People across the Illawarra gathered on Sunday to celebrate Australia Day and to praise those honoured in award ceremonies.
Among those recognised were Lake Illawarra police Superintendent Wayne Starling, Australian Police Medal recipient Sergeant Bob Minns, NSW Fire and Rescue Balgownie acting captain Greg Fredericks, rugby league official Kevin Riolo, business couple Glenn and Katia Dwarte, hockey stalwarts Kay Kolsky and Mary Marley, and Olympic gold medallist David Smith.
When he was 19, one of Wayne Starling's best mates bet him he wouldn't last a week as a police officer - he was too soft. On Australia Day, after 34 years in the police force he loves, Superintendent Starling was awarded the Australian Police Medal. He thinks it's about time he collected on the wager.
Despite 40 years as a firie, Fire and Rescue NSW Balgownie acting captain Greg Fredericks shows no signs of slowing down. The 66-year-old has no plans to throw in his firefighter's hat any time soon, saying he still gets a kick out of helping the community.
Mary Marley and Kay Kolsky started playing hockey as teenagers in the 1940s and '50s to stave off boredom. Little did they know both their spur-of-the-moment decisions would lead to a lifelong involvement in the sport, culminating in mentoring some of Australia's finest female players.
Eighteen months after winning gold for Australia at the London Olympics, Illawarra kayaker David Smith has added another accolade to his collection. The 26-year-old received an Order of Australia Medal for his achievement at the 2012 London Games.
Gerringong's Raymond Whiting received an Order of Australia Medal for services to his local community. He has been a trustee of Gerringong's Returned and Services League of Australia since 1975 and was an honorary treasurer from 1973-2009.
Kevin Riolo has been known as many things in his life - a coach, a mentor, a teacher and one heck of a rugby league fan. On Sunday, it was his services to the game that earned him one of Australia's highest honours.
Ron Dryburgh has watched many men turn their lives around since he started the Albion Park Men's Shed two years ago. He recalled one heart-wrenching story of a man who was suicidal until he found solace among the shed's community of men, who meet three times a week to socialise and learn new skills.