New South Wales
Meet Our Members
PATRICIA CARROLL OAM
Patricia Carroll OAM was recognized in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours for her more than 40 years’ work in creating a hub of education; St George and Sutherland Community College (SGSCC), which has guided students for four decades. Now based in Jannali, the college had its early start from a small classroom at Caringbah High School with only 14 students with a disability in 1979. The college now supports children and adults with their English and school studies, and provides vocational, leisure courses and activities. It has expanded partnerships with a number of community services including Sylvanvale and Civic, and delivers more than 400 courses to the local community, Sydney-wide and to overseas students.
Ms Carroll said. “The dream was to have a place where people with a disability could further their education, and to create a college where people with a disability could access post-school education.” This dream became reality, and the college now supports 130 clients in disability each day and enrolls more than 6000 people each year.
Ms Carroll was recognised as an outstanding member of the community at a national level for her work with empowering people with a disability and for her work in education.
Patricia said “it is a great privilege to serve others and to be recognised by your country for working with people with a disability and in the field of education. All who work in these areas contribute greatly to social justice and to the development of people in our community.”
“This is an honour I share with my daughter, Erin* (photo below), who has Down Syndrome. At the beginning of this journey there was no education past high school available for people with a disability. This motivation for change has never left me.
St George & Sutherland Shire Leader
GWEN WARMINGTON OAM
When Gwen Warmington was raising her two sons in Yass in the 1960s and 70s, she made regular trips to Canberra.
It wasn’t just to see the sights of the nation’s fledgling capital.
It was to lay in wait in the Great Hall of the Old Parliament House, pouncing on parliamentarians as they came and went from sessions, rustling up funds for her many community projects.
Mrs Warmington was honoured with an Order of Australia Medal, (OAM) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2021.
Gwen moved to Yass in 1952, the day after marrying her sweetheart John in Sydney.
Gwen and John Warmington married on November 1, 1952. The next day they moved to Yass.
Mrs Warmington was instrumental in the establishment and development of a number of key projects – such as Yass War Memorial Swimming Pool, Yass Valley Aged Care, Yass Community Aid and Yass Music Club – as well as serving the region as a councillor for six years, back when she was the only woman in the chambers.
The Warmingtons lived in Yass for 31 years, then sold their business and moved to Darwin following the death of their younger son David. (Their elder son Mark lives in Canberra.) Another 24 years in Queensland followed, but they returned to Yass in 2014, as John’s health was failing. “Cancer took him in 2016, and it took me a year or two to get over that,” she said.
“But since then I’ve been back into things – I’ve just got out after two years as Probus president.”
So active is the 89 year-old that she still does volunteer work for three charities (the hospital auxiliary, CanAssist and Yass Valley Aged Care), which keeps her busy almost every day.
Gwen Warmington with Hope Styles (left) and Valmar Jean Dowling (right)two residents from the original Warmington Lodge in 2017.
Photo: Toby Vue
In fact, when she is helping at the aged care unit, she is often preparing morning tea for people somewhat younger than herself.
Following is a list of community and local government positions Mrs Warmington has held over the decades:
President, Yass Probus Club, since 2019.
Volunteer, Yass Can Assist, since 2017.
Charter Secretary and Board Member, Yass Quota Club, 1967-1983
Secretary, Yass Music Club, 1957-1975.
Founder, Yass Community Aid (assisting with the foundation of Andalini’s Special School), 1969, and Chair, 1969-1983.
Chairperson, Yass Aged Persons Hostel Implementation Committee, 1969-1979.
Foundation Organiser, Yass Woollenwealth Festival, for the Yass War Memorial Swimming Pool, 1956-1970.
Former President, Yass Pre-School and Primary School.
Gwen Warmington Lodge (now Yass Valley Aged Care) – Chair, 1970-1973; Secretary, 1974-1977; Founder.
Former Vice-Chair, Council for Social Development South Eastern Region, 1977-78.
Alderman on Yass Municipal Council (9 years) 1968 – 1977
Councillor on Southern Tablelands County Council (6 years) 1971 – 1977
Dr Lenore Coltheart OAM
Former Canberra historian Dr Lenore Coltheart of Malua Bay, NSW, was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the Australia Day honours, January 2022.
The long-time champion of Canberra’s iconic Albert Hall received the honour for her service to community history.
Her career started with teaching political history in Australian universities for 25 years and continued with projects as a heritage consultant, historian and author.
Dr Coltheart was instrumental in the Save Albert Hall campaign in 2007. Picture: Richard Briggs
Dr Coltheart moved to Maula Bay five years ago but continues to work in Canberra, including on a book about women’s rights activist Jessie Street, to be published next year by the National Library. She also recently co-edited The Timber Truss Bridge Book.
Dr Coltheart was born in Brisbane but her father’s career in the Navy brought them to Canberra. She attended Ainslie School, where she was dux, and the old Canberra High School.
KARIM SUMAR AM
Karim Sumar was recognised on the 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, being awarded an AM, Member of the Order of Australia, for significant service to the Ismaili community, and to the convenience retail industry.
Sumar has worked in the convenience industry for more than 20 years, currently working at EG Australia as the QSR (Quick Service Restaurants) and New Concepts Director. He also served on the board of the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) for almost 12 years, and for four of those years he was the chairman.
He balances this with extensive work serving the Ismaili community, a global, multi-ethnic community whose members comprise of a wide diversity of cultures, languages and nationalities and live in Central Asia, the Middle East, South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, North America, the Far East, Australia, and NZ.
His Highness the Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, and in July 2015, the Aga Khan appointed Sumar as President of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim Council for ANZ.
In 2019, His Highness the Aga Khan became the Global Founding Patron of The Prince’s Trust, and Sumar is one a Trustee of the Prince’s Trust in Australia and had the privilege to meet His Royal Highness Prince Charles during his last visit to New Zealand.
Sumar said that he is “blessed” to have been able to find an employer in EG Australia, that recognises and supports the work he does for the Ismaili community and has committed to supporting any additional time off that is required for his community service.
George El Khouri OAM
Design for living
St George resident George El Khouri received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the 2022 Australia Day Honours for services to architecture and to the community.
Mr El Khouri is a member of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and a founding member of the Australian Architects Association. He discovered his love of architecture as a ten-year-old when his father, Karam, a St George builder, took him onto building sites.
He studied for a Bachelor of Environmental Design in Canberra and completed a Bachelor of Architecture at the University of NSW.
He has donated his architectural services to many churches in the Maronite Diocese of Australia and to many organisations including St George Hospital where he designed the Bezzina Cancer Care Lodge. A wing of the cancer care lodge is named after him in recognition of his services.
Mr El Khouri said that good architecture and a happy community go hand-in-hand. “40,000 people have stayed at Bezzina Cancer Care Lodge in its first ten years.
“It is nice to know you have helped 40,000 cancer care patients by assisting them to feel comfortable during treatment and recovery in a nice architectural environment,” he said.
“It is important to understand the role architecture plays in improving society. Like churches, well-designed architecture brings people together in a pleasant, social environment.”
Emeritus Professor Tim Roberts AM
Emeritus Professor Tim Roberts was recognized as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Australia Day Honours in January 2022
He is the Patron Hunter Region Botanic Gardens from February 2022 and
Founding Director of InnovAAte Pty Ltd, a spinoff biotechnology company based on patented ground-breaking research at the University of Newcastle.
Em Prof Tim Roberts AM was Director of the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment at the University of Newcastle from 2010 until 2018. He continues to be active in research in the laboratory of his long-time collaborator Associate Professor Hugh Dunstan at the University of Newcastle. He has published some 130 papers. Originally from South Australia, he has traveled extensively since completing his BSc at the University of Adelaide and his PhD at Flinders University, coming to the University of Newcastle in 1974 and moving to Singapore in July 2006 to set up the University of Newcastle campus in Singapore.
On retiring from his position as inaugural Dean of the Singapore campus he joined James Cook University Singapore Campus as Dean of Research with the goal of establishing a research ethos on the campus. Having completed this task he returned to Newcastle as Conjoint Professor to pursue his research until asked to take over the Tom Farrell Institute Directorship in 2010.
Tim Roberts is an acknowledged expert in the area of chronic pain and fatigue and autism. His group has made significant progress leading to the understanding that these conditions have a common underlying biochemical pathology which relates to the metabolism of the sufferer being in a chronic catabolic state. These findings have reoriented the field to now focus on chronic infection as the primary underlying cause of chronic pain and fatigue; this chronic catabolic state being the host response to this chronic infection.
Tim Roberts is currently Emeritus Professor of Biology in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Newcastle Tim Roberts is also an education consultant with experience in offshore campus development and control, alumni, and postgraduate education.
Tim Roberts’s laboratory has continuing projects on the biochemistry of fatigue and exercise with Professor Garth Nicolson, Institute of Molecular Medicine, Los Angeles, California, USA. In the area of environmental sustainability he collaborates with Dr Charles CC Lee of the Singapore Campus of the University of Newcastle, Singapore, with Professor Charles Omwandho of the University of Nairobi and Kirinyaga University. InnovAAte Pty Ltd is the principal Industry partner, with colleagues at Lumbung Mangkarat University in Indonesian Borneo,and with colleagues at Tadulako University in Indonesian Sulawesi.
- Bachelor of Science, University of Adelaide
- Bachelor of Science (Honours), University of Adelaide
- PhD (Biological Science), Flinders University
Lydia Sharpin OAM JP BInfTech ACS CP
Lydia began volunteering at sixteen years of age, visiting elderly residents in a local housing commission set of flats who had no family visiting them and keeping them company in the afternoons. She found it gave her joy, connection, a welcome escape from her domestic situation and taught how simple acts can make such a positive difference.
