INGLEWOOD'S Australia Day Ambassador has urged residents to use our national day as a chance to consider mental health issues.
Betty Kitchener is an Australian mental health educator who founded mental health first aid training.
She said on a day where Australia's renowned spirit of mateship came to the fore, people needed to be on the lookout for signs of mental illness among loved ones.
"Australians are great with mateship and are generous with helping each other, but the one area we sometimes forget is mental health,” Ms Kitchener said.
"We need to talk more about mental illness, the way we would about any other illness.
"Just as we help a mate who needs the grass mowed, we have to help a mate we might recognise has mental health problems as there are stacks of things that can be done.
"There is a lot now known about mental health problems and they are really common."
Ms Kitchener, who was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) on Australia day last year, pointed to expert figures which showed one in five Australians suffered some form of mental illness.
Anxiety disorders affect about 14 per cent of the adult population every year, while depression affects around six per cent.
Ms Kitchener said dealing with mental illness was harsher in rural settings like Loddon Shire.
"Farmers are so tough and so capable and strong, when the drought and other things get them down, they might not talk about it because they think they are weak," she said.
"But they are not at all."
Nearly 200 people made their way to the Inglewood Swimming Pool for Tuesday's celebrations, organised by the town's Lions Club.
The festivities included the traditional swimming carnival.
President Robert Condliffe said recent renovations to the council-owned pool and adjoining playground had made for an ideal setting to celebrate Australia Day.
“It’s a very hospitable place to come to,” he said.
“There’s a good sprinkling of the older generation and younger people.”
It was a special occasion for 80-year-old Val Johns, who was one of six community service award recipients for the shire.
Mrs Johns, a tireless community worker, has been an active participant in numerous community service organisations, including the Goldfields Choir, Inglewood Brass Band, RSL auxiliary and St Augustine's ladies guild.
She is though perhaps best known for her 28 year involvement with the Inglewood Ambulance Auxiliary Op Shop.
Mrs Johns said the award was a complete shock.
"I was wary something was going on because there was about 17 of my family here," she said.
"I thought to myself I'm glad I made my best and washed the dishes."