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2021 North West Floods

As far as I know in the geographical area of the New England and North West Region of the Order of Australia Association only the town of Moree was flooded in the March 2021 events that followed the disastrous coastal flooding.

If on Sunday the 21st March any one had asked me whether I thought Moree was likely to be flooded I would have laughed.  That 8 to 10 inches of rain in 36 hours on the following Monday and Tuesday (22nd and 23rd) would produce a flood certainly proved me wrong.  Initially there was a significant amount of local flooding solely from the local Moree rain but just as that started to subside the rain that had fallen upstream and filled the river systems arrived creating a major flood.  However, it was certainly not the biggest, by a long margin.  The second wave peaked around 7:00 am on Thursday the 25th at which time the town was totally isolated and had been “cut” in three – in an east west direction at Hassell Street so that those to the west could not get into town and on the northern side of the Mehi River Bridge which effectively cut north Moree from south Moree.  By Friday morning although there was still plenty of water around (the famed Moree Golf Course being still inundated) the roads were no longer cut and travel was freely restored.

The appearance of the town, particularly as shown in photographs published in the media, was far worse than the reality.  The support from SES, Fire & Rescue and Moree Council staff was phenomenal – highly organised, substantial in number and very efficient.  As a consequence, damage and inconvenience was minimised and a clean-up of public areas and public buildings quickly completed.  This flood produced more mud and debris than any that I have previously seen and that presumably is a consequence of the three-year drought which preceded it and the fact that many farmers had prepared their country for the 2021 winter crop and there was thus a lot of nice cultivated top soil to be washed away by the flood waters.

Moree was very fortunate compared to our coastal cousins.  Furthermore, the floods will have replenished the water table and provided magnificent subsoil moisture for the next crop.  As farmers are known to say “there is money in mud”.

Roger Butler OAM
New England/North West RG


Dubbo Regional Group

This area did not experience flooding in the same way as the coastal regions. We were pleased to have some good rain and fill the tanks and dams. Yes, it was very wet and several sports and other events had to be cancelled.

The Macquarie River certainly brought plenty of water past the city and the tributary rivers likewise brought plenty. The flooded creeks and roads created difficulties for many people living on properties in the district. Often transport would be limited to a high vehicle.

I am sure that many of the volunteers from services in the district have been working to assist the less fortunate people in other places.

Ruby Riach OAM
Dubbo regional Group


Hastings/Macleay Flood Experience.

What an 18 months this has been! Our Mid North Coast has seen the worst and best of life in this time, but we certainly don’t consider ourselves any worse off than many of our fellow Australians.

The four days last weekend were the worst we have experienced in our 15 years in Port Macquarie, not because of our personal situation, as our house was fine, but the surrounds as you will have all seen through the media have been overwhelmed with water in many areas. However, here comes the ‘good’ part. Locals and visitors have gone to extreme lengths to help one another, from finding boats which have been washed away, to hosing out houses and garages or just bringing food and drink to workers.

As the saying goes – ‘Volunteering is the price we pay for living in this beautiful country’ and it is heart warming to see the good that comes out of adversity. New friendships have developed through not so distant neighbours who did not previously know one another working together for the good of all.

In general terms life is getting back to normal, but normal will not exist for a long time for those worst off, especially having had homes totally inundated plus loss of livestock. Most people believe they live in the best place on earth, and we certainly do here in the Hastings/Macleay, but when nature wants our attention we certainly have to take notice! Thus our community will continue to work side by side with those in need”

Laurie Smith OAM
The Order of Australia Association – Hastings/Macleay Branch

NSW Branch OAA Treasurers Report
This is the report from the Annual General Meeting of the NSW Branch

Please click here to download


Please click here to download

Notice for the Annual General Meeting for the NSW Branch of the Order of Australia

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Thankfully on the 12th December we held our first post COVID-19 event which was the 2020 Christmas Luncheon held at the picturesque Kirribilli Club overlooking Sydney Harbour.

