Nambucca Valley Council award ceremony

It was not your usual Australia Day welcome address by the mayor, as Rhonda Hoban acknowledged first the devastation that had been suffered in recent months.

"What we've seen is the worst in the history of our shire," Rhonda said.

"Recovery from this will be slow and those who have been affected will need your help for many months to come.

"But let's not forget the positives: we have a lot of our firies here and it is thanks to them that so much was saved. Many of us realise how lucky we are."

The mayor said while the awards honoured some members of our community, there were hundreds who had helped in some way in the days and weeks after the fires.

"Everyone of you deserves our acknowledgement and thanks".

She concluded saying the recent rain had quickly brought a green tinge to the valley: "There are signs of hope - let's keep that going."

WATCH: Raylene Ballangarry welcomes everyone to Gumbaynggirr Country

New Australian citizens Panita Burbridge, Gingkan Gooch and Virginia Littlejohn said their oaths and were welcomed with certificates and a small gift by the mayor.

Thai-born Panita said she was very proud to have taken Australian citizenship: "I have always felt welcomed here and now I can have my say as well."

Australia Day Ambassador Jay Allen spoke of his journey as a melanoma survivor, including the hundreds of thousands of dollars his epic walks had raised in recent years ... all to help fund research of this silent killer.

HEAR: him tell his story

Good neighbours Graham Keys, Joe Kyle, Glen Olsen, Bernice Perrin, Kara Welch, Karen Reinten and Chris Mulvihill were thanked.

And Zeny Paraiso-Ward, Leanne Welsh, Craig Englert and Stephen Goodwin were all acknowledged for their services to the community.

Community organisations Valla Beach Community Association, Mary Boulton's Pioneer Cottage and Museum and St Jimmy's Anglican Church also received accolades.

Special awards went to Taylor Adair and, very importantly, to all the fire brigades around the shire - Rural Fire Service and NSW Fire and Rescue.

ROAD TO RECOVERY: Darryl Aldridge (Macksville) and Irene Pachos (Nambucca Heads) with Lee McQueen

ROAD TO RECOVERY: Darryl Aldridge (Macksville) and Irene Pachos (Nambucca Heads) with Lee McQueen

A highlight was seeing firies Irene Pachos and Darryl Aldridge on stage to receive awards, having both been injured when a tree fell on their fire truck in November

Junior Sportswoman Arrin Stirrat-Black and Senior Sports Team, the Nambucca Striker's accepted their awards with Blake Howle gracing the stage with his double award act of Junior Sportsman and Young Citizen of the Year.

Mark and Scott Best accepted the posthumous Senior Citizen award for their father Mel Best and said they were stunned and deeply touched by the accolades for their father.

And finally it was Matt Roberts' turn - our Citizen of the Year ... who shyly stepped into the limelight to accept his award.

The ceremony, which was held at the Macksville Ex-Services Club, was rounded off with the cutting of the giant green and gold cake by Matt and Ambassador Jay Allen.

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