"Australian spirit" wasn't described at Walwa's Australia Day ceremony, it was embodied - by the caring and resilient people gathered in the town's memorial hall.
They sung I am Australian to Mary Hunt's violin as one voice, collectively mourned firefighter Samuel McPaul during a minute's silence and vowed to stay united through fire recovery.
Mrs Hunt was in Walwa for two decades, playing at many ceremonies, but moved to Table Top two years ago.
"My heart really goes out to those of you who lost land, animals and houses," she said.
"You have such a wonderful community, that's why I keep coming back."
Walwa-Jingellic Lions Club president Keith Breaden didn't know if the event would go ahead in the aftermath of Talmalmo fire.
"I've seen a lot of change in a lot of faces over the last three weeks," he said.
"It was pretty grim, but there's smiles today."
Awards weren't dedicated to individuals, but to the groups of people who saved homes and health - Walwa's CFA and medical centre, Burrowye CFA, Ambulance CERT members, and the RFS brigades of Talmalmo and Jingellic.
Walwa CFA captain David Hanna, who lost 1000 acres, said these brigades were small but fought big.
"We came in on the eastern side of the fire and Burrowye was on the western side - but we didn't see Burrowye for 10 days and we had no contact with them," he said.
"Communication was so difficult ... we felt very much on our own here, like many communities.
"But the response we've had from the CFA strike teams from around all of Victoria is overwhelming.
"Things are settling down a bit, but it will be a long haul before things get back to normal."
Mr Hanna said there "wouldn't be many properties in Walwa that weren't affected", and for many of the 200 attending Walwa's ceremony, it was their first town gathering.
The Lions Club, with Towong Council, decided this year's ceremony had to be different and was a chance for people to debrief and connect.
Deputy Mayor Andrew Whitehead thanked Albury-Wodonga Regional Foodshare for donations and Wodonga Lions Club for cooking breakfast.
"Thee are so many people and organisations that have given time, money, and whatever they could, and on behalf of you all I'd like to thank those people," he said.
"It's important we try, as we come into the rebuild, to support our community.
"Let's make sure we stick together; it will be a long recovery."
Look out for each other
Australia Day Ambassador and doctor David Marsh was "skeptical" about post-traumatic stress disorder before he went to Bali and found himself treating victims of the 2002 bombings.
Mr Marsh and his wife Clair, who were awarded Order of Australia Medals for their foundation which assists healthcare in Bali, were guest speakers at Walwa's ceremony.
"Let me assure you it [PTSD] does exist ... we came back from Bali and we needed help," he said.
"It exists in your community here right now.
"Blokes are not so great at reaching out ... but we're getting better and seeing more blokes talk about depression, anxiety and anger.
"Don't hold back. Seek solace in each other and seek help."
Mrs Marsh said the people in Walwa "knew everything there was to know" about community.
"We talk about volunteers in a big way in our life - we run a foundation where everyone is volunteers," she said.
"You know every nook and cranny of volunteerism.
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"You are one of the bravest bunch of people I've ever met."
Mr Marsh said driving to Walwa, they had seen "scorched Earth", but "fresh, green grass growing" and referenced the book Goodbye Cobber, God Bless You in closing his speech.
"He [John Hamilton] tries to define what the ANZAC Aussie man was all about, and puts it down to five words," he said.
"Those five words are very simple; fortitude, friendship, kindness, humour and irreverence."