January 26 has been the centre of debate in recent months over whether it should remain as Australia’s national day.
Dharawal elder Richard Davis touched on the topic in his Welcome to Country leading into Wollongong’s official citizenship ceremony at the Town Hall on Thursday.
“Let’s remember the past, but don’t dwell on the past and move forward,” he said.
“Yes, we’ve had our issues and will probably continue to have issues but overall, I think Australia is a great country.
“We need to respect each other from wherever we come from, whatever part of the world and understand each others cultures and get on, and live our lives the best we can.”
Mr Davis also said everyone should participate in Australia Day activities and come together as a community before he welcomed 90 new Australians to Wollongong.
Teodora Rieck, 46, was one of those proudly taking the citizenship pledge after love brought her to Australia nearly five years ago.
“It’s dedication to a new country and make it official, it’s exciting,” she said.
“No turning back now,” added her husband David with a smile.
Along Wollongong’s Blue Mile hundreds of others were culminating to celebrate Australia Day.
From 8am families were spotted playing cricket in Lang Park, while others were hurriedly carrying eskies and camping chairs to find a spot for the day.
It’s the 17th year Lake Heights’ Beohm family has set up a picnic at Belmore Basin with gas cooker, bacon and eggs, snags and skewers.
Before Geoff and Tracey started their own family they would come to the harbour with Tracey’s mum and dad. Now the clan includes four daughters and one granddaughter.
“We’re here from about 5:30 in the morning until after the fireworks,” said Mrs Beohm.
“[It has a] sense of the community, there’s never any dramas here.”
Across the road hundreds of athletes from amateur to professional tested their skills in the annual Aquathon.
It was the first time competing for seven-year-old Josie Lowe who said it was good, especially the running.
Her mother Amanda also competed and said it’s a great way to kick off the national holiday.
“Everyone’s fit and healthy and enjoying the day,” she said.
“Its great because everyone’s friendly and happy and enjoying the best of Australia – the beach, the lifestyle, summertime. It’s a great feeling.”
She said she takes pride in being Australian because of the freedom and safety the country has, plus “the chance to do and be whatever you want to be".