It was an opportunity for 65 members and guests to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season but more importantly to raise money for a very worthy cause, The Australian Kookaburra Kids Foundation, who supports children aged 8-18 years, living in families affected by mental illness. Kookaburra Kids programs provide mental health services within a peer-based social and activity-based format. This is especially important in these “COVID-19 times” of added mental and financial strain in our community.

This year due to Covid-19 guidelines we unfortunately could not ask members and guests to bring in physical presents as in past years but available for purchase were E-Gift card presents for $25 each which certainly helped bring an added smile to children affected by mental illness at this festive time of year.

Our Chairman, Mr Peter Falk OAM gave his official welcome and highlighted the importance of mental health especially in children and adolescents which makes supporting this charity most worthy and relevant.

MC and Events Manager, Dr John Gullotta AM introduced the guest speaker Mr John Brogden AM who is Patron of the Australian Kookaburra Kids Foundation as well as Chairman of Lifeline:

“As one of Australia’s leading politicians and now a business leader, John Brogden is living proof that even from the darkest places, there can be a way back. Whilst John has reached the highest levels in his professional career, his personal journey is one of highs and lows as well as strength and courage.

John’s career in politics started when he became a Member for Pittwater in the NSW Parliament in 1996. In 2002, he was elected Leader of the Opposition on his 33rd birthday – the youngest person ever to lead a major political party at Federal or State level in Australia.

However, it’s John’s personal story that best illustrates his resilience and his incredible ability to come back from the lowest of lows. His willingness to share the details of his journey to recovery make him a compelling and inspirational storyteller.

John was diagnosed with depression in early 2006 following a suicide attempt in 2005. His passion for mental illness stems from a breakdown that marked a turning point in his life and reframed the discussion around depression, particularly in the corporate world. Thanks to his profile, John has changed the way we talk about suicide and in turn, is helping thousands of individuals through his involvement with Lifeline Australia as its Chairman.

John is also the Chairman of Furlough House Retirement Village and Patron of Sailability Pittwater, Bilgola Surf Lifesaving Club, Avalon Beach Surf Lifesaving Club and Kookaburra Kids. He was appointed to the Board of Landcom as Chairman in January 2012 and became CEO in May 2018. Formerly he was the Managing Director & CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. CEO of the Financial Services Council and CEO of Manchester Unity.”

John Brogden gave an excellent and highly moving speech on how he was affected by mental illness, survived and came out stronger and more resilient on the other side. His famous quote was “They say the comeback is greater than the setback!” In her formal thanks Hon Secretary Martha Jabour OAM thanked Mr Brogden for his candid and very personal battle with mental illness and how he overcame the odds and came out stronger than ever!

Special guests included The Hon Philip Ruddock AO, Major of Hornsby Shire Council, Fiona FAN Director-General and Thomas Lee Director of the Taipei Economic & Cultural Office Sydney, from Kookaburra Kids were CEO Chris Giles, Board Director Peter Kerr AM and Alex Thompson.

A special thank you to Michael Mannington OAM, from Community Photography, a recent recipient who kindly agreed to be our new photographer and is donating his services to the Association.

The event was a great success and enjoyed by all present and we raised $6000 which made it possible to donate 240 presents to very needy children and bring a smile to their faces at this festive time!                                                                                                                                                  

We look forward to a bigger event next year!

Dr John Gullotta AM

Events Manager and Public Relations

Lensey Elizabeth Doyle – Sister St Jude Doyle, RSC, OAM

Sister St Jude Doyle RSC, OAM was born Lensey Elizabeth Doyle, in Sydney, in 1927. As ‘a babe in arms’ her family moved to Austinmer on the South Coast, but when their house burnt down they moved to Thirroul. She had four brothers and six sisters and a ‘wonderful mother and father’, remembering her childhood as ‘a very happy one’.

Sister St Jude Doyle RSC, OAM

Sister St Jude Doyle RSC, OAM

Her father’s job was to transport soldiers, which required the family to move to Goulburn and later to Casino. In 1939, at age 12, the young Lensey Doyle set forth alone from Casino on a train filled with soldiers, to begin her secondary education as a boarder at St Vincent’s College, Potts Point. She enrolled as a ‘bursary kid’, on a government grant for talented students with parents of limited means.