From there, she volunteered organising social events for many years through the then Royal Blind Society and at the same time joined St John Ambulance Australia (NSW) as an Event Health Service Responder. Over the following decades she held roles such as Divisional Operations Officer, Divisional Training Officer, Divisional Superintendent, Regional Training Officer, Area Manager, Deputy Assistant Commissioner. She is currently volunteering as the Salesforce Support Specialist, contributing operational support and IT advisory services as well as representing the EHS metropolitan volunteers as their elected representative.
Upon starting a family, she left Royal Blind Society and tutored children’s literacy programs as well as becoming a Justice of the Peace. She still volunteers each month as a community Justice of the Peace at a desk.
She actively volunteers using her skills in Information Technology. She mentors junior professionals within the Salesforce ecosystem, gives presentations at user groups, and is the only non-Salesforce employee panellist on the Salesforce ANZ Ask a Nonprofit Expert on Wednesdays. She also supports Back to Back Theatre, an award-winning theatre ensemble group that showcases their neurodivergent team and present a body of work designed to challenge the audience’s assumptions about neurodivergent people, training their staff in their Salesforce system and making enhancements to keep it operating.
Lydia also moderates a large international women’s support group on Facebook called Strong Women with over 440K members. Upon receiving her Order of Australia Medal on Australia Day 2022, she stated that “I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for the friendship and guidance of so many inspiring volunteers I met along the way. Words truly cannot express my appreciation.”
Graham Dark OAM 26th January, 2022
I would like to thank those who thought me worthy of this award by nominating me. I accept this award in recognition of the many people who give their time freely to help others in the community.
I have always gained a great deal of satisfaction by volunteering for community organisations that help make our communities safer, fairer, happier and cleaner.
The first time I remember was volunteering with our local Church Fellowship collecting cans of food for the Smith Family. At Teachers College I started dance lessons for students and organised dances which were very well attended.
At Appin I set up a library at the local Primary School, started a soccer Club for local youth which grew to include adults, and organised community fun days.
At Woodberry Primary School I and a group of parents initiated a recycling program with all money raised going towards school programs. I also ran movie nights and discos at the School as well as environmental programs and a school camping program. I was a member of the Hunter Regional Camping Committee that ran weekend in-service courses for teachers who wanted to take school children camping.
When my own children decided to attend Sunday School I decided to volunteer as a Sunday School Teacher at St Peters East Maitland. My son joined St Peters Scout Group as a Cub so I trained and become a Cub Scout Leader. When the Scout Group acquired its own hall by relocating the East Maitland Drill Hall to Jubilee Street I became a Scout Leader, Venturer Assistant and eventually Group Leader. In this role I examined Scouts who completed their awards as well as Venturers who completed their Queen Scout Ward. I was also instrumental in encouraging Scouts to attend ANZAC Services, Australia Day in Maitland Park, Clean-up Australia Day, and volunteering at Shortland Wetlands and Newcastle Botanical Gardens. Because of this interest in Youth development I started the Duke of Edinburgh Award for Students in the Maitland Area, attending meetings in Newcastle. I accepted the role as Scouting District Commissioner for Maitland and Cessnock and managed the renting of local Scout Halls to other groups.
As my children became interested in swimming I became a committee member of United Swimming Club and President of Beresfield Swimming Club. As my interest grew in swimming I organised School swimming programs, ran school swimming carnivals, eventually organising and running Maitland Zone Swimming Carnivals and Hunter Regional Swimming Carnivals. As the convenor I took the Hunter Regional Primary School Swimming Team to compete at the State Titles in Sydney.
I also coached talented children in Athletics and organised teams to take part in triathlons.
I realised there was a gap for children who did not get the opportunity to represent their school so I organised “Fun Sports Days” at Maitland Park where children from Primary Schools could participate in a friendly no- competitive day. These were held at least twice per year, one for summer sports and one for winter sports. Between 800 and 1000 students attended these days. This was done through Maitland Primary School sports Association.
At Metford Public School I started one of the first OOSH (Outside Of School Hours) Centres for children whose parents couldn’t be home in time to pick them up from school. This provided a safe and educational location where they could stay until picked up.
Tenambit Soccer Club needed a coach for one of their teams. My son persuaded me to take on the roll. We all had an enjoyable and memorable time with very few wins.
I joined East Maitland APEX Club and became a Justice of the Peace, attending Maitland Justice of the Peace Association meetings and assisting new J.P.’s. By combining the resources of APEX and J.P’s I organised and co-ordinated Primary School Debates and Public Speaking.
I joined Kotara/Hanbury Masonic Lodge at Adamstown in Newcastle, doing my 3rd degree at Balmain, Sydney. Transferred to Lodge Mindaribba, Maitland which is now Lodge Wallis Plains. I am presently a non active mason but still keep in touch with fellow masons.
My wife and I managed the Council Hall in Bruce Street, East Maitland and were members of East Maitland Neighbourhood Watch and East Maitland Safety House.
East Maitland Kiwanis asked for my assistance with the organisation of Maitland Relay For Life for NSW Cancer Council. This event was run each year at Maitland Sports Ground with the help of a committee. Many local people and groups came during the day and stayed overnight, doing laps to raise funds for the Cancer Council. I attended meetings at Broadmeadow in Newcastle and attended conferences in Sydney as an advocate. The event is still held each year, now at Marcellin Park at Lorn.
Being interested in Politics for many years since 1982 I ran and was elected as a Maitland City Council Councillor for West Ward. I become involved in Telarah Neighbourhood Watch, Telarah and Rutherford Recreation Boards, Maitland PCYC, Maitland Neighbourhood Centre, Rutherford Community Centre, Youth Crisis Centre, Maitland Art Gallery, Maitland Rural Fire Services, and other small independent community groups. I represented Council at several Local Government Conferences.
I enjoyed playing Croquet at Maitland Croquet Club and representing the Club at tournaments throughout the State. As President I oversaw the installation of the bore, the underground watering system, the lights on courts 1 and 2, and improvements to the grounds and equipment. A senior group in the Telarah area wanted to start a social Croquet Club at Telarah Bowling Club using the spare and neglected bowls lawn. Local volunteers assisted with the mowing and maintenance of the lawn, while others made equipment required to play Croquet. Second hand balls were purchased, and Telarah Croquet Club commenced on Tuesday mornings. A small fee was used to upgrade equipment and pay Telarah Bowling Club for the use of the ground. Other people came to learn how to play the game.
It was decided to start a University of the 3rd Age (U3A) in Maitland. I was on the steering committee and a foundation members on the management committee. Numbers grew quickly and some members also wanted to play Croquet so I started a U3A group at Telarah Croquet Club. This continued to grow in interest and still continues on two days a week.
Telarah Scout Group was struggling. The hall needed urgent maintenance and funds to carry out the work. I became Group Manager and sought assistance from locals. Funds were raised and work was carried out under special grants and programs. The Group continues today thanks to these volunteers.
I was asked to join Rutherford/Telarah Probus Club when I retired. This was a local social Club for retired and semi-retired men but membership is now open to men and women.
I have held several positions on the committee including Treasurer, President, Program Director, Tours Director, and Committee Member. I became involved in the Hunter Region Probus Association as a Committee Member and later President. After my term as President I became the Association’s Public Officer.
Probus South Pacific asked me to be a Cluster Ambassador for Maitland, Cessnock, Upper Hunter and Gloucester. This involved organising meetings for representatives from Clubs in the area. I am still a member of the Hunter Region Probus Association and Rutherford/Telarah Probus as their Club Ambassador.
I have been involved in Maitland Seniors and Pensioners Association for several years. The association raised valuable funds for Regional areas affected by drought and items were purchased and sent to affected areas. As Public Officer I assisted in the review of the constitution and Standing Resolutions. Unfortunately, due to ill health I had to resign as Public Officer but still remain an active member of the organisation.
I also joined Maitland and District Historical Society in 2015. I was asked to organise the 40th anniversary celebrations in 2017 as event coordinator. With some confusion within the structure of the organisation I identified the responsibilities of the active members and developed job descriptions for each. It was also necessary to determine the make-up of the Committee and other sub committees. As President I began a monthly newsletter, determined fund raising opportunities at events such as Australia Day, Steamfest, and other events held in Maitland. Historic walks were commenced and Bunnings barbecues were extended to provide additional funds. Items stored in the rooms were identified with some items with little historical significance disposed of. The clean-up provided additional storage for additional items received. The constitution was reviewed and a Collection Policy was developed to identify items that would be accepted, stored and recorded. A record of hours volunteered by members was maintained for future reference. Guest speaker nights were continued on a monthly basis as another fundraising opportunity. Weekly activities looking at Maitland History were commenced in conjunction with Maitland U3A.
I am also a member of Maitland Regional Museum. At present the groups promoting Maitland History are separate identities with a great deal of overlap, particularly for the volunteers who work so hard to manage these groups. A building is required that will meet the needs of these groups so that the Maitland History can be presented on a united front as Maitland Historical Hub. Because of the lack of a facility many historical items are being lost or are being stored due to the lack of opportunity to display them.
My wife and I are foundation and charter members of West Maitland Centennial Lions Club.
I have been involved in networking with other community organisations and individuals raising items and money for the drought affected farming communities and bush fires. I edit and distribute the monthly newsletter and organise fundraising for Children’s Cancer, NSW Cancer Council Biggest Morning Tea, Leukaemia Foundation Light The Night, collect and sort out postage stamps for Lions International Stamp Club, Chapter 10, Australia that sells the stamps at auction for Australian Lions Children’s Mobility Foundation, and sell lollies to raise funds for the Lions Club. Also assist with other fundraising activities as required and able to.
I encourage all people in communities to look at ways of helping to make our communities happier, safer, fairer and cleaner. No matter what a person’s individual circumstances are, we are all able to find ways to help our community. We can all help by disposing of rubbish correctly, recycling, looking after ourselves, and helping someone in need.
The awards received include:
- Silver Arrow award for services to Scouting.
- City of Maitland Medal, 2005.
- Maitland Citizen of the Year, 2005.
