If you took a stroll around Lake Weeroona mid-morning on Friday, you would be forgiven for forgetting it was a day of national celebration.
Understated patriotism, a flag here, some face painting there, was the order of the day.
Australia Day has a different meaning for so many people, and 2018 in Bendigo was no different.
Retiree Ron Poyser, posing for photos in his early twentieth century car parked on the lawn near the lake, said the day was an opportunity to reflect on the wonderful country in which we live.
“I think some of us take it for granted sometimes,” he said.
Phill Randall and his family were perhaps the most visibly patriotic bunch.
What people forget is, we are one people and we go for each other.John Forbes
Mr Randall, with a kangaroo-flag draped across his shoulders, said: “It’s always a good day isn’t it, you can’t say no to it.”
“It’s a great day to spend with family and friends.”
John Forbes, the Mitiamo man best known for his work as national promotions manager at Puma and one of the founders of the Blue Ribbon Foundation, was the Australia Day ambassador.
“It's our country, our flag, let's do the best we can for it,” an emotional Mr Forbes said.
“Let's face it, you don't change your birthday, you don't change your house number in the street, so why should we change when things are going so well.
“What people forget is, we are one people and we go for each other. A lot of people try and divide us and split us away in different directions.”
In another emotional speech, Bendigo citizen of the year Andrew Reid said he was overwhelmed and humbled by the award.
Mr Reid volunteers the majority of his time to help the town of Eaglehawk and began assisting with the Eaglehawk Football Netball Club 30 years ago.
“There are many people that work to ensure Eaglehawk is great, and remains great. That’s why the award is unexpected as there's plenty of great role models and putting in is the norm,” he said.
Young citizen of the year Jontee Brown, who developed ankylosing spondylitis in his lower spine after cutting his knee during an fall while overseas three years ago, thanked the crowd, his friends and family.
Mr Brown, who represented Victoria and Australia in wheelchair basketball, said he was looking forward to a productive year helping the community.
Dower Park a picture
A small but energetic crowd gathered on the north-western side of Dower Park on Friday to celebrate Australia Day, as the early-morning sun began to rise above the G.A. Edwards Stand.
The usual fair – barbecue, snag rolls, Australian flags – was greeted by less usual, colonial-style music.
Canteen volunteers David and Faye Rettalick have manned the coffee and tea station on January 26 for more than 10 years.
“We just like to help out on a day like this,” Mr Rettalick said.
The day for the Rettalicks was about celebrating “normal, ordinary” Australians with no bells and whistles.
The early risers planned on spending the rest of the day relaxing, perhaps squeezing in a nap or two.
Deputy mayor Jennifer Alden spoke at the official ceremony, using her speech to recognise the differing opinions of Australia Day.
“Some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people see today as a day of mourning and disconnection, some see it as a day for reconciliation and justice while others see it as an opportunity to celebrate the progress of our community,” she said.
“However you celebrate take a moment to reflect on how fortunate we are to live in Australia, and especially Greater Bendigo,” she said.
Julie Armstrong won the Kangaroo Flat Australian Citizen of the year award, much to her surprise.
Ms Armstrong, a devoted volunteers who helps out at Bendigo Bank community events and fundraisers while also volunteering her time at the library as a Justice of the Peace, said the award meant so much to her.
“I’m so proud,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes.
“It’s about time more people started giving back to the community.”
Ms Armstrong, who also helps out at the soup kitchen at Rotary Park, was described as “the right person at the right time always helping out and going beyond what is expected.”