Tamworth Australia Day ambassador Mate Helping Mate founder John Harper

John Harper.

John Harper.

A NSW wheat and sheep farmer who created the rural wellbeing program Mate Helping Mate will be an Australia Day ambassador in the Tamworth region.

John Harper, who lives in Stockinbingal, will give an address as part of Nundle’s Australia Day celebrations.

Mr Harper founded the self-help program in 2006; it promotes social and creative strategies to manage tough times, with mateship and community at its core.

Mr Harper had recognised that the continuing drought had contributed to his rural or regional neighbours becoming socially withdrawn. 

Having experienced depression, he understood this placed them at risk of developing a mental illness.

Mate Helping Mate has proven so successful that Mr Harper now shares his approach across eastern Australia. 

He speaks voluntarily at rural mental health, drought and general agribusiness events.

Organisations such as WorkCover NSW, the Department of Industry, the YWCA of NSW and Centacare have also engaged him as a presenter.

He was a finalist in the NSW Australian of the Year (Local Hero) for 2009, received a Pride of Australia medal (Community Spirit) 2008 and was honoured by Rotary with a Paul Harris Fellow even though he’s not a Rotarian.

Mr Harper said what made him proud to be Australian was “that mateship is practised and still valued in modern Australia”.

Region celebrates

The region’s Australia Day activities will include barbecues, a thong-fling competition, a sheep-shearing demonstration and pumpkin bowling.

Events will be held in Barraba, Bendemeer, Kootingal, Manilla, Nundle and Tamworth.

In Barraba and Manilla, the ambassador will be Graham Ross, a radio broadcaster, television presenter and author who has been part of the Better Homes and Gardens television show since 1995.

The full program

Barraba RSL Memorial Hall, Queen St

  • 8am: community breakfast with entertainment by the Barraba Band.
  • 9am: Official ceremony including the Australia Day address by ambassador Graham Ross. Presentation of Citizen of the Year, Frank Darlington Young Achiever and Community Event of the Year awards. Councillor Jim Maxwell is Tamworth Regional Council’s official representative.

Bendemeer Bowling Club and Bendemeer Hotel, Caroline St

  • 8.30am to 12.30pm: free community breakfast at the bowling club. Hotel and ground will host activities including a flag-raising ceremony, billy-boiling competition, thong-throwing and entertainment. Councillor Mark Rodda is Tamworth Regional Council’s official representative.

Memory Park, Denman Ave, Kootingal

  • 8am to 10.30am: community breakfast (gold coin donation), annual Thong Fling Contest, gumboot tossing, pumpkin bowling and prize for best-decorated gum boot. Councillor Phil Betts is Tamworth Regional Council’s official representative.

Manilla Memorial Swimming Pool, Arthur St

  • 11am to 2pm: Community morning tea, entertainment, games, face-painting and golden flipper swimming relay.
  • Noon: official Australia Day program including address by ambassador Graham Ross, and presentation of Citizen of the Year, Young Citizen of the Year and Community Event of the Year awards. Councillors Jim Maxwell and Juanita Wilson are Tamworth Regional Council’s official representatives.

Nundle Public School, Jenkins St

  • 8.30am to 10.30am: barbecue breakfast, trivia competition, children’s activities and official ceremony including address by ambassador John Harper, and presentation of Citizen of the Year, Community Organisation or Event, Community Recognition and Sports awards. Councillor Charles Impey is Tamworth Regional Council’s official representative.

Tamworth Community Centre, Darling St

  • 7.30am: church service conducted by Tamworth Ministers Fraternal
  • 8.30am: bush breakfast cooked and served by the Rotary Clubs of Tamworth
  • 10am: civic ceremony including citizenship ceremony and announcement of the Tamworth Australia Day Awards for Citizen of the Year, Young Citizen of the Year and Mitchell Brady Encouragement Award. Official guests will include Tamworth region mayor Col Murray, deputy mayor Helen Tickle and councillor Russell Webb.

Bicentennial Park, Kable Ave, Tamworth

  • 7pm: Toyota Stars Under The Stars, including Travis Collins, Rachael Fahim, Karin Page, Mickey Pye, Liam Brew, Luke Dickens, Luke Austen, Kaylee Bell, Jared Porter, the 2018 Toyota Star Maker winner, surprise guests and the Sam Hawksley All Star Band.
  • 9pm: fireworks.

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