- Life Member of Rutherford/Telarah Probus Club, 2020.
- The Government of NSW Community Service Award in recognition and appreciation of outstanding contribution to the Community, 2021.
- Lions Club International Foundation Melvin Jones award for dedication to humanitarian service to the highest degree, 2021.
- OAM for Service to the Community
Allan Gibson OAM, Cherrybrook NSW
In a career spanning over 47 years with three of Australia’s major banking groups, Allan Gibson worked in many roles ranging from credit and operational risk management, banking services, human resources; change management and public relations to process improvement and communications. His service took him from his first branch with the Bank of New South Wales (later Westpac) at Wyong to Gunnedah and Tumbarrumba before being transferred to Lae and subsequently to Mount Hagen in TPNG.
Returning to Australia at the end of 1966 he was posted to Port Macquarie in 1967 before transferring to his hometown, Gosford as Relief Officer NSW Country in 1968. The two-and-a-half-year term in that role involved reliefs in Portland, Cessnock, Coolah, Gloucester, Denilquin, Kiama, Woy Woy, Inverell, Newcastle, Leura, Tamworth, Parkes, Cardiff and Toukley.
In 1996 a retrenchment resulted in him joining Rabobank Australia in a business unit subsequently acquired by the ANZ Banking Group. Following a restructure in 2005, Allan was retrenched and in February 2006 he joined the Commonwealth Banking Corporation as Manager Operational Risk Management Frameworks. In November 2010 he retired from full-time work.
Parallel with his secular employment, Allan had extensive involvement in volunteer and community organisations. In 1963 he was elected Treasurer of the Gosford Methodist Sunday School. He was a Volunteer Telephone Counsellor with Lifeline Parramatta for 10 years. He served on the P & C Association at Metella Road Public School for eight years, including seven as the Hon Treasurer.
From 1977 to 1984 he served on the Committee for the Lalor Park Child Care Centre, initially as the Hon Treasurer and then terms as both President and Vice-President.
Allan had a long association with The Girls’ Brigade from 1983 until 2013. He was the Hon Treasurer for The Girls’ Brigade, first in NSW, Tasmania (1986) and then South Australia (1989). In 1998 he was appointed to the role of National Treasurer for The Girls’ Brigade Australia, retiring from that position in 2013.
In 2000 Allan was a Volunteer with the Olympic Roads and Traffic Authority (ORTA) for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
A member of the Uniting Church since 1977, formed through the Methodist Church since childhood, Allan has worshipped in congregations at Gosford, Gunnedah, Tumbarumba, Port Macquarie and Grantham Heights (NSW), Bellerive (Tasmania), Wesley Warradale (South Australia) and currently Wesley Castle Hill (NSW).
Since 1977 he has undertaken many congregational/parish roles including Childcare Centre Treasurer; Property Committee member; Chairperson of the Parish Council, Parish Treasurer, Congregational Secretary, Church Council Secretary, Publicity Officer, Parish Editor, Communications and Elder.
Allan was member, and subsequently Chairperson, of the Risk Oversight Committee of the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and the ACT for nine years until 2015. He was a member of the Audit and Compliance Committee for Parramatta Mission from 2009 to 2017. In March 2020 he was appointed the Interim Chairperson of the Synod Governance Oversight Committee for the Uniting Church’s NSW and ACT Synod. He held the position until June 2021 when a new Board structure was implemented.
He previously held the position of Chair of the Audit & Risk Committee of the Risk Management Institution of Australasia. In 2016 he concluded a five-year term as a member of the NSW Bar Association Professional Conduct Committee.
As a contribution to the Governance Institute of Australia (GIA) Allan was a member of the Corporate and Legal Issues Committee and participated on the Working Group which developed the School Governance Toolkit in 2015. In 2017 he acted as a Subject Matter Expert/reviewer of the content for the Governance in Sport e-Training. He is also a mentor within the GIA’s Mentoring Program as well as those Mentoring Programs offered by both Finsia and the Australian Institute of Management (AIM).
Allan is a presenter/facilitator for Short Course subjects on Governance and Risk Management for the Governance Institute’s Certificate Courses.
Post retirement Allan provided risk and governance services to both Prime Media Group Limited and Southern Phone Company Limited. Since May 2016 Allan has been providing ProBono assistance to the Malek Fahd Islamic School in the area of policy reviews.
Currently he is a Board Member, Vice-President and Public Officer for The Hills Community Aid & Information Service Inc., located at Baulkham Hills. In May 2019 he was appointed as a member the Nominations Committee of UCA Redress Limited.
During 2021 Allan was a participant in the Good Men Project through the Hills Community Aid. The Good Men Project that invites men to speak up, challenge gender stereotypes and promote change.
A participant in the 1989 Advanced Management Program with the Australian Institute of Management, Allan holds Diplomas of the Australian Institute of Company Directors; Financial Risk Management (Operational Risk); Business; and Financial Markets, as well as Certificates in Governance & Risk Management; Governance for Not-for-Profits; Training and Assessment (IV); Financial Services (I) and Active Volunteering (1).
Allan is a Senior Fellow of Finsia (SF Fin), a Fellow the Governance Institute of Australia (FGIA), the Institute of Leaders and Managers (FILM) and the Risk Management Institution of Australasia (FRMIA).
He was appointed a Justice of the Peace in and for the State of NSW in February 1970.
In January 2015 he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to youth, and to the community.
an extract from the Seafarers’ hymn Eternal Father, strong to save by John Whiting (1860)
A career in the Royal Australian Navy led John Ingram OAM into assisting refugees following the Vietnam War.
John’s involvement in the refugee cause was infused in him as a lad following his father’s return from active service overseas in WW2. “Dad’s night and week-end job was a volunteer teaching English to former refugees from the Baltic states. I was fascinated by the stories these men told at our kitchen table”. That interaction of assisting those in need sowed the seed in John’s conscience.
Decades later and as a Navy Vietnam War veteran, John was deeply troubled by the destruction in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and the profound impact of that 10-year conflict on the people of those nations, many of whom were now fleeing ruthless Communist regimes in small boats to safer havens. John was serving as an Exchange Officer in the US Navy when the Saigon administration fell to Communist NVA forces in April 1975.
When then US President Ford, called for volunteers to assist in the urgent transfer by air of 25,000 Vietnamese refugees to the safety of continental USA, John raised his hand to work with the American Red Cross and the US Army to temporarily house up to 5,000 refugees in a dilapidated, abandoned army camp in Pennsylvania.
“I was shocked at the state of the barracks last used during the Korean war. In that intervening 25-year period vandals had stripped or smashed anything of worth, including toilets and galley equipment. That week-end I prepared and despatched to the New Cumberland Army Depot a logistical assessment of what I deemed essential to safely house men, women and children in an alien environment for a maximum of 6 months. Thanksgiving Day, November 1975 was mandated as the deadline by which all occupants had to be re-housed elsewhere as the camp infrastructure had no heating, and none was to be provided.”
America’s “Can Do” approach to any problem is legendary. Within the month the camp “morphed” into a viable facility and the residents flown in from emergency accommodation in California. American hospitality ensured all refugees were sponsored and rehoused in long-term accommodation in the following months.
By Thanksgiving Day, the Pennsylvania camp was empty and decommissioned. Job done! Mission accomplished.
Two years later John was serving in Canberra when he and several other volunteers established the ACT chapter of ICRA, the Indo-Chinese Refugee Association. As the honorary secretary, John established useful demi-official links with local and federal parliamentarians including then Prime Minister Fraser and Foreign Minister Peacock.
ICRA (ACT’s) charter, John stated, was threefold. “First, to encourage the federal government to accept more refugees to relieve pressure on grossly overpopulated camps in S.E Asia. Second, to accelerate the rate of processing and resettlement of refugees incarcerated in camps, such as Villawood and Maribyrnong and third, to include the ACT as a destination for former refugees with appropriate infrastructure in place to facilitate rapid absorption into the Canberra work force, education system and the wider community.”
In 1980 John was back at sea again, this time in the then RAN flagship, the aircraft carrier HMAS MELBOURNE. Aware that any deployment in SE Asian waters could well entail disaster relief or the provision of assistance to refugee boats fleeing Vietnam, John, as the ship’s head of logistics, had embarked a 40-foot shipping container laden with appropriate material.
While transiting the South China Sea in company with her destroyer escort, HMAS TORRENS in June 1981, Grumman Tracker aircraft from the MELBOURNE detected assorted refugee boats and alerted merchant ships to provide assistance. However, one boat, the wooden 13.7-metre NGIA HUNG, was 200 nautical miles off course and in serious distress, drifting with a failed engine in uncomfortable sea conditions following a violent storm.
Painting by Darrell White (Australian Society of Marine Artists) depicts the moment crew in Tracker 851 sight the very last flare fired by the NGIA Hung
There followed a remarkable operation that night in total darkness in which all 99 refugee men women and children, ranging in age from 6 months to 65 years, were safely carried up a vertical ladder by young and very fit sailors without a single injury. All those embarked were dehydrated, emaciated and suffering chronic seasickness, exacerbated by the consumption of contaminated bilge water.
John’s role in this recovery, which he’d hoped would be a model for future RAN refugee recovery operations, entailed management responsibility of this group, codenamed MG99, from the time of embarkation to their handover 5 days later to Singapore authorities for transfer to a UNHCR camp and relocation to host countries, including Australia. Processing was so fast the 77 refugees with family connections in Australia, were flown by QANTAS to Sydney, arriving well ahead of the flagship’s return to her home port at Garden Island.
Photographs courtesy of Naval Photographer Rob Patterson and the AWM Canberra
A child, safely onboard, is carried to waiting medical staff for rehydration and family reunion
Following his retirement from the RAN, John continued his involvement in the refugee cause, “deeply saddened that our once proud international reputation as a caring, compassionate people has been harmed in the 21 years since the TAMPA affair altered the direction of our moral compass.”
