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Media Release: Borroloola welcomes newest citizens during Australia Day celebration

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CITIZENSHIP SMILES: Roper Gulf Regional Council Mayor Tony Jack congratulates Borroloola’s newest Australians, Lesley and Mark Wakeling, after the well-known couple took part in a citizenship ceremony in the remote community on Australia Day.

CITIZENSHIP SMILES: Roper Gulf Regional Council Mayor Tony Jack congratulates Borroloola’s newest Australians, Lesley and Mark Wakeling, after the well-known couple took part in a citizenship ceremony in the remote community on Australia Day.

There are few similarities between the bustling streets of London and the unhurried pace of life in the remote Roper Gulf community of Borroloola, but it is a contrast that has been embraced by two of Australia’s newest citizens.

As part of Australia Day festivities in the community, approximately 650 kilometres south-east of Katherine, Roper Gulf Regional Council hosted a citizenship ceremony at which British ex-pats Mark and Lesley Wakeling pledged their commitment to their adopted home.

Mr Wakeling, who is the Council’s Pool Municipal Supervisor in Borroloola and former professional soccer coach, explained that obtaining citizenship had been the final step in a journey that began when the couple first arrived in Australia in 1999.

“For us, becoming citizens was about being in the right place to settle down and get it done, and now’s the time,” he said.

While the tyranny of distance and wet season weather prevented the affable couple’s family from attending the ceremony, Mr Wakeling thanked the Borroloola community for welcoming him and his wife with open arms.

“It was special becoming citizens out here in front of our friends,” he said.

“We don’t have any family here for the day, but they were here in spirit.

“Citizenship kind of means that we belong now; this is our home now.”

Mayor Tony Jack said Australia Day was an opportune time to unite communities, learn from the past and forge a sustainable future for every Australian.

“January 26 means something different to every person who calls this part of the Top End home, but I truly think it is a day that we should take advantage of to strengthen our resolve and open an honest dialogue to create a greater community, both at a local level and as a country,” he said.

“Today will be remembered as an extra-special Australia Day celebration for two well-known members of the Borroloola community after they pledged their allegiance to Australia and became the Roper Gulf region’s newest citizens.

“On behalf of the Council, I’d like to congratulate Mark and Lesley on their decision, which is not one made lightly.”

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Roper Gulf Regional Council Deputy Mayor Judy MacFarlane is embraced by Member for Arnhem Selena Uibo on January 26 after being named Mataranka’s Citizen of the Year for her service to the community.

The celebration continued across the Council’s 186,000 square kilometre Local Government Area when recipients of the 2017 Australia Day Local Government Awards were announced.

Presented to the individuals and events that have provided outstanding contributions to their respective communities during the past 12 months, Mayor Jack said the awards recognised those who had been “prepared to step up because they understand that a community cannot reach its full potential if people sit on the sidelines”.

The winners are:

Barunga
Young Citizen of the Year: Jeffrey McDonald
Citizen of the Year: Peter Wordsworth
Community Event of the Year: Joint Barunga and Manyallauk Community Development Program Katherine Christmas street party parade entry

Beswick
Young Citizen of the Year: Harrietta Forbes
Citizen of the Year: Leon George
Community Event of the Year: Walking with Spirits Festival

Borroloola
Young Citizen of the Year: Nikita Baker
Citizen of the Year: Jacky Green
Community Event of the Year: 130th anniversary celebrating the arrival of the Magistrate and Mounted Police in Borroloola

Bulman
Young Citizen of the Year: Cordell Scrubby
Citizen of the Year: Richard Forbes
Community Event of the Year: NAIDOC Week Festival

Jilkminggan
Young Citizen of the Year: Shadonia Baker
Citizen of the Year: Desmond George
Community Event of the Year: Jilkminggan School football competition

Mataranka
Citizen of the Year: Judy MacFarlane
Community Event of the Year: Mataranka Fishing, Sporting and Recreation Club barra competiton

Manyallaluk
Citizen of the Year: Alison Andrews
Community Event of the Year: Joint Barunga and Manyallauk Community Development Program Katherine Christmas street party parade entry

Ngukurr
Young Citizen of the Year: Alexis Roberts
Citizen of the Year: Kathy Huddleston
Community Event of the Year: Yugul Mangi Festival

Numbulwar
Young Citizen of the Year: Declan Murrungun
Citizen of the Year: Dale Murrungun
Community Event of the Year: Numburindi Festival

View the full Media Release here.