World War II broke out during her first year there. She had very clear memories of the night of May 31, 1942, when 3 Japanese midget submarines entered Sydney Harbour, one torpedoing HMAS Kuttabul at nearby Garden Island, killing 21 sailors. The students and staff were evacuated to a basement shelter, which she later described as “a steel cave place” until the siren sounded the all clear, then back to bed.

Later in 1942 the boarding school closed and moved away from the Harbour to the safety of Katoomba until the War ended. She completed her Leaving Certificate in 1944 and returned home to her family who were back in Thirroul. By then she was committed to her future dedicated to God as a Religious Sister of Charity. It took almost 3 years to convince her parents, but they finally relented and she entered the convent aged 19.
When visiting home, she was a keen surfer and lifesaver, qualifying as the first registered lady lifesaver in NSW. Professed as Sister St Jude Doyle in 1950, she completed Teacher Training in 1952 and taught Primary in NSW and Victoria.

Her Victorian post was a promotion, at age 27, to Principal at St Columba’s Primary in Essendon, followed by appointments as Principal at St Anne’s Primary, Liverpool, in 1961 then, in 1973, St Mary’s Primary, Liverpool. A new initiative in Primary education, it had 3 sub-schools, each led by a Deputy Principal. By then her reputation for getting people involved as volunteers was widely recognised.

In 1978, to honour the Centenary of arrival of the RSCs in Liverpool, she organised a Garden Party at St Mary’s, with a special guest to mark the occasion. The NSW Governor, His Excellency Air Marshall Sir James Rowlands, was unavailable so, undaunted, Jude invited the Governor General, Sir Zelman Cowen. To her delight, he accepted and was a major drawcard to a packed and highly successful event, run by her host of volunteers. She personally introduced a bemused Sir Zelman to practically every guest at the venue.

Her substantial workload since her profession was no barrier to her own development, gaining Diplomas in Theology and Economics, a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Education degrees by 1979. Jude, as she was then widely known, was a master at engaging everyone she met, teasing out strengths and weaknesses, worries and concerns, with the universal promise to pray for them.

Her strengths in engaging individuals invigorated many disadvantaged individuals, and even communities, into functional and empowered states and a new sense of opportunity in life. This gift of personally empowering people led to her appointment as Coordinator of the Sesqui-Centenary celebrations of the Sisters of Charity in Australia in 1987-88.

In 1989 she was appointed as Foundation Executive Director of the newly formed Sisters of Charity Outreach Centre for Women, Sr St Jude reported that the organisation ‘would be a womens resource centre, a center for women in violence, and a provider of childcare Centres in areas where needed, all with a strong volunteer base’.

From its early days, the Centre has since grown exponentially in provision of support for the disadvantaged and underprivileged, particularly women, in NSW. Services vary from support for domestic violence victims and families, crisis accommodation, counselling, financial, court and legal support.
Jude was active in developing a substantial donor profile and financial support and its registration with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC). Her fund-raising activities included annual race days at Randwick Racecourse, with trainer Gai Waterhouse its initial Patron.
Her selfless life of service was recognised by the award of a Medal of the Order of Australia on the Queens Birthday in 1997. Her citation read ‘for service to social welfare, particularly through the Sisters of Charity Outreach Programme, and to Rural Communities.’

With Outreach successfully established, she then volunteered in 1999 and 2000 as a migration agent at the Immigration Advice and Rights Centre, working to provide fair and just immigration outcomes for vulnerable people through free, expert and compassionate advice.

Her final role, from 2000 to 2014, was working with the Sisters of Charity Rural and Remote Program, an extension of Outreach providing the same compassionate support to people in those areas. She also spent 12 of those years teaching drama at her alma mater, St Vincent’s at Potts Point.
Jude also became active on the Committee of the NSW Branch of the Order of Australia Association. She served for 3 years as Convenor of the John Lincoln Youth Community Service Award, assuming that mantle in 2012 after the passing of its founder, Dr John Lincoln AM.

