It was a mix of joy and sadness for Alan Lean when he accepted the city’s citizen of the year title.
“I want to share this award with my partner, Kaye,” he told the crowd at the Civic Theatre on Friday night.
“Kaye passed away on the 30th of September, so this is very hard for me tonight.”
To top the enormous list of contributions the couple made to the city, Mr Lean and his late wife were instrumental in Wagga’s Camp Quality Centre, and later its transition to Country Hope.
He was joined in celebration by fellow nominees David Mundy and Michael Georgiou.
Left with a similar cause to celebrate was the young citizen of the year winner, Matthew Lennon.
At just 25 years of age, Dr Lennon is already a leader in rural health and an advocate for high school education.
His fellow nominees were 15-year-old author and radio host Mia Bowcher and young cancer campaigner, Isaac Cornell.
Known primarily for his 60-year involvement with the Wagga District Highland Pipe Band, Cecil ‘Bob’ Scott will be the newest name to feature on Baylis Street’s Walk of Honour.
Vying for their own plaque on the walk were five other nominees, including Mr Lean’s late wife, Kaye Lean.
As is customary during Australia Day pronouncements, Friday’s ceremony focused on the question of what it means to be Australian.
A subject that was brought strongly to the fore by the 2019 Miss Wagga Wagga representative, Stina Constantine.
“When I was informed I would be speaking about what it means to be Australian I panicked, I am not qualified to do that.”
Born to Sri Lankan parents in Norway, Ms Constantine immigrated to Australia when she was still school aged. She has now spent the past decade fighting for her own right to remain a permanent resident.
“What does it mean to be Australian? Living in Australia is being home. It’s hard to recognise until you are faced with the situation when you are told you will have to leave your home.
“Although I do not legally belong to this country, although biologically I have any connection to this country, you have invited me in and I love it. I love this country as if it were home."
Similarly, comedian Dane Simpson shared his experience of nationhood as an Indigenous Australian.
“January 26 is often referred to as ‘invasion day’ by Indigenous people. I called it that for a long time, but now I call it ‘survival day’,” he said.
“We’ve been through a lot but we’re survivors, it’s like the Aboriginal saying, ‘they tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.”