Huge loss inspired giving attitude
THE past year in Ballina Shire was a reminder that, for all the good about Australia, it's a country that has "its perils".
That was the word from the mayor, Cr David Wright, at the Ballina Shire Australia Day ceremony, referring to the recent shark activity off the Ballina coast.
Ballina Shire's Citizen of the Year, Lennox Head's Dawn Sword, needs no reminder of the dangers we face in Australia.
She and husband Bob lost everything in the Canberra bushfires of January, 2003, and their neighbour died.
"We really should have died," she said.
It's a well-used phrase that the worst circumstances can bring out the best in people. Mr and Mrs Sword know that for sure.
The couple received support from their local community, and from strangers around the country, as they started to rebuild.
They made the decision to move to the North Coast after their loss, but the memory of what others did for them came with them.
Mrs Sword said the couple's experience "made me think there is a lot that I can do."
Mrs Sword joined the Ballina East Lions Club, Meals on Wheels and the Lennox Head View Club, volunteering much of her time to help others.
"It's a joy to do it," she said.
"There are huge rewards for yourself as well."
After being named Citizen of the Year in front of the 550 people who attended the formal ceremony, she said she was "speechless".
"I am truly proud to be a Ballina Shire citizen.
"What an honour. I am so thankful - and humbled - about this."
She thanked the support of her husband, Bob, who is also is a member of the East Ballina Lions Club.
Meanwhile, former Australian Test cricketer and AFL/VFL player, Max "Tangles" Walker, spoke about the inspiration that others, like Mrs Sword and the rest of the Australia Day award recipients, can provide.
He talked about Cathy Freeman's 200m win at the Sydney Olympics, listening to Test cricket as a young fellow via a crystal set and being given a drafting T-square his dad Big Max had made (Max Walker went on to be an architect).
He retold the words of his Dad: "Aim for Mt Everest - even if you don't get there, the view on the way up is pretty good".
Maxie Walker cricket story
The former fast bowler didn't let the opportunity pass to tell a cricket story.
It's was about him and his dad playing in a Sunday afternoon match in Tassie on a concrete pitch surround by very, very long grass.
Max was already in at No 10 and Big Max came in at No 11, with the dismissed batsman breaking the club's only bat.
Without a bat, Big Max swaggered out to the crease with a picket he pulled off the fence.
There was one ball left, one wicket left and 17 runs to get.
So the story goes, Big Max belted that final ball, and he and his son ran and ran, and ran.
The fielders were left searching the long grass for the ball. The two Maxes kept running. The number of fielders searching for the ball increased.
The Maxes ran six, seven, eight.... and managed to get the 17 runs required off the last ball.
The fielders were left scratching their heads as to the whereabouts of the cricket ball.
It was stuck to a nail that had been in the picket Big Max used as a bat.
"True story," Max said, "with some embellishments".
Senior Citizen of the Year: Harold "Bernie" Scanlan
Young Citizen of the Year: Jasmine Crethar
Volunteer of the Year: Garry Meredith
Community Event of the Year: Alstonville Sesquicentenary celebrations
Arts Cultural award: Jamaika Smith
Sports Award: Riki Wood and Marc Bagatan