She spent her final days from 2014 at Stella Maris Aged Care Centre at Cronulla, fraternising with her many RSC colleagues, visiting family and friends. A large gathering celebrated the Platinum Anniversary of her profession as a Sister of Charity with her in January 2020. She passed away peacefully on Christmas Eve, 2020. It was my wonderful privilege to have known her.

Dr Frank Kelleher OAM

Order of Australia Hunter Regional Group

November Newsletter – Click here to download

Order of Australia Hunter Regional Group
Valma Harvey Hamilton OAM

Valma Harvey Hamilton OAM

Mrs Valma Mary Harvey-Hamilton was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in the Australia Day Awards in 2000 for service to the aged as a provider of outreach musical entertainment, and as a volunteer for nursing homes and pensioner associations.

When it was decided to reactivate the Order of Australia Hunter Regional Group in 2003, Val was one of the first members to respond to the invitations that were sent out for the first function, a luncheon in January 2004. Val agreed to join the local committee and help wherever she could.

She expressed her delight that local functions were again being held and advised that she would be prepared to attend all functions, provide the music, and sing the National Anthem. She had all the necessary equipment and brought it with her to functions for the next sixteen years.

Since that time, she has been a continual active member and attended all our functions in Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, and Nelson Bay.

Not only has she sung the National Anthem for us, but she has also been responsible for providing beautiful floral table decorations mostly from her own gardens. These displays have always attracted many compliments with many people asking if they could take them home with them.

Another one of Val’s duties was to arrange the gift for functions, for presentation to the Guest Speaker.

Committee member Val Harvey-Hamilton took many photos at Order of Australia functions and posted them to the people concerned.

Val was the only one of the Hunter Regional Group to regularly attend the National Order of Australia Annual General Meetings and associated functions wherever they were held, all over Australia. She represented our Group very well and gave feedback on how these events were organized and conducted.

Val is an avid golfer and a long-term member of Merewether Golf Club.

Val was well known and appreciated in the Lower Hunter where she visited nursing homes and retirement villages to provide music and sing-a-longs for many years.

Val has been a valuable committee member but due to age and increasing health problems, she resigned her position on the Order of Australia Hunter Regional Group committee in October 2020. She still intends to attend as many future functions as possible.

Val’s support and hard work has ensured that our Order of Australia Hunter Regional Group continues to hold successful and enjoyable functions.

Zara Blackmore

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.

Zara Blackmore receiving her Youth Community Service Award from Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AO QC, Governor of NSW

“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. (batyr 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. The nature and extent of Zara’s contribution to community is summarised in her Award citation:

Zara Blackmore is a respected member of the NEGS (New England Grammar School) and Armidale community who is currently Chair of the Armidale Regional Youth Advisory Committee, which focusses 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 assimilation. 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.

September 2020 Newsletter

Click here to download


Click here to download


The Hunter Regional Group enjoyed a luncheon at the Cardiff RSL Club on Saturday 22nd February 2020 to welcome the OA Australia Day recipients of the Region.

June Cameron AM hosted the day and extended special congratulations to all of the new recipients and a warm welcome to those in attendance at the luncheon.

Five of the twelve local recipients were able to attend the luncheon with family and friends – Thomas Boulton AM, John Cootes OAM, Gionni Di Gravio OAM, Kay Lane OAM, John Land OAM.
Ron Sharpe OAM, the New South Wales Branch Regional Coordinator attended the luncheon. He advised those present of current happenings at the National and State levels and proposed a toast to the Order of Australia.

The special guest speaker on the day was Professor Alex Zelinsky AO FAA FIEEE, Vice Chancellor and President of the University of Newcastle. He delivered an extremely interesting insight into his background and the education system with special emphasis on the University of Newcastle.
Fellowship and a wonderful lunch were enjoyed by all in attendance.

The venue was comfortably full with 137 members and guests in attendance.
Future activities planned by the Order of Australia Hunter Regional Group are Morning Teas at Port Stephens on Wednesday 17 June 2020 and Wallsend Diggers on Wednesday 15th July 2020 (subject to the corona virus situation at the time).

