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I encourage everyone to share a bit about their story - Barry Lewis, Australia Day Ambassador

Posted on April 22 2020

Pictured: Barry Lewis, Australia Day Ambassador
Photo credit to Plains Producer.

The following blog post was the Australia Day speech given by Barry Lewis, Australia Day Ambassador at the Wakefield Regional Council on 26 January 2020.

Thank you for the invitation to spend Australia Day with you all at Balaklava.  The number of people present is testament to the importance of the event. The first thing I would like to do is to recognise the District Council members, & the people who have organised the event.  I also thank Mayor Rodney Reid and Debra Swan who have been so kind in making me feel welcome.

During the past four months we have seen evidence of the tragic bushfires across Australia, the loss of life, injury and savage destruction of property & animals that has had a terrible impact on most Australians.  We have also seen how wonderful Australians come together & rally round all the people who are suffering from losing everything but being Australians, they have formed friendship, hope & love with the communities to help them.  There have been some wonderful humanitarian efforts by people in assisting those who have lost everything.

Then there is the fantastic fire fighters, wonderful volunteers who have worked tirelessly in trying to stop the destructive fires often at a personal cost, but they keep going.  And of course, there are other people and volunteers providing back up logistical and other support across the nation.  Thank God for the carers who provided feed, kept people warm, provided needs as they were so important.  In the tragic times where was always someone there to help those in need. Volunteers are the salt of the earth & if you have the opportunity to thank one personally please do so.

Today I will cover an overview of the Australia Day Council; the role of the ambassador & some information concerning my personal side, past employment & umpiring background. 2020 is the sixtieth year of the Australia Day Council of South Australia that acts as an umbrella organisation for all the Australia Day events being held across the state.  Ambassadors are visiting metropolitan & regional ceremonies across South Australia – of course none are more important than this one at Balaklava in the Wakefield District Council. The theme for Australia Day 2020 is the story of Australia.  The story of Australia has untold chapters still to be written.  Some of those chapters begin today, with the newest group of Australians who will receive their citizenship at ceremonies around the country.

Australia Day is more than a commemoration of a day in our nation’s history and it should be a time for our nation to come together and reflect on how far we have come and celebrate with the people around us – family, friends and those we haven’t met yet, especially the immigrants who have come to our wonderful country.  I encourage everyone to share a bit about their story, listen to the stories of others and celebrate with the people around you... because we’re all part of the story.

I am one of over 300 such ambassadors adding our voice to this celebration & this is my first visit here in the capacity but I do recall umpiring football matches within the Adelaide plains football league about 25 years ago.  What I have witnessed of Balaklava so far is a happy and friendly township and community. As an ambassador during the past eight years I have attended country council areas for this event and two years ago in my own local community at Port Adelaide where I reside. Councils & service clubs are an integral part to the success of Australia Day celebrations & this is very evident here today at Balaklava within the Wakefield Regional Council. I had the privilege of serving at Port Adelaide as a police officer at various times between 1966 and 2007, starting there as a probationary constable in 1966, returning as a sergeant in 1984 and later being appointed as the LSA commander in 2002.

A simple philosophy I have always tried to practice is “if you learn something new every day, you kick a goal” so I trust there is something new that I may share with you all today. Australia Day is much more than barbeques and fireworks.  It is more than another public holiday.  It is more than the pride and excitement of new citizens who will call themselves Australians for the first time after being conferred citizenship. It is about local communities who through activity & debate, promote good citizenship & recognise service to the nation.

Around Australia about 11 million people are attending an organised community event such as this or are celebrating our national day as a family. Many more are enjoying the public holiday just relaxing with family and friends. This is what the ambassador’s role is all about – encouraging Australians to promote & ‘celebrate what’s great’ about Australia and being Australian. A privilege of being an ambassador is that it enables further insight & appreciation of various parts of this wonderful state and country to be gained – & as I said earlier this is the first time I have been here in this capacity.

Being innovative – right from the start South Australia has been a model in innovation that has flourished across the state despite our relatively small & highly urbanised population & somewhat geographic isolation.  I notice your District Council’s blueprint statement is “vibrant – enthusiastic – creative”. It is very important that this innovative spirit continues to be harnessed to capitalise on the emerging buoyancy across our state.  All people, young & old, including those receiving their citizenship today have a part to play in the Australian spirit.  This means all South Australians are urged to embrace & not underestimate the scale of the challenge that will continue to grow the Australian spirit.

Now a bit on the personal side of Barry Lewis.

People often ask me how I managed being a police officer for over 53 years and a football umpire for 45 years. My response is always the same – firstly I have developed the ability to turn the other cheek to criticism & more importantly I was born with a skin as thick as an elephant. However, doing both over a long period of time I can say one thing – I have loved doing both and would do it all again in a heartbeat. Both vocations involve dealing with many people – some who are good, some who are not so good & some who are just bloody bad! But over my years, by far, the good always outweigh the not so good and that’s what makes Australia such a great place – the good people.

I have umpired fathers, their sons, daughters and now even their grandsons & granddaughters having umpired 2368 games thus far, I have no intention of giving it away – yet!  People often say to me at matches ‘are you still umpiring’ & my response is ‘I’m too young to give it away yet!’ Another trait I find helps is to maintain a simple approach to all things – it is not wise to over complicate issues.  Please remember the relatively simple things in life are the fundamental basis for success and enjoyment, especially in times of need. “Lol” used to be an acronym for “lots of love” – but today it seems to be expressed in text messages as “laugh out loud”.  I encourage you to practice both of these & watch as you make someone happy. Things I call honesty, openness and transparency when communicating with others – I used the acronym “hot” communication with staff while I served as a police commander to reinforce these words and to encourage others to practice the philosophy.

Also, never forget to maintain and enjoy the love, sharing and companionship of your family and friends. I have been blessed by having a wonderful wife, two adult children who have given me five grandchildren aged between 5 and 20 who i really love, enjoy their company & watching them grow, and it is easy to visit them as they all live within a few kilometres of our house.

I would like to summarise some key messages in closing:

The Australia Day ambassador program is one of the longest running and most successful national Australia Day programs as it is now in its 60th year.  It sends high achieving Australians to over 300 community celebrations every Australia Day. The ambassador program is a grass roots initiative that builds on the strength and excitement of Australia day activities in local communities.

It has been a pleasure to join you all today I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

For more information about the Australia Day Ambassador program click here  


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