In the Australia Day, 2014 Honour’s List John was the recipient of the OAM in the General List.
Postscript: ABC-TV commissioned an episode in the Australian Story series titled “Saving MG 99” which tells the story of this recovery with particular emphasis on the remarkable contribution these former refugees and their children have made, and continue to make, in their adopted homeland. The Producer of this episode was Olivia Rousset, a 2-time Walkley Award recipient for excellence in journalism. This programme was originally aired on 23 August 2021 and is available on ABC TV I-View and on You Tube under the heading “Saving MG 99”. It is absorbing television by any measure.
DAVID KELLETT AM
Over the course of a fascinating sailing career, David Kellett has made an enormous contribution to the sport, both on and off the water. David joined the Squadron in 1998 when he was already half-way through his major contributions to sailing. When David started his ocean racing career in the late 1960s, he sailed with the Australian representative who was on the Ocean Racing Council of the IYRU (International Yacht Racing Union) the world body of sailing which today is the World International Sailing Federation. He said he became aware of the structure of the sport early on and this gave him a strong interest to give something back to the sport which he grew up to love. Little did he imagine, that in the late 1970s when he started serving at his local yacht club, that he was embarking on a path that would lead him to the highest echelons of world sailing.
David was born in 1948 and, like many of us, has been a passionate sailor throughout his life. He started off in small boats and then turned to Olympic classes, before making the jump to ocean racing and later becoming involved in the America’s Cup. His first involvement with the sport’s world body came in 1992 when he was chosen by the Australian Yachting Federation to be their representative and become a member of ISAF’s council Group L (made up of Australia, Fiji, Argentina and Brazil delegates). From 1994-1998 David served on the Events Committee and played a key role in having the high performance Australian designed skiff, the 49er, chosen for Olympic Sailing competition at the 1996 Annual ISAF Conference. At the same meeting, he hosted a cocktail party for the ISAF Youth Sailing Committee which saw Australia chosen to host the 2000 World Youths at Manly – an outstanding event. He soon became a member of the Oceanic Committee and was vital in representing offshore sailing within ISAF.
In 1998 he was elected as an ISAF Vice President, the first Australian to achieve high office in world sailing. He held this office until 2008 when he took on the important position of ISAF Treasurer. During this time as VP, he aided the creation of ISAF Sailing World Championships and worked closely with event organisers at a combined World Championship in Melbourne. In 1999 he saw firsthand how successful this event could be, and this led to a successful 2003 ISAF Worlds in Cadiz, Spain, which was attended by the largest even congregation of Olympic sailors. Then followed regattas in Cascais in Portugal, and Perth, Australia which hosted the 2007 and 2011 events. Serving as Treasurer from 2008 to 2012, David guided ISAF through some incredibly challenging and difficult times due to the global financial crisis and he secured the financial stability of the Federation.
As part of the ISAF Executive Committee, he was responsible for Oceanic racing and the America’s Cup, and assisted with input into Women’s Match Racing, Team Racing and the ISAF World Cup events, bringing more sailors closer to the public and lifting the interest and participation rates worldwide. He held a crucial role in overseeing the introduction of the strategy around the Olympic Sailing competitions. Throughout his time within ISAF he filled many roles: for the Sydney Olympic Games, he was a member of the 2000 Olympic Working Party, a member of the 2000 Olympic Advisory Board and the ISAF President’s liaison at the Games. He was a member of the Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012 sailing competitions. On the water, David is a very experienced offshore sailor, having taken part in 46 Sydney to Hobart races. He skippered Sovereign to line honours in the 1987 race, and over the past 20 years, has been an integral part of the safety network controlling the race at sea. He has also been involved in three America’s Cup challenges for Australia. Sadly, he was forced to retire from offshore sailing in 2000 for medical reasons but has continued to represent the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia as the head of the Sydney to Hobart Relay team.
Since then, he has been elected a Trustee of the Safety of Life at Sea Trust (SOLAS), a charitable trust that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for rescue organisations and needy families; he was elected Chairman in 2016. In 2002 he was honoured with an AM in the Order of Australia and in 2013 was awarded the Yachting Australia President’s Trophy. He is a past Commodore and a Life Member of the CYCA, a past Board director of Sailing Australia and a past President of Yachting NSW. Upon his retirement in 2014 from ISAF, he was the first recipient outside of Europe and the America’s to be presented with the ISAF Beppe Croce Trophy (in memory of long time ISAF President the late Beppe Croce of Italy.) Crowning this was the Australian Sailing Life Membership awarded in November 2020.
PROF RON BARTSCH AM
Professor Bartsch was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2021 Australia Day honours for his services to “Aviation law, and safety compliance”. He was a former senior manager of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and later Head of Safety for Qantas Airways. He served as a Presiding member of the Commonwealth Administrative Appeals Tribunal until 2017. For the past ten years he has been doing pro-bono work across the Pacific Islands and in PNG to help enhance aviation safety in the region.
As Chairman of AvLaw and AvLaw International, Ron has consulted widely throughout Australia and the Asia Pacific region and conducted assignments in over 20 countries. Some of the major projects Ron has completed include: * Representation on the Government Aviation Regulatory Review Taskforce; Jordanian Civil Aviation Regulatory Commission: Development of regulations for synthetic trainers & rotary operations based on EASA rules; Advisor to the Board of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of the Republic of South Africa for development of their three year Strategic Safety Plan; Timor-Leste: Managed the Civil Aviation Infrastructure Development Project & Team Leader for a Pacific Aviation Investment Program project; Drafted the Airport Authority Act 2013 for the Government of Tonga; and Pacific Aviation Safety Office: member of the Legal & Technical Review Team across all of the PASO Pacific Island member treaty nations.
Ron’s latest book entitled: “The Corona Dilemma: 20-20 Thinking for the Next Normal” is about the importance of agility in the way we think and respond to a rapidly changing world. The central theme in the book is that we can use the current pandemic as an “opportunity” to start thinking differently and create our next normal around protecting those things and values that are really important in life.
Chapter 1: “Change is Opportunity” is free on the book’s website: https:www.thecoronadilemma.com
Prof Romano Pirola OAM KCSG DUniv (ACU) MD(UNSW) MB BS (USyd) FRACP
Mrs Mavis Pirola OAM DCSG DUniv (ACU) BA (USyd) Teachers’ Diploma (Sydney Teachers College)
Ron (Romano) was born in Mexico of an English mother and Italian father and he holds dual Australian and Italian citizenship. Mavis was born in Perth of English and Irish parents. They met at Sydney University – ‘the best thing I got out of uni’ quips Ron. They have been married 62 years, have four children, eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
They have been life-long advocates of marriage and family as the building blocks for society and as a major resource for the Church. They were in London and New York from 1969 to 1973 shortly after the Catholic Church’s three-year Second Vatican Council and at the height of the sexual revolution. They remember it as ‘a time of great change, somewhat similar to today, and an exciting time to be alive’.
In New York, they experienced a movement for married couples called Marriage Encounter and they introduced this into Australia on their return to Sydney. It was designed to make good marriages better. ‘The idea of marriage enrichment was unknown at the time’, they recall, ‘and people asked why couldn’t we just focus on helping marriages in trouble’. But the idea of taking specific steps to strengthen one’s marriage caught on and Marriage Encounter spread rapidly throughout Australia.
This led to the formation of the Pastoral and Matrimonial Renewal Centre (PMRC) and the introduction of further programs for engaged couples, for newly marrieds, for families, for young singles and for high school students. All these were parish events but they were mostly held in homes, the idea being that the natural hospitality of the home prevented the activities becoming institutionalised.
In 1981, their children being late teenagers, introduced into Australia a parish-based youth movement called Antioch and they drafted their parents to co-ordinate its activities nationally. Antioch employed peer ministry to highlight love as the central command of Christ and to create a local experience of Christian community. This allowed youth a ‘safe place’ in which they could test their questions about life and faith and gain self-confidence and a sense of purpose. They were encouraged to see themselves as having a leadership role in the Church and in society of today, not just tomorrow.
At its height, around 1990, Antioch was active in over 200 Australian Catholic parishes and subsequently spread to Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Fiji and Hungary. It was largely for this work that Ron and Mavis were honoured as a couple with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) ‘for services to the community, especially through the Antioch Youth Movement’ in 1997.
Ron and Mavis were also called to be members of the Pontifical Council for the Family, an advisory body in the Vatican, a role they held for 27 years under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI and chair couple of a corresponding advisory body to the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference in Australia. They were invited speakers on the family at the Synod on the Laity in the Vatican in 1987 and were invited by Pope Francis to speak at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family in 2014.
They were speakers at World Meetings of Families in Manila (2003), Valencia (2006) Mexico City (2009), and Dublin (2018). Their work has been recognised by both receiving Papal Honours (Knight Commander and Dame Commander, Order of St. Gregory). In 2016 they were both awarded Doctor of the University honoris causa (ACU). for ‘faith and scholarly-based leadership promoting marriage and the family, in accordance with the Catholic tradition’. https://catholicoutlook.org/ron-and-mavis-pirola-honorary-doctorates-by-acu/
Mavis originally trained and worked as a high school teacher. Ron is currently a gastroenterologist in private practice. He worked most of his life at The Prince Henry Hospital and then Prince of Wales Hospital where he was head of gastroenterology and a member of the local Area Health Board. He recently taught at Notre Dame University. His lifelong passion is his research into pancreatic disease which he continues in his role as Honorary Professor, University of NSW, Sydney.
The Pirolas remarked on their appreciation of the work of the Order of Australia Association. They value the friendships made over the years. They particularly appreciate learning of the remarkable diversity of contributions made to society by so many.
