IN contrast to Newcastle, Speers Point was awash with Aussie flags on Friday as thousands picnicked at Lake Macquarie’s major Australia Day celebration.
Steamy conditions didn’t discourage dedicated family cooks from standing over portable barbies as the festivities rolled into the afternoon.
Live bands, kids’ activities, the annual Scouts canoe race, a classic car display and a big-screen showing of the classic Australian family movie Red Dog meant there was something for everyone.
As the sun was setting, Thirsty Merc headlined the evening’s concert before fireworks closed the show at 9pm. Merewether Heights resident Lyn Walker was one of the punters celebrating at Speers Point Park.
Ms Walker, covered in the colours of the Australian flag – including a temporary tattoo on each cheek – said Australia Day was about getting out into the community and having a good time.
“It’s the one day we need to reflect on how lucky we are in this country compared to other places in the world,” she told the Newcastle Herald.
“We’ve got so much freedom and so much support in this country that a lot of other places don’t.
“It’s just a beautiful place to live. We’re very lucky.”
Elsewhere along the edge of the lake, people had already set up picnic spots at 9am as dozens of boats bobbed in the water.
Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser said, for her, the national day was one a time of appreciation. “It’s a day when we can reflect and I think it’s a day when we embrace everyone in the community,” she said. “It’s fantastic.”
Earlier in the morning, 37 people were made Australian citizens at a ceremony at Lake Macquarie council chambers.
They came from countries including Canada, the Philippines, Nepal, Peru, India, the United Kingdom, Spain, and many others.
Among them was Molan Weu, a Chinese-born registered nurse who works at John Hunter Hospital.
Mr Weu told the Herald he moved to Australia with family about 12 years ago to study.
“I’ve been here for so long already. It’s my home, I’ve got my career, my family, everyone is here,” he said.
Becoming an Australian citizen, Mr Weu said, made him “very proud”.
He said he was “starting to have a sense of belonging”.
Of the new citizens, Cr Frazer said: “Australia’s future success depends on the way we work together”.
“Lake Macquarie is a wonderfully diverse community and we continue to be enriched by the contributions made by people from other countries and cultures,” she said.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.