Professor Alex Zelinsky AO FAA GIEEE was the guest speaker at the luncheon

Mr John Alan COOTES OAM.  Belmont, 2280.  For service to the community, particularly to social welfare organisations. 
(January 2020)
Captain John Thomas LAND OAM.  Singleton, 2330.  For meritorious service as the Army Conservator, Australian Army History Unit, in support of the protection of Army’s heritage. (January 2020)
Mr Gionni DI GRAVIO OAM.  Mayfield, 2304.  For service to community history, particularly as an archivist. (January 2020)
Mr Michael Charles GREEN OAM.  Blacksmiths, 2281.  For service to the Indigenous community.  (January 2018)
Mr Jack McNAUGHTON – OAM.  Marks Point.  For service to the community through charitable organisations. (June 2019)

Professor Alex Zelinsky AO FAA GIEEE was the guest speaker at the luncheon.
Mrs Kay Frances LANE OAM.  The Hill, 2300.  For service to music, and to education.  (January 2020)
Emeritus Professor Thomas John BOULTON AM.  Carrington, 2294.  For significant service to medical education, and to paediatric medicine.(January 2020)

Charlie Stevens

Charles Stevens OAM RFD ED

PHOTO. Standing – John Cootes OAM | John Land OAM | Gionni DiGravio OAM | Michael Green OAM | Jack McNaughton OAM Sitting – Alex Zelinsky AO FAA FIEEE | Kay Lane OAM | Thomas Boulton AM | Photo – Bill Hanley OAM













Stolen Medals

Noeline Brigg-Smith OAM receives her replacement medals from Roger Butler OAM (Secretary NENW Regional Group)

Noeline Briggs-Smith OAM, an Aboriginal elder of the Kamilaroi tribe, Moree, reported to the Secretary of the New England North West Regional Group, Mr Roger Butler OAM, that she was devastated by the loss, through theft, of her medals, did not know how to replace them and could not afford to purchase a new set.

Roger took up her cause with members of the NENW Regional Group, a number of whom generously donated the money required to replace the medals. At her request, the medals were presented to her by Roger after she conducted the Welcome to Country ceremony at the Australia Day, 26th January 2020 celebrations in Moree.





Peter Falk OAM NSW Branch Chairman and Ian McKnight OAM

At our AGM in February, Branch Chairman Peter Falk OAM thanked Committee Members, Ian McKnight OAM and Eddie Selwyn OAM for their four years service on the Committee which was acknowledged with an Association plaque.

Ian received his OAM for his service to lawn bowls, supporting the Tweed Byron District Bowling and the Cudgen Leagues Bowling Clubs as well as the Royal NSW Bowling Association where he was deputy president. Ian was our newsletter editor, covering many of our Association events over the past years.

Eddie received his OAM for services to the law and state through the Legal Aid Commission NSW.  He was a solicitor for 44 years and in 2014 was made honorary life member of The Law Society of NSW in recognition of his longstanding and meritorious service to the legal profession.





New Branch Membership Officer – Michael Maher OAM

Michael Maher OAM

As Branch Membership Officer it is my role to act as a conduit between the Branch and the National office on all aspect of membership i.e change of address, change contact details etc.

Recently I was appointed together with three other committee members to look at all issues of membership and provide a list of recommendations to the full committee for their consideration on a way forward.

The subcommittee is on track to submit its report in early April 2020.


Standing – John Cootes OAM | John Land OAM | Gionni DiGravio OAM | Michael Green OAM | Jack McNaughton OAM
Sitting – Alex Zelinsky AO FAA FIEEE | Kay Lane OAM | Thomas Boulton AM | Photo – Bill Hanley OAM

The Hunter Regional Group enjoyed a luncheon at the Cardiff RSL Club on Saturday 22nd February 2020 to welcome the OA Australia Day recipients of the Region.

June Cameron AM hosted the day and extended special congratulations to all of the new recipients and a warm welcome to those in attendance at the luncheon.

Five of the twelve local recipients were able to attend the luncheon with family and friends – Thomas Boulton AM, John Cootes OAM, Gionni Di Gravio OAM, Kay Lane OAM, John Land OAM.

Ron Sharpe OAM, the New South Wales Branch Regional Coordinator attended the luncheon. He advised those present of current happenings at the National and State levels and proposed a toast to the Order of Australia.

