his childhood experience in the Holocaust.
MC Peter Bottomley recognised Mr Rozen’s speech as one of the most intriguing and eye-opening the Kooweerup Australia Day event has hosted.
“Kooweerup is privileged to have Mr Rozen as our Australia Day ambassador,” Mr Bottomley said.
Moving forward, Kooweerup’s unsung heroes Jocelyn Pohl and Grahame Cameron were awarded the prestigious community awards.
Ms Pohl is best known for restarting the Country Women’s Association in Kooweerup in mid 2015. Since, she has been the driving force behind the club.
“I found out I was nominated for the award when I was with my family in New Zealand and I didn’t actually want to take it because I volunteer for the fact of the community, not necessarily to get a reward,” she said.
“I was surprised that I had been nominated but it is a very humbling experience as a Kiwi citizen.
“It’s actually pretty funny because I thought the Australian’s won’t accept me as a citizen but yet here I am on Australia Day accepting one of their awards,” she laughed.
“But I suppose again that comes down to the point that just because of some nationality stipulating who you are doesn’t mean you can’t be part of a community.”
Putting her hand up to anything that anyone needs assistance with in Kooweerup, Ms Pohl has also worked very closely with the Ladies Auxiliary, is part of the Cardinia Leadership Program and has helped out on the African Farm.
“I’ve volunteers all my life – my parents really instilled in us that the most important thing to have is a kind heart so we did a lot of volunteer work as children,” she added.
“I find it a nice reward to feel fulfilled afterwards.”
A family man at heart, Mr Cameron’s award came as a big surprise to him.
Mr Cameron attended the ceremony to support his award recipient granddaughter – little did he know she wasn’t the only family member to receive an award.
“I was totally surprised! I just do what I do because I love doing it and expect nothing else,” he said.
“I’m no different to anyone else but I feel proud that someone has recognised what I do.”
Since moving to Kooweerup in 1981, Mr Cameron has volunteered in many ways. Every Wednesday for the past 10 years he has volunteered at the local aged care facility.
“I’ve always volunteered. I’m just a part of the community,” he said.
“It’s great to get this recognition but it’s not necessary. I feel honoured that I have it though.”
Primary and secondary school students were acknowledged for their achievements throughout 2019 in the community.
“Australia Day is a time to acknowledge the untold numbers of volunteers who add to the quality of life that we’re privileged to enjoy,” Mr Bottomley said.
Many in the crowd waved their Australian flags as they cheered on the community award recipients.Primary school student recipients were: Oscar Fisher, Charlotte Cameron, Tiger Murray, Cooper Glover, Erica Condron, Hannah Grange, Patrick Noble and Emily Harris.
Kooweerup Secondary College students Madisson Brzezowski, Lexey Klaster, Edward Harrison and Samantha Turner were also celebrated.
“Australia is often called the lucky country and it’s easy to see why,” Cardinia Shire Council Deputy Mayor Graeme Moore said in his speech.
“We enjoy beautiful and natural landscapes as part of vibrant, connected community and Kooweerup is a connected community.