MARCELLE MANSOUR OAM
Thanks for Asking: As a visual artist, in January 2020 I was trying to prepare for a new exhibition for the year 2021. When the pandemic hit the world, I became stressed out and my thoughts and feelings were very disturbed. During the months of March and April people around the globe and Australia witnessed an unprecedented time during the coronavirus lockdown. Churches are an essential part of life for many Australians. My community people of Christian Eastern Orthodox in Sydney were all praying from their homes during Easter time. It was also sad watching online the “Holy Fire” ceremony held in the empty Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem because of the coronavirus pandemic.
I was constantly following the daily news and I thought to make a quick series of digital art that relates to the theme of “Art Saves Humanity” online exhibition in New York City. My purpose has no intention to make masterpieces or to win awards, rather to raise an awareness of how to save lives. Therefore, I created work relatively connected to the global issue of the Coronavirus Crisis. I was able to capture some moments as fast as I could and finished my work at the end of April, focussing on sharing my perspective on the human condition to highlight the importance of abiding by new health restrictions and safety rules to stop the infectious disease pandemic and to save human lives.
We all try to comply with the recommendations to use facemasks, practice “social distancing” and “stay at home” as required to control the spread of Covid-19. My work aims to heal physically and to inspire spiritually. It encourages people to be considerate about adherence to the health guidelines to protect themselves and others. Meanwhile, my work concentrates on helping people who are experiencing emotional distress, concerns, and anxiety. At the end of April I submitted a few pieces of my work that were exposed online on social media, on my website and on Instagram.
Hopefully, things will improve even more, soon. Thank you so much to the Australian Government including the Prime Minister and all the Premiers and policy experts. Thank you to the Australian people who listen and follow the rules. Thank you to the dedication and commitment of our heroes, the healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, immunologists, scientists, mathematicians, public servants and the many support workers. We are so lucky and proud to be Australians. My artworks of Art Saves Humanity can be seen on my website link under Digital Art and on my Instagram.
ZARA BLACKMORE, OAA NSW YOUTH COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARDEE
Only Here Because Teachers Helped Me
When depressed and anxious teen Zara Blackmore was in a dark place, she just wanted a teacher to listen. Luckily a teacher did exactly that, helping refer the year 9 student into comprehensive mental health services.
“That teacher was someone I could really talk to and really trusted; she was always hearing me and would do whatever she could to help”, she said. She was not trying to just fix things. I had experience with other people who wanted to just fix things (eg. make study plans). I just needed to be heard. She had mental health first aid training and said that all teachers at the school had also done that”. Ms Blackmore went through Year 12 at an independent school in regional NSW. She made it through by managing her depression and anxiety via a school nurse, teachers who were aware of her condition and mental health care outside the school.
She shared her story with the whole school during her final year, an event which culminated in her becoming an advocate for youth mental health organisation batyr. (https://batyr.com is a for purpose preventative mental health organisation, created and driven by young people, for young people). She said the current crop of Year 12 students are having to battle incredibly difficult situations, resulting in some students deciding to take their own lives. “We have got young people dying when they do not have to”, she said. “If they can just make it through this, they will be able to live whatever life they want to live”.
The above story, paraphrased from an article published in the Sunday Telegraph on September 27, belies the fact that while struggling with mental health issues, Zara made an incredibly selfless contribution to a broad community during her final school year. This was recognised by the award of the Youth Community Service Award conducted annually by the NSW Branch of the Order of Australia Association. The Award was personally presented to Zara by the Governor of NSW, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AO QC at NSW Government House on September 20, 2019.
Zara’s service to community is summarised in her Award citation:
“Zara Blackmore is a respected member of the NEGS (New England Girls School) and Armidale community who is currently Chair of the Armidale Regional Youth Advisory Committee, which focuses on youth involvement and alerting local government to any concerns. She achieved the “Commitment and Perseverance “award at the Armidale Regional Youth Awards. Zara mentors the education of disadvantaged children through the St Vincent de Paul Homework Club and also actively sources donations of food, furniture and household goods to assist Yazidi refugees resettling in Armidale, while also tutoring them in English to enhance their integration. She provides a young person’s perspective to the Tamworth Headspace Youth Reference Group on mental health issues, policy, advertising and community engagement activities. A passion to improve the community led her in 2017 to co-found the adolescent engagement and activist group Female and Fierce, a registered Not-For-Profit organisation to promote youth engagement and to support women at all levels – local to international. Activities include an international Mother’s Day dinner and fund-raising for the Armidale Women’s Refuge and UN Women Australia”.
Now 19 and in her first year at Macquarie University, Zara has recently become involved in the Youth Community Service Award Alumni Ltd, a registered company formed to promote and engage the commitment, energy and drive of Award Alumni in their further pursuit of community service initiatives. Zara was appointed as Coordinator of Mental Health to lead an Alumni group pursuing project opportunities for community improvement in this critical area.
From Greg Blaze OAM
The Time of Covid can be tough for all, but there are also some opportunities. The inability to travel has assisted me in being able to achieve a goal that I have had for over twelve months. I have used the time to complete writing a book, following a stint that I recently did working as a consulting engineer with the United Nations in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. My role there was assisting engineers and procurement specialists to develop their systems to construct schools and hospitals in the West Bank. It was a fascinating time, with remarkable people in a very interesting place.
The Book is titled “There Are No Waves in Palestine” – the true story of an Aussie in Jerusalem, the holiest city on earth.
Working with the Palestinians and living with the Jews, during my time there I was able to develop a unique perspective of a variety of players in this decades long Arab-Israeli conflict. The book presents ‘warts and all’ observations of discord in the Holy Land, where the three main religions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity collide in a collective scramble for relevance and space in this wondrous historical land. I was able to interview locals of all persuasions and their collective answers display the fractured nature of thinking from opposite groups, and the massive hurdles still to be overcome if there is ever to be peace in the Middle East. And yet the area has so much to offer, history, culture, conflict and physical beauty.
If any of the members are interested in reading about this wonderful place, they can check out the website www.nowavesinpalestine.com or contact me by email. There is still plenty of work to do over there.
Greg Blaze OAM
I have read now a few times of requests of OAA members’ stories about how we are coping during this time of pandemic. On two occasions I have been asked by local newspapers for my thoughts on this very topic. I have included the link to one of the features and also a snippet from another. You may, or may not, want to use some of the attached for the ongoing “Thanks for Asking” columns.
With best wishes, and thanks for your work in the OAA.
How challenging has the COVID pandemic been for teachers and students?
COVID-19 has been a very challenging time for teachers and students, but also for parents. Thrust upon us without much warning or time we entered a new era of remote learning that necessitated all stakeholders embracing technology in ways we were not expecting. Parents were great in their support of their children and of the work of teachers. The teachers were simply amazing in what they were doing, often on the spot, to assist their students and the parents.
Brother Nicholas Harsas, fsp OAM
Principal, Holy Spirit Catholic Primary School
Carnes Hill, NSW
John Howells OAM RFD
“I am writing following the invite by Peter Falk OAM to say what is happening due to the COVID Pandemic.
As most (by no means all) of what I contribute as a volunteer is on the IT side, it has been a busy time. A few notes about a couple of the organisations I volunteer for.
The New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum
The Museum at Lancer Barracks, Parramatta had to go into lockdown in mid-March. Our AGM scheduled for 26 March was held online; a great success, as were the next couple of committee meetings.
Mid May saw the Department of Defence on whose land the Museum stands allowing volunteers back on site to deal with key maintenance issues. No public access.
To keep up public interest we made and published a couple of videos of the work being done (https://lancers.org.au/site/Lockdown_Video.php) and put work into our Soldier Stories on the Museum Website (https://lancers.org.au/site/Lancers.php).
Come early July, we received word from the Department of Defence that the Museum could re-open provided we reached COVID-SAFE status. This meant quite a few hours work preparing the necessary paperwork and putting the measures in place. We were able to open to the public on 5 July and continue to open every Sunday and for booked tours at other times.
The Royal United Service Institute of NSW
The RUSI NSW operates a prestigious military reference public library and hosts monthly presentations by noted experts at the ANZAC Memorial Sydney. The lectures are published in the Institute’s quarterly journal, and in video form on the institute’s website and YouTube channel. COVID-19 has been a challenge. Due to the advanced age of the volunteer corps that staff the library, it has had to remain closed. The pandemic has not stopped the lectures or the Journal. The lectures organised by Ken Broadhead OAM RFD have happened online (https://www.rusinsw.org.au/site/Videos.php). The journal edited by David Leece AM PSM RFD ED has still been able to be assembled (https://www.rusinsw.org.au/Papers/2020W.pdf) and published; David going above and beyond in one case scripting the paper from the online presentation when the presenter was overwhelmed with work and unable to help.
John Howells OAM RFD
David Parkinson OAM
“Hello Louise, thought you might like this story which is obviously ongoing.
My story is more about being locked up at home and being an ‘old codger’ I had spent time running a men’s club for the local neighbourhood centre. It was good fun and the stories that emerged were many, some hilarious. The shutdown put a stop to our activities but recently we have been allowed to start again observing the distance and numbers rule.
So, all our members get a chance to attend we ran a ballot and that has gone well. Last week a member rang me to say how much he appreciated the opportunity to attend and I questioned him on why he had been so quiet during the meeting and his reply made me realise just how important our meetings are.
He said that because he lived alone, he had seemed to have lost the art of communication. I intend on taking this bloke out for coffee in the future and hope bring him back to enjoying life again.
Good wishes to all and if you know of anybody like my mate then offer them a hand, you will be surprised at the response like I was.
David Parkinson OAM
I would like to commend David for his suggestion. This is something we should all try to do more often.
Do send more of your uplifting stories, and stay safe and well.
In the meantime, here is a link to a wonderful virtual concert “Keeping the Curtain Up” at The Arts Centre Melbourne, supporting the Actors Benevolent Fund, kindly sent to us by one of our Members, Jon Nicholls OAM. I hope you enjoy it.
Peter Falk OAM
The Order of Australia Association NSW
MARGARET HAMILTON A.M. Blackheath.