The special guest speaker on the day was Professor Alex Zelinsky AO FAA FIEEE, Vice Chancellor and President of the University of Newcastle. He delivered an extremely interesting insight into his background and the education system with special emphasis on the University of Newcastle.

Fellowship and a wonderful lunch were enjoyed by all in attendance. The venue was comfortably full with 137 members and guests in attendance.

Future activities planned by the Order of Australia Hunter Regional Group are Morning Teas at Port Stephens on Wednesday 17 June 2020 and Wallsend Diggers on Wednesday 15th July 2020 (subject to the corona virus situation at the time).


Acting Branch Convenor Mr Grahame Gooding, OAM
Phone: 0266281747 E
mail: gooding.gs@gmail.com

2020 Annual Branch Luncheon and Appointment of New Committee Sunday 29th March, 2020

Welcome members to 2020,

Firstly, may I congratulate the many Awardees who have been honoured in the past two years. I know that for most, the awards came as a great and unexpected surprise, so well done to you all.

We aim to hold a luncheon get together of the Branch each year. The next Annual Luncheon will be held on Sunday 29th March at the Alstonville Bowling and Sports Club at 12.00 for 12.30pm, and I would extend a warm welcome to you and your partner to attend this event

As many of you will be aware, our former Branch Convenor, the late Mr Don Johnston OAM passed away suddenly on the 10th March, 2019, as we were organising the 2019 function. Don was the founding convenor of the Branch and had been instrumental in organising the functions since 2010. His leadership will be greatly missed by the many community organisations he was involved in. We again express our condolences to his family, and especially daughter Alison who was his personal secretary and adviser.

During 2018 the third person on our Committee, Dr Sue Page AM, moved from the district and resigned from the committee, so we were already planning to form a new committee last year when Don Passed away.

Consequently, following our luncheon, we will have a brief meeting to form a new committee of at least three members. The tasks are minimal, being only to organise this function, and to act as bank signatories, so please consider volunteering yourself for this position.

I look forward to you joining with us as we share a meal, meeting old and new members and their guests, and listening to our guest speaker, Mr Barry Nash OAM.

Grahame Gooding OAM.

Acting Convenor


Australia Day dawned on Sydney Harbour with the weather on its best behaviour yet again continuing the bout of excellent weather experienced in recent years on this most important of National Days. The NSW Branch Chairman, Peter Falk OAM and committee members welcomed everyone, inviting them to enjoy the iconic surroundings and the day’s wonderful activities. The Branch harbour cruise is gaining in popularity each year and on this occasion a new attendance record was achieved when 169 members and their guests boarded the Captain Cook 111 to take in the sights and enjoy the festivities as well as the hospitality provided on board.

The navy flagship HMAS Canberra soon took up its position in the middle of the harbour in the vicinity of the renowned harbour bridge and all was in readiness for the “Salute to Australia” ceremony at the conclusion of which was followed by a 21gun salute. It was noticed that instead of defence air and watercraft being parked on the deck there were several RFS fire trucks displayed in their place and it was later learned that the crew had played host to a number of NSW RFS volunteers to honour the bravery and dedication to duty of all volunteers in the face of horrendous fires recently experienced by many people.

Among the many activities enjoyed by the group was the “ferrython” including the ferry race in which the competing ferries were decked out in many colourful flags and banners. Several helicopters performed an aerial ballet and as part of the “Salute to Australia” 3 RAAF fighter jets paid a visit and performed outstanding aerial displays and a later visit was made by a Qantas A380 aircraft. Other events witnessed were the Tug and Yacht ballet, the Harbour Parade where a myriad of ferries and many other large and small craft all decked out in their colours were a very colourful sight and the Tall Ships race where the entrants under full sail made for an impressive sight.

The refreshments and an appetising lunch were enjoyed by all on board during which time a fundraising effort for the NSW Drought Relief was held, resulting in a total of $3070 being raised. All too soon the cruise came to an end but for those with the stamina there were many other activities that extended until well into the evening to keep the huge crowd at Circular Quay entertained.

Ian McKnight OAM