Family fun on Jan 26

Emma enjoying the free face painting. (Ivan Kemp) 385517_07

People from all over the region flocked to Rippleside Park on Australia Day for the Free Children’s Fun Day, with around 10,000 people enjoying rides, live entertainment and food vendors.

Colin Anderson, president of both Corio Bay Lions Club and the Australia Day Committee, said the event was a huge success.

“It was a magnificent day; we had a fantastic time,” Mr Anderson said.

“I reckon by one o’clock, we couldn’t fit another car in the car park. The guys on the rides were very efficient, making sure that everybody got plenty of rides.

“I spoke to all the vendors and they said it was a marvellous day, they really had great sales. And of course, people could look over the bay and see all the yachts and the beauty of it all. Geelong is just such a lucky place.”

The annual event regularly draws many new and recent citizens, which Mr Anderson said was always one of the highlights of his day.

“I think on the day I spoke to (people from) 35 different nationalities,” he said.

“I spoke to a group of 30, an extended family and friends who were Afghanis. Their remarks about Australia blew me away.

“They said they cannot believe how great it is in Australia, how great people treat them, and that all they want to do is work hard and pay taxes. Many people who are immigrants get criticised, but they’re the ones who work hard and pay their taxes and make the country richer.”

While tensions surround January 26, Mr Anderson said the Australia Day Committee hoped to formally partner with Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative for next year’s event.

“It’s about having lots of conversations, being open and honest and recognising the past; all the good things and all the horrible, terrible things that happened,” he said.

Mr Anderson thanked Geelong council’s “wonderful staff” for all their assistance, as well as local businesses, without whose support the event could not happen.

“On the day we had a bit of an issue with power and we needed an extra generator,” he said.

“I rang up Kerr’s Hire, who supply us with two big generators (for free) already. It was their day off, they were closed… but they went, ‘yep, no problems, we’ll get it down there’.

“We couldn’t afford to run the event without benefactors like that.”