MidCoast Council's official 2020 Celebrations at Saltwater Freshwater Festival in Forster

It was a day of celebration, a day to acknowledge everything that is good about Australia, and to recognise all citizens, both old and new.

About 1200 crowded onto the sporting fields at the Forster Sports Complex for the first combined MidCoast Council Australia Day celebrations, held in conjunction with this year's Saltwater Freshwater festivities.

Australia Day 2020 festivities will be one to remember for 37 excited Mid Coast residents, who pledged their allegiance to Australia.

Mayor David West was pretty chuffed with the new combined (Great Lakes, Gloucester and Greater Taree) Australia Day format.

"This is an important day for our community and country," Cr West said.

He described the community as strong, generous and stoic, paid tribute to first nations people and the volunteer personnel involved in the bushfires.

"Our award recipients this year represent everything that is great about the people of the MidCoast region," he said.

This year had six awards categories: cultural, volunteer, community activity, sportstar, young, and citizen of the year.

The Citizen of the Year, John Hahn was lost for words when his name was announced.

"I am blown away. I am not talking about the wind, but by getting such an award," a flabbergasted John said.

"This award will make a good day better."

John is an exceptional person, with a long history of serving his country and helping his community, Cr West said.

"I am blown away; I am not talking about the wind, but by getting such an award.

John Hahn

John is a Vietnam veteran, an inventor and active member of Cape Hawke Surf Life Saving Club and Forster Tuncurry Lions Club as well as assisting local aged care services and his church.

He received life membership of Cape Hawke Surf Club and is also the recipient of the highest Lions Award, the Melvin Jones Fellowship.

The inaugural recipient of the Cultural Award was Purfleet Taree Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO and strong Biripi woman, Joedie Lawler.

"Joedie is everything we imagined when we decided to include the cultural award," Cr West said.

"She has always been an active member of the community and is committed to showcasing and celebrating her culture with others."

Mia Simon, Tyra McGarry and Pisila Kapeli from Forster.

Mia Simon, Tyra McGarry and Pisila Kapeli from Forster.

This year also included the very first Volunteer of the Year award, with Colin Howarth, a volunteer for The Bucketts Way Neighbourhood Group, receiving the honours.

As well as the neighbourhood group, Colin has also regularly volunteered for aged care services, a transport program that works in partnership with Cancer Council NSW and Hunter New England Health Services.

Over the past seven year he has spent around three days a week helping others.

This year's Community Activity of the Year Award was presented to Great Lakes Food Trail, an event organised by Sue Williams.

This event bring thousands of tourists to the area, educates attendees about local, ethical farming and continues to increase awareness of good and healthy food for the community.

Jasmine Chamberlain of Tinonee is the 2020 Sportstar of the Year.

Jasmine is a member of Manning Valley Dressage, Equestrian Australia and Federation Equestrian Internationale.

She has been riding since she was 12 years old and has competed in Riding for the Disabled Australia Special Olympics Equestrian.

Last year was a big year for Jasmine, winning three national Australia first places in Equestrian Australian Para Equestrian national video comps.

The MidCoast's Young Citizen of the Year is inspirational 15-year-old, Asha Clarke.

Asha has been a participant and volunteer with the Taree PCYC, undergoing a range of courses to become an accredited gymnastics instructor.

For the last 12 months Asha has run a weekly Koori Gymnastics program specifically for young girls at risk in the community.

She has not only been an instructor to the group, she has become a friend, mentor, role model and support person.

"All our award recipients this year contribute to making our region a better place and I thank them for the dedication," Cr West said.

It has been Australia's lost summer. Drought, hail, floods and, worst of all, bushfires have ravaged communities all over the nation. But the selfless actions of friends, family, neighbours, strangers, local groups and volunteer organisations have inspired us and strengthened the bonds of community. Please join us in saying thanks to the heroes of the home front by sharing your stories of gratitude. To salute a person or a group, please use the form below.