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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 966

Mr MITCHELL (McEwen) (10:45): Over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending and presenting some awards at the Victorian and National Country Music Awards night. The Victorian and National Country Music Awards is a great success, with a range of wonderful local Australian artists performing and receiving awards during the night, and a good time was had by all the 150-odd people who were there in attendance.

The national country music awards and the Victorian country music awards are a chance to get up close and personal with Australia's finest country music talent. The awards are part of Victoria's premier country music event, the Whittlesea Country Music Festival. It showcases an extensive and premier range of Australian country music artists in the township of Whittlesea, which makes for an idyllic rural setting for this event.

The annual community celebration—which has been going strong for 13 years and which showcases high-profile Australian country music entertainment, including local icons like Carter and Carter—is held in the Whittlesea township, as I said. The highlights of the weekend included a gala evening of the music awards at the Plenty Ranges Arts and Convention Centre in South Morang and a free street party in the Whittlesea township, and on Friday and Saturday nights there were gigs at different locations around the township. On Saturday the township of Whittlesea closes down but the shops were open. All the street vendors were there, along with many up-and-coming talents who busked in the streets and sold their CDs. There was the Sunday round-up and, of course, the truck and ute show. They always go hand in hand at the different events.

I would like to congratulate the major winners on the night. Adam Toms was male vocalist of the year for Fighting For. Female vocalist of the year was Rose Carleo for That Season Again. Group of the year was Jetty Road, who took home six awards for I'm a Dreamer. Duet of the year, which was one of the awards I presented, went to locals Carter and Carter for their song Keeps Getting Better.

These events do not happen easily. In fact, a lot of time, effort and energy goes into them via a range of volunteers led by Tony and Sue Holding, Rebecca Buchanan, Sally Tregea, Dave Watson, Peter Twot, Ingrid Breann, Julie Sulivan, Graeme Hunter, Leanne Murnane, Kim Mamarn, Cliff Scott, Des Hall, Lynn Cockrell, Steve Beiancon, a girl named Sunshine Cross, Julie McBride, Marney Keally and Jake Holding. These people donate many nights and many hours of heartache and headache to organise this fantastic event, which showcases not only country music in Victoria but also our region—and that is the important thing.

The show had to be cancelled three years ago due to the Black Saturday fires, but since then the volunteers have been working extremely hard to get it back up and running again. The event was absolutely fantastic on the weekend. The numbers were down a little bit due to the weather but spirits were very high. The range of talent there was first-class. Congratulations to everyone who was involved in this event and let us see it go for at least another 13 years.