16 February 2021


I rise today to acknowledge the residents and organisations honoured at this year's Blacktown City Council Australia Day awards. While 2020 was incredibly difficult for so many in our community, the awards were a cause for great celebration and optimism. They were a reminder that the great people of Blacktown city can overcome any challenges when we work together and respect one another.

In the time I have, please forgive me for acknowledging only two recipients out of many worthy finalists. The first is Ms Lea Simic who is this year's Young Citizen of the Year. A Blacktown resident, Lea serves on the youth advisory committee for both the Blacktown City Council and the Western Sydney branch of headspace. Lea is a strong advocate for young people, especially when it comes to the provision of adequately resourced mental health services within our community. I had the great privilege of spending time with Lea on Australia Day and I was blown away by her conviction to create a more supportive and inclusive community in Blacktown city. In Lea's words:

This award gives me the opportunity to shine the light on the needs of young people in Blacktown City. It is really important that youth have a voice in our City and I'm honoured that council has chosen me to be one of those voices.

Congratulations, Lea, on this outstanding achievement. I look forward to working with you to promote the views and needs of young people in our community. You're an inspiration to us all.

I also acknowledge the team at the Riverstone Neighbourhood Centre, who were awarded Community Event of the Year for their NAIDOC Week celebrations. I've acknowledged the centre several times in this place. I have great admiration for its CEO, Angela Van Dyke and her team, who, with the limited resources they have, continue to go above and beyond to serve some of the most socially isolated people in our community. They really are the beating heart of Riverstone. That's why I make a concerted effort to bring my colleagues to the centre when they visit Greenway, including the Labor leader.

The centre's NAIDOC Week celebration is a must-attend event in Riverstone. The pandemic meant the centre needed to shift the event online, but they were innovative and collated NAIDOC Week packs to allow members of the community to participate remotely. Congratulations to the Riverstone Neighbourhood Centre on this outstanding accolade. I look forward to visiting you again in the near future.

On a final note, I acknowledge the many new Australians who were conferred citizenship on Australia Day. It was truly an honour to join the Australia Day citizenship ceremony at Stanhope Gardens, expertly conducted, as always, by Blacktown City Council. I congratulate you all on choosing Australian as your new nationality and the City of Blacktown as your new home.