Mayor Simon Richardson, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I would also like to acknowledge the original Custodians of this land.

Thank you to the Council’s Australia Day committee who has given me the opportunity to speak to you today. I have been asked to give a short address about “What Australia Day means to me”. In a word it would be the “Volunteers.

My story begins as a born and bred Byron Shire local. I was born at Bangalow, lived at Myocum & Tyagarah (the site of the Blues Festival was my grandfather’s property where I spent 20 years of my life) and Brunswick Heads. Suffolk Park is now my local community.

… but firstly,

Australia Day is the official national day of Australia. It is celebrated annually on the 26 January and marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove. The day has become an annual reminder of how fortunate we are to live in this multi-cultural, tolerant and open society.

It was not until 1935 that all Australian states and territories had adopted use of the term “Australia Day” and not until 1994 that the date was marked by an official public holiday. (That’s only 20 years ago). Australia Day is an opportunity to come together, to celebrate what it means to be an Australian.

In present-day Australia, the holiday is marked by the presentation of Australian of the Year Awards, announcement of the Australia Day Honor’s list and addresses from the Governor-General and Prime Minister. It has become the biggest annual CIVIC event in Australia.

The day is celebrated in large and small communities and cities around the nation with community festivals, concerts, citizenship ceremonies and official award presentations.

In 2004 I was honored to be recognized at these Australia Day awards as Byron Shire Citizen of the Year for dedicating 22 voluntary years service to the Byron Bay Rural Fire Brigade and Apex.

I would like to acknowledge and congratulate those of you who are about to receive an award today. Congratulations are also extended to our new citizens.

Australia Day would not be what it is today without the thousands and thousands of volunteers who give up their time to help on this day. As a local volunteer, I have spent the past fourteen years with the Byron Bay Rural Fire Brigade hosting Australia Day for our community of Suffolk Park.

I believe, it is the volunteers of this nation who have helped shape this day into the great event it has become across the country.

Australia Day means different things to different people. To me it means recognising a community that works together for a common cause – my focus is the community of Suffolk Park.

I am now going to give acknowledgement of how Suffolk Park has grown as a community over the years to a point of now having its own identity. It is also fitting to give praise to its Australia Day celebrations.

The township was named after George Suffolk who dedicated a large parcel of land to the Byron Shire Council for recreational community use in 1922, hence, the name Suffolk Park. A plaque in recognition of George Suffolk has been placed in the grounds of the Suffolk Park Caravan Park. (Actually, I placed the large rock in the park on which this plaque is attached).

The late Mrs Ailsa Gaggin worked tirelessly as a volunteer for the Suffolk Park community over many years. She always expressed her wish to see the ‘coming together’ of the community. ‘Gaggin Park’ is named after Ailsa and Ron Gaggin. Ron (also a volunteer) was the 2nd Captain of the Brigade. Our Australia Day celebrations have always been held in Gaggin Park.

On Australia Day in 2001, the Centenary of Federation, Suffolk Park had its very own flag pole erected at the local fire station with a flag raising ceremony by the Byron Bay Scouts and a time capsule similar to the one placed at the Council Chambers at Mullumbimby. A number of photos were taken from various locations on the day, the visitor’s book from the grand opening of the Suffolk Park Hall, memorabilia from the Brigade & local pre-school and some community items were placed into the time capsule. This capsule has been placed in the Brigade station in Alcorn Street and will be opened in 2051.

The Suffolk Park Progress Association that was formed in 1959 has played a major role in the development of the township by representing residents and providing advice to council regarding the needs of the community and its environment.

Maureen Fernandez was a member of the progress association from 1991 to 2003 and was involved in several milestones as a volunteer in the development of Suffolk Park community. She was also the local committee representative for the Council’s Australia Day Project that started Australia Day celebrations in Suffolk Park.

As Captain of the Rural Fire Brigade, I was approached by Maureen in the year 2000 to assist the progress association in keeping Australia Day running in Suffolk Park.

Today, this voluntary Brigade still hosts in conjunction with Byron Shire Council our Family Fun Day in Gaggin Park. You are all invited to in join in our 2014 Australia Day celebrations that the whole family can enjoy and the good thing is … it’s free. These celebrations have grown into a major event for Suffolk Park.

This event would not have been possible without donations from our local businesses and some from Byron Bay who support the cause by donating prizes for raffles, sausages and bread for the BBQ and drinks. Their generously is very much appreciated.

Gregg Miller, Captain of the Byron Bay Fire Brigade, has dedicated so much energy and committment to organising the very successful Family Fun Day over the past 4 years, supported by the members of the Brigade. Gregg is also the Suffolk Park representative on the present-day Council Australia Day Committee.

In closing, I again would like to acknowledge the many volunteers, businesses and community minded people who have made these Australia Day celebrations to in what it is today.

I wish you all a happy Australia Day.

Rodney Halpin – Mobile: 0428621189