Conversation has changed in Australia since fires and drought, says Australia Day guest

Cowra Australia Day ambassador Terry O'Connell OAM told guests at this year's awards ceremony the current time is a great opportunity to ponder why we are here.

"What does it mean to be Australian and what matters?" Mr O'Connell, a thirty-year veteran with the NSW Police Service and restorative justice pioneer, asked those present.

"If I look back at our recent history I cannot recall a series of events that have impacted on so many Australians," Mr O'Connell said of the bushfires and drought that have swept the nation.

Mr O'Connell himself was recently caught up in the Lake Conjola fires with members of his family.

"We were in a rental which we have been in the past 10 years, we managed to save it and a house next door but there were over 100 houses lost.

"I make reference to it because what has happened since then is, the conversations we are having has changed.

"We're starting to think about the things that really matter.

"Conversation has changed, people are looking out for one another, the generosity of spirit that has been revealed is extraordinary. What has happened has impacted more Australians than at any other event since World War II.

"How we manage that and grow is very much influenced by the conversations we have. It's important we change the conversation in a way that draws people in," he said.