EACH January, local councils proclaim their individual "citizens of the year" awards in the lead-up to January 26, the national public holiday that marks the anniversary of Governor Arthur Phillip raising the British flag in Sydney Cove, so marking the start of this continent's European settlement.
This year, the City of Newcastle has named the Worimi surgeon Dr Kelvin Kong as Citizen of the Year.
Professional netballer Samantha Poolman is Young Citizen of the Year.
Carrington Bowling Club chief executive Jaci Lappin is Senior Citizen of the Year, and Hamilton Business Association Inc is the Community Group of the Year.
For Dr Kong, being citizen of the year is the latest recognition for a man who uses the privilege afforded him as a surgeon to promote the causes that are dear to his heart, and to "give back" to his Indigenous community by taking his skills wherever they are needed in remote Australia.
This year, as in recent years, January 26 has become a target of the "culture wars", with the date - and the name of the public holiday - encapsulating a divide at the heart of the Australian identity.
In the years when John Howard was prime minister (1996-2007), he and other conservatives regularly derided a revisionist approach to January 26 as the stuff of a "black arm-band view of history".
But the simple - and amply documented - truth is that Australia Day for the ascendant majority has always been Invasion Day for the supplanted Indigenous nations.
The question has been whether mainstream Australia will accept such an interpretation.
On one (white) hand, the woman who vanquished Tony Abbott - Independent Warringah MP Zali Steggal - is calling for a minute's silence next Tuesday as a "healing" gesture.
On the other, the Morrison government is warning local councils not to "appease Invasion Day activists" by cancelling Australia Day celebrations under the cover of COVID-19.
Newcastle Council is holding its January 26 citizenship ceremony by Zoom.
Its next round, in May, may also have to be online.
Wherever, and however, they are held, citizenship ceremonies symbolise the rights, and obligations, that membership of this great nation entails.
The nation itself, though, is changing with the times, and with them, our interpretation of January 26.
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