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Individuals and families can expect a host of activities to mark January 26 in their local areas, but one of the standout key events is the Australia Day ambassador’s address.

This year’s theme is ‘Reflect, Respect and Celebrate’ the Australian spirit and our diversity.

The ambassadors all volunteer their time – and each has an inspirational story and journey that they are keen to share along with the successes.

Camden’s ambassador, Jason Sotiris, founder of Supertee will be speaking about his “personal and rewarding journey” in creating the charity that provides garments for children in hospital.

It all started by his own experience trying to change his one year-old daughter who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer just after her first birthday.

“I care deeply about helping others while they’re living through equally challenging times. When you change how kids look and feel during their hospital treatment, you can have a positive influence on their frame of mind,” Mr Sotiris says on his website.

The charity took off in 2016 and has raised $500,000 and donated more than 8,000 Supertees.

Liverpool’s ambassador will be Jo Brigden-Jones a former Olympian and now motivational speaker.

Since 2004 Ms Brigden-Jones a former sprint kayaker has represented Australia every year in international competitions all around the world. Her highlight was racing at the 2012 Olympic Games in London where her K4 crew placed 9th. She also has 42 Australian National Titles to her name.

Clyde Campbell AM, founder of the Shake It Up Foundation will be Campbelltown’s ambassador. Mr Campbell who has Parkinson’s, didn’t want to sit back and be the guy with the condition. He wanted to be known as the guy who did something about Parkinson’s. In 2011 he launched the foundation with one mission – to increase awareness and funding in Australia targeted at finding better treatments and ultimately a cure for Parkinson’s.

Founder of the KYUP! Foundation, Mel Thomas, is Wingecarribee’s ambassador – her goal is to end the cycle of violence at a grassroots level. Ms Thomas draws on her own 15 years’ experience in martial arts and has workshops for young women and now young men talking about martial arts and empowering their own safety. It also about lifting the lid on “intimate partner” and domestic violence.

KYUP! pronounced key-up - is a Korean martial arts power shout that translates to ‘the spirit of self-protection’ and it’s Ms Thomas catch-cry.

Warren Kermond OAM will be Wollondilly’s ambassador. The entrepreneur/entertainer has been involved in every aspect of the entertainment industry for more than 50 years, both in Australia and abroad. He has featured in theatre, television and has also staged his own productions.

His son and grandson are continuing with the family tradition. Expect to hear fascinating stories from Mr Kermond.

Jason Sotikis

Jo Brigden-Jones

Mel Thomas

Warren Kermond, OAM

Clyde Campbell, AM

The NSW Council of Social Service (NCOSS) highlight energy price relief, better dental care, and more secure and affordable housing as key issues for South West Sydney.

NCOSS has put forward eight recommendations for policymakers to consider, in a bid to better support vulnerable citizens.

The recommendations respond to the situation in South Western Sydney, which according to NCOSS’ 2022 Cost of Living Survey of low-income households, is seeing:

60 per cent in Inner South-West in housing stress;

31 per cent in Inner South-West experiencing a negative change to their housing arrangement (such as rent increase, eviction, damage to home);

33 per cent in Outer South-West going without medication / healthcare, and;

27 per cent in Inner South-West going without a meal

“The events of the last three years haven’t been felt evenly, and we all witnessed the dramatic divide in Sydney where people in South Western Sydney were treated as second-class citizens,” NCOSS CEO, Joanna Quilty said.

“We know it’s low-income households and disadvantaged communities who have borne the brunt, which is why we need investment that wards off widening inequality and entrenchment of disadvantage.

“We have reached a tipping point where families are being hit by rising costs, stagnant wages, and on top of all that, seemingly never-ending natural disasters.

“Social services are on the frontline supporting these families, and we’re seeing firsthand the toll that it’s taking. We need urgent and purposeful action to combat these pressures.

“We are calling on policymakers to endorse our Policy Platform and work together to build a fairer NSW.”

The eight recommendations include:

1. Respond to rising energy prices: Increase cap on Energy Accounts Payment Assistance vouchers to $1,600 per year; 2. Improve access to dental care: Double funding for public dental outreach services; 3. Make renting more secure and affordable: Replace no grounds evictions with a range of specified reasonable ground; 4. Invest in social infrastructure so essential support reaches those in need: Provide core funding for neighbourhood centres and other similar services; 5. Enhance safety, security and wellbeing for women impacted by domestic and family violence: Construct social housing for the 4,812 women and their children experiencing domestic violence; 6. Bolster children’s safety, social development and educational outcomes: Increase investment in the Targeted Early Intervention Program by 25 per cent; 7. Limit harm caused by pokies on vulnerable communities: Mandate use of a cashless gaming card across NSW venues operating pokies, and; 8. Strengthen sustainability of the NSW social services sector as a growth industry and key employer of women: Extend standard contract terms to seven and 10 years for rural and remote communities.

If you have a young one starting kindergarten this year, here are some simple tips to make it as smooth as possible – and the summer holiday is a great time to start practicing a few steps.

After teaching kindy for 13 years, Amanda Monk has simple tips for that long-anticipated first day – especially the lunch hour.

Ms Monk said summer picnics were a great way to learn how to be a legend in managing your new school lunch box. She’s seen it all – yoghurt all over the new uniform, exploding snack packs and little fingers unable to free a plastic-imprisoned sandwich. However, she said a picnic was a great way to practise opening containers and wrappings.

“A super handy tip is to use a sticky note to mark where to open a wrapped sandwich,” she said.

“Put a triangle snip at the corner of packaged foods to help open them without bursting and practise opening yoghurt tubes without squeezing.”

Her advice was to embed routines in the summer holidays.

“Start creating those routines to make getting out of the house easier,” she said. “Explain they will go to school every weekday, not just once.

“In the week before, go past the school and say, ‘oh, look, there is your big school and you will be going there on Monday; I can see teachers’ cars, they are getting ready for you to come’.”

Ms Monk says said children could practise introducing themselves and asking for what they need.

“Encourage them to approach other children, say their name and ask if they would like to play,” she said.

Parents should also start to ask their children “what do you need?” instead of “are you thirsty?” This would help children advocate for themselves at school, she said.

And when the all-important first day is over, Ms Monk said parents and carers should ask open-ended questions of their tired big-schoolers.

“Often, they can’t remember what they did that day or who they played with,” she said. “Be specific: ask ‘did you draw a picture today?’ or ‘did you play with new friends today?’”

She warned parents that their children would be exhausted until they adjusted to big school.

Ten things you can do this month to make starting school a picnic

1. Take your soon-to-be kindergarten kids on an outdoors lunch to learn how to open containers

2. Put post-it notes or a mark at the best opening point on the container

3. Put a note or mark where to open wrapping

4. Walk or drive past the school regularly and be positive

5. Remind them they will go to school each weekday, not just on the first day

6. Practise getting up on time

7. Practise morning routines

8. Ask open-ended questions: “What do you need?”

9. Practise introducing themselves

10. Practise asking others to play

Visit the Department of Education’s resource hub designed for parents and carers:

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