Erin Fitzgibbon and David Neilson have been named Dungog's Citizens of the Year for raising over $80,000 for charity with their Clarence Town Christmas Lights.
Dungog's James Theatre was packed full of people facing the 40 degree heat for Dungog Council's official Australia Day ceremony.
"It's nice to be recognised," Mr Neilson said.
"Not that we've ever done it to achieve anything other than help other people out."
The iconic Clarence Town Christmas lights began when Ms Fitzgibbon and her partner entered a local Christmas lights competition in 2006.
After winning the competition three years in a row the duo stopped entering to give the rest of the town a chance, however they have since upscaled their display to continue to raise money for local charities.
The remarkable display takes Ms Fitzgibbon and Mr Neilson over three months to plan and install, which is a remarkable feat given Ms Fitzgibbon was a full-time carer for their daughter who sadly passed away in mid October at the age of 21 after suffering cerebral palsy and scoliosis.
Alongside the duo, Claire Harvey was awarded Young Citizen of the Year.
Finishing her HSC in 2023, Ms Harvey received the award for showing leadership at Dungog High School, her work with Stroud SES and resilience through personal hardship
"It's so incredible. It's been such a crazy year and it's just so nice [to be recognised in this way]. It's so overwhelming to be honest," she said.
"I didn't even know I would get nominated and to have this privilege is just so incredible. I lost my dad to cancer and my childhood best friend to suicide, I'm helping my mum run our farm and I've done some big things with the SES and helping people in need in the community wherever I can.
"I just feel so privileged. I had a lot of people supporting me along the way."
Rita Garland and Thomas James Banister were jointly awarded the Volunteer Service to the Community Award. Ms Garland is a widow of a veteran and a volunteer for Legacy, being an active badge seller for almost 20 years.
Mr Banister was awarded posthumously having passed away in October, 2023. Mr Banister was Secretary of Dungog's RSL Sub-Branch, a position he held until his passing.
Ken Rubeli was given the Environmental Citizen of the Year Award. Mr Rubeli ran environmental education camps at Wangat Lodge for over 29 years until his retirement in 2017. For the past six years he has contributed voluntarily to the management of the Dungog Common as a refuge for native plant life and animal life.
Andre Stengl was given the Senior Sports Award for his efforts in promoting and sustaining soccer in the Dungog Shire. He is currently vice president of the Dungog Boomerangs and was coach of their All Age side in 2022 and 2023. Mr Stengl has also taken a role in managing and coaching multiple junior teams.
The other nominees spanning all categories for the 2024 Australia Day Awards are David Colefax, Maddison Louise Jones-Tickle, Sheri Thomas, Hannah Van Hoof, and James Harvey.
Alongside these awards Marco Dela Pena and Stacey Garrison Graham also received their Australian citizenship.
The Australia Day ambassador for the ceremony was David Hall OAM.
"What does it mean to be an Australian? It means something different to everybody. Everybody has their own story and their own history and we should respect the view that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders may regard this day as a day of mourning, of survival. But it is also a day to come together," Mr Hall said at the ceremony.
"In the Dungog area early European settlement occurred through the shire's towns in the early 1800's. In the census of 1857 the population was 126 people. Today, Dungog and the surrounding towns have a population close to 10,000.
"But whether we live here in the country or on the coast, as a nation we are bound by a common thread that today is a day to spend with our fellow citizens, our family and our friends."