‘During the coronavirus crisis someone recommended we keep a journal. So I began writing around mid-April, but additions to it were very spasmodic. I either forgot to add news or was too busy to think about it. We feel very fortunate to live in Blackheath in the Blue Mountains. We have two acres here, with lots of trees and fresh air. I wouldn’t like to spend this isolation period in a tiny apartment in the city.
My husband Max and I officially retired from our publishing company, Margaret Hamilton Books, in 2001. We were living in Sydney at the time but he wanted to come to the Blue Mountains to retire. So we bought this property and set about ‘retirement’. This was not to be of course. Judy Dench says you shouldn’t fall off the radar and I’m very conscious of that. I’ve worked in publishing children’s books for many decades, so when Max had finished building a new house, I turned the existing fibro cottage into my children’s book centre. I received my Order of Australia in 2008 for my contribution to Australian publishing, ‘for service to the arts through the promotion of children’s literature and literacy and through support for authors and illustrators’. I find here in Blackheath ‘retirement’ is a bit of a joke as I run my centre for children’s books, I present one-day courses on creating picture books and I have illustrators in residence, who I give daily mentorship to. As my eightieth birthday looms next year, I don’t have any plans to slow down. I do enjoy very much passing on my knowledge and expertise and using it to help others who are passionate about getting a book published. I don’t know what I’d do if I ‘retired’.
We had an extraordinary summer here in the Blue Mountains. Firstly, there was a terrible drought when so much of the vegetation died. Then came the devastating bushfires and the tension in Blackheath was palpable, with so much natural bushland destroyed and so many native animals killed. Our property wasn’t directly threatened but we had a friend and her two cats here for two nights while her husband and his friends saved their house. We belong to a neighbourhood group who have our own community fire unit. We’ve done training and practise regularly. So, we were called upon to look after our local fire station while the brave firefighters were out working. After the fires came torrential rain. On the top of the mountains we weren’t threatened by floods but we did have a lot of soil washed away.
Just when we thought life was returning to normal along came the coronavirus crisis. This has been a time that none of us has experienced in our lifetime. Isolation has been challenging. We’ve realised that my husband is fairly introverted and doesn’t mind at all being home all the time. But I’m fairly extroverted and enjoy seeing friends and interacting with other people. We had several Zoom meetings with friends. These included a lunch where we all had our own food and talked about what we were eating and drinking. At other times we had ‘drink parties’ and shared stories. Otherwise, we went for walks regularly and read more books. I had to cancel some events here and had Zoom meetings and talks with children’s book authors. Isolation has certainly sorted out the introverts from the extroverts!
The big event on the horizon is our daughter’s wedding, which she wants to have here at our property. She’s set the date for 17 October, so we think we’ll be okay by then. It’s all very exciting and it’s giving us a lot to think about and look forward to. We’ve also got a long list of jobs to do around the property before the wedding. So that’s also kept us busy during isolation.
When this crisis is finally over and there’s a vaccine developed, I wonder what will be next. I feel like I’ve been part of a B-grade disaster movie with one crisis after another and wondering what will be next. Someone said we should turn 2020 off and start it again. We certainly went into the new decade with lots of optimism so let’s hope we’ll be able to resurrect that feeling and continue life with health and safety.’
Thank you. Margaret Hamilton AM
Margie Beck AM
‘I live and work in East Timor for most of the year. This year I was due back to have a couple of weeks to spend with family and friends. On arriving in Sydney, I went straight into isolation for two weeks, only to be evicted after one week because the hotel was taken over by NSW Health for new returning travellers.
So, another week in another hotel in total isolation while my family was busy finding me somewhere to live. Because of my age and the age of my grandchildren I could not stay with them. I moved into a delightful apartment in the inner city with only light summer clothing. My priority was to get and keep warm to simply survive the weather that was much colder than what I am used to. That continues until today.
More than three months later, I am still waiting to return to Timor. All documents are completed to be given permission to return, but I wait for the formal letter to help me get there, before contacting Australian Border Control.
I am working as ‘usual’ using my phone, teaching my classes with WhatsApp and consulting and supervising my post graduate students. It is truly wonderful that life can continue despite the difficulties facing so many.
The sadness at seeing the global rise of covid19 has been offset somewhat by the time I have had to spend with my family. They haven’t spent so much time with me for many years!’
Maggie Beck AM
Patricia Slattery OAM in Ettalong, Jennifer Butt OAM in Moruya Heads, and Dr Sophie Masson AM, in New England
PAT SLATTERY OAM, Ettalong
I am 83 and live at Ettalong on the Central Coast of NSW. Until the government restrictions I was fully involved in volunteering in my area. I am now a stay at home much to the delight of my very large family. It feels very similar to when I first retired especially the first few days watching how slowly the time was going. Fortunately, I have family who do any shopping I need. Also, phone calls and FaceTime’s. Not a great watcher of TV but that has changed as the weeks passed. I am an avid reader and having lived in my home for over 60 years maybe I’ll finally de clutter (though that’s always a gunna).
So, I’m ok. However, my worries are for those I was interacting with before the restrictions. As a Vinnies conference member, we responded to people in need, did home visits, listened and helped with cards for food, electricity etc. We can’t do that now. The same with Mary Mac’s for the homeless. The lonely and disadvantaged were usually offered a cafe style 2 course hot meal. The food was important, but more especially a place to meet and socialise. Our church has been closed. The monthly elderly lunch we provided, where our clients are picked up and collected stopped, as was the Saturday Breakfast for the Homeless.
So really, I am doing fine but I am praying that all this disruption will be over soon and that we can return to our more “normal” way of living in our communities and helping others.
Pat Slattery OAM
JENNIFER BUTT OAM, Moruya Heads
I have since New Year’s Eve 2019 been home as much as I can, I think that maybe only twice in that time I have been to the shop for Coles Click & Collect at Batemans Bay and a visit to the pharmacy for scripts. I live at Moruya Heads on the Far South Coast of NSW and because of where I live with a one-way in-out road situation due to the bushfires, I was not confident in leaving my home. I live at the top of a gully on the ridge and National Park around us everywhere. To leave my home with fire around the Shire was not an option for me as at any time our area could have been on fire. If this had happened, I would have not been able to get home to protect my home and pets.
This constant fear that was living in everyone in my immediate area had consumed our life and even at night we were not able to relax to sleep. I found that we were always on guard. We had both our cars packed with precious things that could not be replaced. Our cars stayed packed for two and a half months ready to leave seven times. The bushfires changed our lives and the hope that a normal life again looked possible once the rain came. Yes, wonderful rain started. It washed
the horrid ash from the air we were breathing but it didn’t know how to stop. It rained for days and was undoing the good that WIRE carers were doing with supporting what wildlife was left in our bush. The water was stained with ash and the animals would not drink it. All the pellets turned to mash and the animals walked away.
The sound of the aircraft that was fighting the fires, the smell of smoke, and the blood-red sun that made the sky look like it was on fire had begun to return to normal. Then we heard that people were rushing supermarkets buying toilet rolls. This was baffling. What was happening and was there going to be a shortage of toilet rolls?
Next there were shortages of tissues, hand sanitizer, disinfectant, baby wipes, rice, flour pasta, mincemeat. Then we heard on the news and read on social media that a virus had spread in China killing people and not able to be stopped. I thought to myself was this why they are buying toilet rolls because China supplied them? Other countries started to report that toilet rolls were being cleared off the shelves and supermarkets couldn’t meet the demand.
The coronavirus the media first called it, had spread to Italy, Spain, and a few smaller countries and thousands of people were dying in their homes and on the streets. The President of the United States of America was on the media telling everyone not to worry that it was no worse than a cold. We now know America has had thousands die from the virus and it is not under control. Then we heard that Prince Charles in the United Kingdom had contracted it and he was in isolation. My heart sank and my fear was that the Queen and Prince Phillip would be next. As it turned out the British Prime Minister contracted the virus and was in self-isolation. He took a turn for the worst towards the end of his isolation and was rushed to hospital and put in intensive care.
The number of people dying from the virus throughout the world with no promise of a cure or vaccine made you feel very vulnerable and staying inside was not an option as far as I was concerned. We applied for Woolworths home deliveries because of our age group over 70 and shopped online. Even with the home delivery when it was delivered, we stood way back from the delivery man, picked the bags of groceries up with wire hooks. We filled a small container with a bleach water wash and put on our gloves. We wiped everything over and let it dry on the verandah before we brought it inside. We are still cleaning, wiping with bleach water any packets that are delivered by the post and still shopping online to spend the stimulus money given to us to help the economy.
We gave to our friends at Mogo (who lost their honey business) anything in our home that they thought would help establish the business again. We sold things that we had no use for in an online garage sale to raise funds to help those who suffered great losses in the bushfires and were living in tents and mud at Nerrigundah. We also made donations to wildlife carers who needed equipment in their homes to care for Kangaroos, Wombats and Bats who had been burnt in the fires. We gave donations to the Koala Sanctuary in Port Macquarie as well as a sanctuary in Tasmania who rescue animals that have been miss treated and abandoned. There was an Owl Rescue Sanctuary in America that needed help to buy food, and money was sent to some Narrowboat people who live on the canals in the UK. They wanted to buy simple things like biscuits and pies from the bakehouse which they were doing without since the isolation.
So, our government stimulus has gone a long way and has done some good to those who are more in need than we are.
I am sure that we will get through this virus but our greatest fear is that the summer will be here again this year, and since we live in the 20% of the Eurobodalla Shire that has not burnt, we will be in danger again from fire as nothing around us has changed. Still far too much undergrowth in the National Parks and since there is no fire station where we live the smell of smoke again will terrify me more than Covid-19.
