Roma's 2021 Australia Day celebrations
Roma's 2021 Australia Day celebrations

Here’s how the Maranoa celebrated Australia Day

Maranoa residents gathered to be a part of the council’s first official Australia Day ceremonies since the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year.

The council held an award ceremony for accomplished local citizens in the five towns of Roma, Wallumbilla, Injune, Mitchell, and Surat.

And a special citizenship ceremony was held in Roma with 16 new Australians making their pledge of citizenship to mayor Tyson Golder and receiving their certificates.

The Roma event was hosted by councillor and prominent community member Cameron O’Neil and also featured speakers like Rotary president Scott McDonell, Cr Golder, and Member for Warrego Ann Leahy.

Many towns also held celebrations at local swimming pools, hosting community barbecues and free entry.

The Maranoa celebrations also had three ambassadors who each delivered special speeches on what it means to be Australia.

Young entrepreneur Taj Pabari attended the Surat events, and has given two TEDx talks, was awarded the Australian Young Innovator award in 2014, and is the CEO of Australian School of Entrepreneurship, which delivers business skills to school students.

Brisbane-based support worker Justine Christerson was the ambassador for Mitchell, having assisted many rural patients who have needed to travel to the city for medical reasons by being a ‘friend in the city’ to those in need.

She won the Premier’s disaster hero medal for her assistance during the 2011 floods in the Banana Shire.

Down Syndrome advocate and public speaker Olivia Hargroder delivered a speech to the Roma Australia Day ceremony about her opportunities to achieve, living in Australia.
Down Syndrome advocate and public speaker Olivia Hargroder delivered a speech to the Roma Australia Day ceremony about her opportunities to achieve, living in Australia.

Roma’s ambassador was well-spoken actor and activist Olivia Hargroder, who has campaigned tirelessly to have athletes with Down syndrome included in their own category in the Paralympics, instead of being lumped in with ‘intellectual disability.’

She said people with Down syndrome face many physical challenges that people with other intellectual disabilities do not.

Ms Hargroder has also spoken at the United Nations and travelled around the world to Mexico, the UK, and the USA.

But after flying from Brisbane to Roma for the Australia Day event, she said she loves the town.

“Roma is really beautiful, I couldn’t have thought of any other place to come to,” she said.

She spoke about how many doctors wouldn’t expect her to speak in life and her journey to become a fluent and influential public speaker on global platforms.

“When I first started public speaking I really fell in love with it,” she said.

“When I went to the United Nations, I talked about how babies with Down syndrome are left at the hospital [in other countries].”

She spoke about how Australia is a country that gave her the opportunity to achieve what most people haven’t despite having Down syndrome.

“Being the main ambassador for Australia Day in Roma has been amazing, it has been incredible,” she said.

The 2021 Australia Day award recipients for the Maranoa are:

Citizen of the Year:

Roma: David Cooper

Injune: Graham Girle

Mitchell: Jeffrey Watson

Surat: Debra Richardson

Wallumbilla: Daniel Michael Tiley

Young Citizen of the Year:

Roma: Madison Thomas

Injune: Keeley Sorensen

Community Event of the Year:

Roma: Mercy Shield

Injune: Walk the Line

Mitchell: Mungallala Twilight BBQ and Fireworks festival

Wallumbilla: Festival of Small Halls

Cultural Award:

Roma: NAIDOC Week celebrations

Injune: Cassandra Sorensen

Wallumbilla: Wallumbilla Rememberence Day service

Junior Sport Award:

Roma: Tarlia Pearson

Injune: Lucy Gordon

Mitchell: Taliah Page

Surat: Matt Sutton

Member Contribution Award:

Roma: Kevin Pope

Injune: Christie Kelly

Mitchell: Lynda Dorries

Surat: Barbara Harland

Wallumbilla: Megan Dickson

Achievement Award:

Roma: Jenny Hewitt and Noeleen Guyatt

Injune: Puddy Chandler, Muffy Mansfield & Valda Hafemeister

Mitchell: Helen Sallway

Surat: Mel Sutton

Wallumbilla: Rowan Taylor

Andrea Murray Memorial Award (Maranoa-wide):

Megan Brown


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