One of the biggest and best Australia Day parties was held in Parramatta last week.
The 15 hour celebration at Parramatta Park attracted a record crowd of more than 70,000. Festivities began at dawn with the traditional hot air balloon display.
Later that morning, a packed auditorium at Riverside Theatre welcomed 50 new Australians and congratulated the city’s outstanding residents.
Dr Philip Lee was named Citizen of the Year for his work in palliative care. Born and raised in the Parramatta area, Dr Lee worked as a GP for 23 years.
He is now the Western Sydney Local Health District palliative care director, and oversaw the development of a palliative care nursing education fund at Westmead to help further education and specialist training.
Dr Lee was initially nominated for the senior citizen of the year but didn’t win.
“It’s recognition for the whole team of the service we do,” he told the Sun.
“I knew about about the award nomination but I didn’t even consider the big award.”
Dr Lee described his job as sad, but also rewarding.
“When I was working as a GP, I was looking after a patient who was dying and spent time with them trying to make them comfortable,” he said. “I didn’t think I did a good job. When I got a thank you letter from the patient’s family afterwards, it made me realise I could do a lot more to make a difference. The hardest cases involve young people, where young mums leave children behind.”
Dr Lee will continue to lobby for more funding and dispel public misconceptions about palliative care.
Gabriella Wehbe, 18, was named Young Citizen of the Year.
Diagnosed with a rare form of muscle cancer in late 2015, Gabriella underwent treatment while she juggled her HSC studies and vice captain role at Our Lady of Mercy College Parramatta.
The North Parramatta resident volunteered on social justice projects and helped raise more than $200,000 for the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse cancer hospital.
“I was diagnosed two weeks before I started year 12,” Ms Wehbe said.
“I had 54 weeks of cancer treatment, which included chemotherapy and four weeks of radiation. I saw the HSC as a distraction rather than a burden.”
She is in remission and will study teaching this year.
Felicity Castagna won the inaugural arts and culture award while North Rocks Soccer Club secretary Bill Gurney won the sports achievement award.
Volunteer of the year Enid Cutler has been with Karabi Community & Development Services since 1989, while Parramatta Computer Pals president and WIRES volunteer Deborah Martin was the senior citizen winner.