Jennifer Butt OAM
DR SOPHIE MASSON AM, New England
Even before I was published, writing, which to me has always been about the weaving of stories for other people, has been part of the very fabric of my life and my being. Since my first book was published, thirty years ago precisely, I have felt lucky, indeed, blessed, to earn my living doing what I’ve always felt I was born to do. Aside from my public work, working emotions out through writing them down in journals and diaries has always helped put things into perspective in times of personal crisis.
Two horrors happened in quick succession where we live last year: severe drought and wildfires. In an earlier Writer Unboxed post, What Do You Save? I wrote a bit about that—the first time I’d been able to write anything public about what it felt like, despite having written a fair bit about it in my journals. It had taken months to process those feelings into anything properly coherent, and during that time I also turned to a childhood love, painting. The feel of the paint on the paper, the sweep of the brush, was a calming and helpful thing, and as non-public as the journal writing. Then the fires stopped and the rains came, ending the drought. Everything turned green, gloriously green, and the joy of it ran in my writing veins like that life-giving water. It didn’t last long, that joyful respite. All around the world humans are facing another kind of horror, invisible this time, but more dangerous, unpredictable and baffling. Strangely, it’s reversed the previous situation for us here in one way: drought and fires made our home feel unsafe; now the pandemic can make our home feel like the only safe place.
Like most writers, I’ve always worked from home, at my messy desk in the lounge room. I have never had any problem with disciplining myself, or had writer’s block, though there are times when I’ve written more than others, or less, depending on what else was going on. Flexibility has always been part of my modus operandi. When working from home is no longer a choice for you but an absolutely must, and your family scattered far and wide, your friends, and indeed everyone else you know must do the same, even if they normally go to offices or other separate worksites, then it changes the story. Played out within a wider global plot-line of nightmarish intensity and bizarre, surreal twists, and against personal worries for the safety, health and economic well-being of loved ones, friends, neighbours and local communities, this story of a writing life transformed might seem little. It is the one I know best, though, and certainly the only one I feel qualified to expand on publicly. Here are some of the impacts that these singular times have had on my own writing life, and how I’ve tried to deal with it. I offer this in the hope it might help other writers struggling with similar things.
*A sense of irrelevance and purposelessness led to the novel I’d almost finished coming to a stuttering halt seven weeks ago. Its setting and theme suddenly seemed of another time. How on earth was I going to end it in the all’s-well-that-ends-well mode that I’d planned. Should I change that, or somehow fold in a mention of the pandemic? Wouldn’t that be an ignoble cashing-in? For almost six weeks, it stayed in total limbo—and I only restarted it a week or so ago. I think I’ve found a solution—but I’m not sure yet. I’m advancing cautiously, painfully slowly. But at least I’m advancing again. Before the pandemic I would have felt impatient about it; now I’ve accepted it, because I’ve allowed myself to understand that it’s okay to press ‘pause’ in a time that is so very far from normal.
*After a couple of weeks of finding I couldn’t bring myself to write in my normal journals (a family-centered one, and a books-centered one) I decided to start a specific journal, a kind of ‘journal of the plague year’. This one’s specifically about my personal experience of the present situation, and for it I used a special journal I’d been given a few years ago by a publisher, which ironically enough I’d always kept ‘for a special purpose.’ I’ve gone back to my childhood love of scrapbooks with it, and so it’s got all sorts of bits and pieces stuck in it too, as well as writing. At the beginning, I needed to write in it practically every day, to try and exorcise the bad feelings and highlight small moments of beauty and grace. Now I am much more relaxed about it, and I often miss days at a time, then go back to it, and it feels easier to write in it. I can now also write in the other journals without feeling obscurely guilty…
*The novel might have been set aside for a while, but a sense of urgency overtook me, not only around possibilities for my own work, but also the situation for parents suddenly having to home-school. This led to me turning into reality some ideas that had been knocking around in my head for a while: such as producing, in collaboration with an illustrator friend, creative activity packs available online, and recording an illustrated talk about the inspiration and process around several of my picture books. I worked on these over several weeks and that helped to start up the stalled novel again. They were fun and creative to do, and while working on them I was in that other world, not thinking about the pandemic. Collaborating with Kathy on the creative activity packs was truly an uplifting thing for both of us, and so was the warm, positive response from people who accessed them. Though it took a lot of time and wasn’t paid work, it was a worthwhile investment of time in terms of potential new paid gigs.
*A sense of sympathy for authors and illustrators whose new books came out during this period of shrinking publicity opportunities and closed bookshops, as well as for those who, like me, were trying to reinvent ourselves in various ways, led me to reach out in a few ways. I offered guest post spots on my blog to authors with new books, and made directory listings for the creative activities and resources other people promoted. I’m very much a book-buyer in normal times, but right now I’m buying even more books. This supports authors and our wonderful local bookstore which, despite closing its physical doors, has innovated in delightful ways, such as free local delivery to my mailbox. It’s quite an event in these stay-at-home-times, to see their orange and white Kombi drawing up at my door and finding the beautifully wrapped book parcel in my mailbox! An added pleasure is that I’ve been making moments of book-parcel-joy myself for the dear little people in our lives, who are far away from us in Sydney.
*A sense of needing another creative outlet led me to not only continuing the experiments in painting I’d started back when drought and bush-fires were the horrors haunting us, but also creating little objects such as eccentric painted postcards to send to family and friends, making models out of Sculpey clay (inspired by the activities created by my friend and collaborator Kathy Creamer), and other bits and bobs. That was fun, pure play, without any pressure to be anything else at all. It’s what I do on the weekends now, along with reading, walking around our neighbourhood with my husband, and talking to family and friends on the phone or on Zoom. For too long as a full-time writer I’ve allowed the weekend to simply be rolled into my work-from-home schedule; now, suddenly, that’s changed. And that’s definitely something for the better, as is the sense that I’m rediscovering certain things from childhood: like the scrapbook-making, and the enjoyment of creative play, and deep-dive reading, and the anticipatory joy of the mailbox. Small things, perhaps, but a comfort.
Dr Sophie Masson AM
9th May 2019
Dr Sundar OAM, Bella Vista, Professor Shirley Randell AO, Sydney and Mrs Maria Hitchcock OAM, Armidale.
1) Dr Sundar OAM
The restrictions are really good for not spreading the Corona viral infection in the community. It has a very mild impact on my routine life. Of course, I need to watch everywhere I go and am unable to meet my colleague’s friends and Family in person.
I find it is easy to contact our friends on Whats app, Instagram, Facebook, Mobile phones etc. I use Zoom on my mobile and chat with all my family members and Friends.
When the restrictions are lifted, first thing I will do is to meet my daughters, sons and grandchildren. Go for walks, eat at places I used to go with the family. Meet my colleagues.
Activities for our OAA members? I suggest we could use Whats App to share our ideas, some cooking recipes; share jokes, share photos; and maybe raise money on members birthdays on Face book for worthwhile charities. Dr Sundar OAM
2) Professor Shirley Randell AO, Sydney
I didn’t think it would be so dark. And I was quite right. At first the comments everyone was making, and I was reading about – the darkness of being in isolation for maybe six months, perhaps longer – seemed daunting. My own experience however has been illuminating.
There is a particular Biblical verse that has surfaced in my memory from my religious teenage years, and has been reinforced by the Seekers song I tune into on Spotify while in isolation in my apartment in Sydney: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”. I am seizing an opportunity that does not come by often, a time of large-scale, forced reduction of activity and I am so appreciating the breaks this has given me.
It has been a time to return to some essential things I have neglected for so long given my hectic lifestyle, like concentrating on my living space. I put the blinds up as soon as I get out of bed and they stay up all day, unless the sun demands two or three hours of protection in the afternoon. Now I enjoy frequent glances at the trees and green grass and gardens of Hyde Park during the day, the sunsets in the evening, the lights of the war memorial and even the lit-up buildings that surround the Park at night.
I have made time to tidy cupboards and drawers that have been an unholy mess for many months. I have even cleared my study desk, unable for so long to be used for its purpose, covered with photos, papers, pens, jewellery. Ah jewellery! – some pieces were in their proper home in the cupboard, some loose on shelves, some still in the travel container that I took to Rwanda, the unpacked box from Geneva on my desk. I learned one of my neighbours on the same floor is a jewellery expert and we have spent some happy hours sorting, cleaning, repairing, placing earrings and bracelets on their stands, badges in a separate box, necklaces in their home but this time separated by colour and country. No longer now the hectic hunt for the right coloured necklace, earrings, bracelet in the rush before leaving home too late for an appointment. Today I was ready for a Rotary Anzac Day Zoom meeting in a few seconds, going straight to the right containers for my Rotary badges, necklace and matching earrings. If I ever travel abroad again, I have separate containers for Rwanda, Bangladesh, PNG and Pacific jewellery that can be packed in an instant.
Having time for sorting the medicine cupboard has produced another significant achievement. I have had a thermometer on order for the last month and discovered I already have not only one but two in two different places that I had not seen since settling back into my Sydney apartment three years ago.
This has been a time for pruning, for removing the things that are a distraction or a misuse of my time and energy (I need to work more on that!), a time for change, for growth, for doing something new, even for prevarication. Making time to listen to music, watch television, extend social media contacts, try something new, like continuing all my board, committee, social meetings by Zoom.
As sunlight streams into my home this beautiful Autumn afternoon, I take time again for voice connection, telephoning a grandchild in Townsville, a niece in Pakenham and a colleague in Perth, interrupted by a welcome catch-up call to me from a former workmate now in Cairns. I have already talked with each of my four children this morning about their 6am remembrances and shared the excitement of my two-little candle-carrying grandchildren in Canberra on FaceTime.
I have been so encouraged by the stories I am hearing from around the world and here in Australia about how people are looking out for their neighbours, how communities are gathering (often virtually) to stay connected and uplifted. To see how people are maintaining connection in spite of distance and separation. So, while being physically isolated from family and friends and in what could be quite dark times for some, perhaps really dark for many, there is light for me that brings joy and gives me hope. For me, working at home in isolation has not been so dark at all.
