Blue Mountains marks Australia Day by the pool and awarding outstanding citizens

For Australia Day 2021, people flocked to the pools in the Blue Mountains to escape the heat and enjoy a sausage sizzle.

Lifeguards at Lawson Pool estimated they had seen at least 600 people over the course of the day.

Blue Mountains Council had provided free entry to the pools on Australia Day, and Rotarians cooked up a storm with free barbecues.

In Springwood, outstanding Blue Mountains residents were celebrated at the council's annual Australia Day awards held at The Hub.

This year due to COVID restrictions, it was an invitation-only affair with all attendees wearing a mask. The national anthem was played and people were encouraged to stand, but instructed not to sing.

Blue Mountains Australia Day Ambassador Craig Foster, a former Socceroo, SBS broadcaster and human rights activist who was awarded an AM on Tuesday, pushed for the date of Australia Day to be changed.

"It would be wonderful to find a date that brings us all together," he said.

"One of the biggest issues facing us as a country is reconciliation.

"I believe in a concept of Australia where we are all equal. That every minority is equal to those like me in the majority. We have a responsibility to step forward for the minorities that face discrimination."

Mayor Mark Greenhill described Mr Foster's address as an "extraordinary and important speech" and then presented Australia Day awards to six Blue Mountains residents and one community-organised event.

Young Citizen of the Year awards went to Annelise Schroder and Harry Elbourne.

Since high school, Annelise has been volunteering her free time to ensure that young people in the Blue Mountains receive the support they need.

As the manager of Fusion Blue Mountains, a not-for-profit Christian youth and community organisation, she has organised activities such as breakfast clubs at three public schools, lunch drops, Saturday activities, supporter nights and fundraisers.

Cr Greenhill described Annelise as a "powerful, positive role model for her community".

Springwood High student Harry Elbourne is part of the GWS Giants under 17 Academy program, and offered to help train and be a support runner for his PE teacher John Turner. Mr Turner has run from Katoomba Hospital to Nepean Hospital as a fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House Nepean, which is the closest neonatal intensive care unit for Blue Mountains families.

When Mr Turner's fundraising target wasn't reached, Harry offered to cut off his mullet to help with the fundraising, bringing in an extra $500 and helping Mr Turner reach his $5000 goal.

Mr Turner was awarded the Citizen of the Year for his $16,000 of fundraising in two years to support families of sick children that have been admitted to Nepean Hospital, all while quietly battling his own rheumatoid arthritis.

"I'm deeply humbled to even be nominated for this award. To win it seems crazy to me. There are so many people in the Mountains that deserve it more than me," he said.

Lis Bastian took out Environmental Citizen of the Year for her work helping others to live more sustainably. She teaches permaculture and environmental responsibility through the social enterprise The Big Fix.

Projects include the Community Farm in Blackheath, and 'Pluriversity', which provides a range of learning opportunities for young people who have left school to engage with each another and the wider community.

"I am honoured to receive this award on behalf of all the people who have worked with me," Ms Bastian said.

Senior Citizens of the Year awards were presented to Peter A. Kidd and Rosemary Hart.

Mr Kidd, at age 93, was recognised for supporting the community as an educator, as a past deputy principal at Springwood High and principal of Katoomba High.

After retirement, he taught maths to groups of students for several years and he currently leads a bible study group for retired men at Glenbrook Baptist Church.

For about 20 years Mr Kidd has also been a state bowls coach at Glenbrook Panthers Bowling Club and at 93, he is its oldest playing member.

Rosemary Hart has been a teacher for more than 50 years in Victoria, NSW and Malaysia, and taught almost 1000 kids at Springwood Public, some who have gone on to become teachers themselves.

She has worked with abused and behaviourally challenging children and as a result of her care and compassion, several children were assimilated into mainstream schooling.

The Community Achievement of the Year went to the Blue Fringe Arts and Literature Exhibition which embraces all aspects of mental health and encourages people to express their creativity and share their stories through art and literature, regardless of their level of expertise.

"This is my number one event in the mayoral calendar. As someone who lives with bipolar disorder, I'm extremely proud of the committee," Cr Greenhill said.

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