PS My Iranian friend on the 15th floor cooks a stew for me at least once a week. My Italian jeweller friend has declared herself my ‘carer’ and both shops, cooks and shares wine with me. So does my one daughter in Sydney, who brings me fruit and vegetables every week from Leichhardt. How could I possibly think it would be dark?
Thanks for Asking, Shirley Randell AO, Sydney.
3) Maria Hitchcock OAM
Here’s another story for your collection.
My husband and I are basically hermits at heart so we are actually enjoying the lockdown. We live on 8 acres west of Armidale NSW where I run an online native plants nursery called “Cool Natives’. Online business has boomed so much I am spending a lot of time in the nursery. I envy those people who have had time to clean out cupboards. My son urged me to grow winter vegetable seedlings and these are selling well. I go downtown once a week to do my posting, deliveries and shopping. Australia Post has been a big problem with parcels arriving very late which is bad for sending live plants. Australia Post only refunds the cost of postage not contents. I’ve had to eliminate parcel post and now just use a courier or express satchels.
I tried going to Woollies early in the morning to shop but nothing else is open at that time so I won’t be doing that again except to get toilet paper which is still in short supply on our shelves. We’ve only had 4 cases of Covid19 in our area but most older people are cautious. I get my flu shot today and it will be at a clinic held in the park across the road from the surgery. A lot of businesses in my area are still operating in some kind of manner but I think our local rural economy will be hard hit. The garbage is still being collected thank goodness. We have our own water and solar panels so are fairly self-sufficient. Being country people, we’ve always had a good stock of dry and freezer food so the shortages didn’t affect us much.
My husband tutors Mathematics to students of his former private school. He’s had to switch to online tutoring but the school situation is so chaotic he doesn’t know how it will go this term and he may lose a lot of students. My grandchildren live in WA and I believe they may be going back to school soon. I offered to help with reading etc. if necessary. We usually communicate by Skype. I try to keep in touch with friends by phone and I am involved in a Think Tank which meets online once a fortnight and puts out a regular media release. Lately we’ve been involved in a big online protest about a local issue which happily ended with Councillors voting it down.
I’m growing my hair but have an appointment with the foot clinic next week and hope that is open. It’s a very strange time for all of us – a time to take stock of what is really important. I suspect overseas travel will be out until we get a vaccine. That might be good for the country as people will take domestic holidays and help restore some of those communities devastated by drought, fire and flood. We might also be able to swap tourism with NZ which would be good. NZ is a spectacular country with so much to offer. They have almost eliminated the virus which would make it a safe place to visit. People are already talking about reviving manufacturing and building our economy in a different way. I hope that involves reducing inequality which has been allowed to worsen over the past 20 years and seen a lot more people living in poverty. We have also seen who are the truly essential workers in our economy – the health workers, carers, supermarket people, chemists, truckies, police, teachers, public servants and a myriad of others behind the scenes who are often not well paid. I think this pandemic has been a big wake-up call.
I hope all our members are safe and secure and managing to fill their days with stimulating activities.
Maria Hitchcock OAM.
1) Suzanne Medway AM and Patrick Medway AM, Sydney.
We decided to self-isolate in mid-March, and only venture out of our house for a half-hour walk each day. We shop via Coles Online and have found the service to be excellent. We have been able to obtain most of the items we need. We took the advice of NSW Health and went to our local doctor to receive the flu vaccine.
With our volunteer work, we are on the board of the Australian Wildlife Society and have been able to have daily contact with the lady who runs the national office, so the administration of the Society is proceeding as usual. At our February board meeting, our financial advisor recommended that we consolidate our investments under one investment, and luckily, we followed his advice. He cashed in the Society’s investments from the market and was a little worried about the world situation so held the funds in cash. Consequently, we haven’t lost any funds from our investments. The only question now is when do we reinvest?
The Society held its March board meeting via Teams through Microsoft 365. We all agreed that this worked fine, and will be holding our “virtual” board meetings each month for the foreseeable future.
On a personal front, Suzanne has a half-hour video catch up chat with a group of 12 friends that used to attend the gym together. They drink their morning coffee and chat about what has happened over the proceeding 24 hours. In the afternoon Suzanne has a video chat with her three sisters, and then in the early evening a video chat with the grandchildren. In this way, she is keeping in touch with friends and relatives. She also enjoys Facebook and has contact with lots of overseas friends and family.
Patrick tends to keep in contact via the mobile phone but has been holding video meetings with his RSL board and his Lodge members.
We are tending to eat more, unfortunately, but have been enjoying our evening glass of wine and cheese and biscuits.
Suzanne Medway AM & Patrick Medway AM
2) Nancy Serg (nee Borg) OAM
As seniors (74-75yo) my husband and I have been in Lockdown at our house since mid-March. We are physically restricted in what we can do for others due to this. We miss shopping and a coffee at the shops. We miss visiting our families. Doctors have cancelled some appointments. We had to cut our own hair, with ok results. Getting roof quotes another issue. At least the plumber came with good results.
Here are some activities that have kept us fully occupied. Our focus has been firstly on our immediate large families and friends.
To lessen the isolation of us all, we keep in touch with family and friends in Australia and overseas with emails, Facebook, Skype, What’s App, Messenger, Viber etc and lately ZOOM meetings organised by our daughter Jeannette James. It is soul satisfying and heartening to see our 3 children and 8 grandchildren all together on Zoom etc, they want to come and play, have semolina and home -made chick pea patties etc. I sent them some.
I viber’d my 101-1/4yo mother Agnese Borg via my sister’s iPhone. Mum has dementia, lives at her own house, cared for by my sister Mariza. Mum wanted to know why we don’t visit any more. But we made her laugh and that’s what mattered.
My sister sent a Facebook video of Mum pushing her wheelchair determinedly in front of her. Her attitude brightened and she became her usual jovial self. So heartening to see and watch. Sitting in front of the TV all day is not conducive to this mother of 10 children, 21 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.
We felt better for having watched the Good Friday Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on TV via iPhone chrome. We intend to follow Easter Sunday celebrations in the same way. I sent notices of this to family and elderly friends to ease their loneliness. Making Easter cookies, we will leave them behind the front door to be collected by our children.
We have been catching up on house, garden and shed clearances. Clothes wardrobes too, sending clothes to St Vinnies etc. My husband made extra shelves for the laundry and he is working on other projects. The sewing machine was oiled. I cut long school trousers into shorts for the grandchildren. My daughter gave me an Art Inspiration book and to my surprise I sat 2-1/2hrs and finished a drawing she said it was beautiful….I was so proud.
When restrictions are lifted, we will go to Sunday Mass and Thank God. Visit our 3 daughters. Catch up with shopping, Doctors’ appointments etc, Invite our children and grandchildren over. Help our daughters with childminding when required. Bake a cake with an Aussie Flag on top of the icing. Visit my mother at St Clair NSW. Catch up with my siblings. Organise a picnic at a park for whoever can make it to celebrate our freedom. Go for a walk at our nearby lovely and peaceful Crestwood Park. Catch up Ladies meetings. Debrief Lockdown and Corona sagas out of our systems. Go to movies, re-book cancelled tickets to Opera, Ballet and local Theatre Plays etc. Practise singing and catch up with choir when practical. Go for a long drive up the coast – I miss the smell of the sea. Book a short break to a country homestay to support the farmers etc.
The OAA NSW could consider holding on line meetings, organised by a tech savvy person or a forum for seniors at home whilst in lockdown. This would certainly help isolation, foster friendships, sharing of ideas which will benefit us and the community.
Nancy Serg nee Borg OAM
3) Wendy Marlene Borchers AM
My name is Wendy Marlene Borchers AM and I live on the mid-north coast of NSW at Tuncurry. We are extremely fortunate to live in such a pristine environment where our apartment overlooks the azure waters of Wallis Lake, where the estuary meets the Tasman Sea. This morning I watched pelicans lazily soaring on a thermal and our local bottle-nosed dolphins searching for their breakfast. This, as I’m sure you can imagine, is extremely hard to take.
All activities in which I am involved as a volunteer have been cancelled: A History Group; the Forster & District Combined Probus Club (I am the Speaker Convenor this year); the inaugural Pacific Palms Writer’s Festival, June 26-28 next (on which I am co-convenor); our fortnightly gatherings of mahjong players; all Marine Rescue events, except for surveillance in the Tower, obviously mandatory duty. This, of course, has left a huge gap in our daily routine but my husband Max and I are practicing self-isolation and keeping in touch with friends via e-mail and the old-fashioned telephone. Both of us have visited supermarket stores on the early hours dedicated to Seniors, on separate occasions, only to find frayed tempers and empty shelves, so we probably won’t do that again but will revert to shopping for fruit and vegetables at a splendid greengrocer in Forster’s main street, along with meat from our butcher there.
I received my AM in 2015: “For significant service to the film and television industry as a researcher, producer, archivist and to the preservation of Indigenous heritage.” When I finally retired from the ABC, after 40 years’ service, my supervisor honoured me by transferring all my files to my home computer. Once upon a time I was enthusiastic about seeing some of the Treasures of ABC Archives given another run and was given a couple of months to work on the idea. It eventually evolved in a series called ‘The Way We Were’ with Mark Trevorrow, not quite what I had in mind but I loved it anyway. There is a movement afoot to give this project new life. Just imagine how cricket tragics’ would leap at being able to view footage of West Indies Tests of 1961 once again, in these uncertain times. We believe there is an audience out there who would love to see some of these shows again and it would assist in promoting the true value of the ABC to Australians. I hope this comes to fruition.
I’m also enjoying our enforced isolation in that it’s just great to be able to read a book, without feeling I should be doing something more constructive.
Thank you for the opportunity to voice my opinion during these weird and amazing times.
Wendy Borchers AM, Tuncurry, NSW
Best wishes to all of our Members,
Peter Falk OAM
The Order of Australia Association NSW