10 June 2024

Meet the Illawarra's King's Birthday honourees

| Jen White and Dione David
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His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd)

Governor-General David Hurley announced his final King’s Birthday Honours List before he steps down next month. Photo: Office of the Governor-General.

Women in the health and education fields have dominated the Illawarra King’s Birthday Honours List.

Announcing his final honours list before he steps down next month, Governor-General David Hurley today (Monday) congratulated the 737 Australians who will be appointed in the Order of Australia (General and Military Divisions), will receive meritorious awards and be recognised for conspicuous service.

“I would like to congratulate all those recognised in today’s honours list. Some names are well known, but the vast majority are not – they are people who work tirelessly and selflessly to make a difference in our community,” he said.

“Through today’s recognition we shine a light on their efforts, the impact they have and the difference they make. On behalf of all Australians, I thank recipients for their service and congratulate them on their recognition.”

In the Illawarra, four were named a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), six received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM), and one received a Public Service Medal (PSM).

“This is my last honours list as Governor-General. Presiding over investiture ceremonies and having the opportunity to meet so many diverse recipients in our honours system has been a tremendous privilege. Learning their stories has been inspiring and makes me enormously optimistic for our future,” Mr Hurley, a former Port Kembla resident, said.

Member of the Order of Australia (AM)

Professor Kathleen Clapham

Professor Kathleen Clapham’s research in Indigenous health focuses on health equity; safety, health and wellbeing of children and young people; community-based interventions; social and cultural determinants of health, and; health services improvements. Photo: UOW.

Professor Kathleen Clapham – AM for significant service to Indigenous community health, anthropology and tertiary education

Kathleen is the founding Director and Professor of Indigenous Health at the University of Wollongong’s Ngarruwan Ngadju First Peoples Health and Wellbeing Research Centre.

A descendant of the Murrawarri people of northwestern NSW, Kathleen is a senior Aboriginal researcher and anthropologist. Her research in Indigenous health focuses on health equity; safety, health and wellbeing of children and young people; community-based interventions; social and cultural determinants of health; and health services improvements.

In 2022, Kathleen was named co-winner of Wollongong Council’s Innovation Achievement category in the Australia Day Awards, with this year’s fellow AM recipient Lisa Kerven.

She was the first recipient of the First Nations Health, Wellbeing and Health Services Research Award, Health Services Research Association of Australia and New Zealand.

Kathy Eagar

Among her many accomplishments Dr Kathy Eagar was the Foundation Director of the Australian Health Services Research Institute at the University of Wollongong from 1997 until last year. Photo: UOW.

Doctor Kathy Eager – AM for significant service to the community through health services research and development, and as a mentor

Kathy, the Adjunct Professor of Health Services Research at the University of NSW and Queensland University of Technology, has more than 35 years of experience in health and community care systems as a clinician, senior manager and health academic.

She was the inaugural Professor of Health Services Research and Foundation Director of the Australian Health Services Research Institute at the University of Wollongong which she held from 1997 until she retired from UOW early in 2023.

Kathy served on the board of the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District from 2010 to 2020, as well as six years as Director of Health Service Development with the Illawarra Area Health Service.

She has worked as an adviser to the Aged Care Royal Commission on aged care staff ratios and public reporting.

Professor Lisa Kervin of UoW

Lisa Kervin’s research tackles education disadvantage. Photo: Paul Jones/UOW.

Professor Lisa Kervin – AM for significant service to tertiary education, and to research in early childhood digital literacy.

In her long-standing career at the University of Wollongong, Lisa has been a Professor of Education, Faculty of The Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities since 2018 and an Associate Professor in Language and Literacy from 2013 to 2018.

She is currently the Academic Lead at the Children’s Technology Play Space in her capacity as a chief investigator for the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child.

She is also involved with the development of the Tanzania Teaching and Immersion Program and has taken multiple groups of students to rural Tanzania.

Lisa said the recognition was an honour, but the true reward was the work itself.

“It’s lovely to get an award like this, but the rewards I get are on a daily basis: when I see people I’ve taught go on to do amazing things, or the look of immense joy on a child’s face when they discover something new,” she said.

“It’s such a privilege to work in a field you’re so passionate about.”

Doctor William (Bill) Pigott – AM for significant service to conservation and the environment, medical education and international community health

Bill has been involved in medicine in many forms since he graduated in 1965. At the 50th anniversary of his year’s graduation from the University of Sydney Bill wrote that medicine had given him “a marvellous 50 years”.

“Back in January 1965, who’d have thought it would lead me to remote and troubled corners of the world, meeting kings and prime ministers, persuading ministers of health to do the right thing, travelling in old Russian helicopters to visit health emergencies, and taking in, on the way, extraordinary opportunities to meet incredible people, see amazing places and do interesting things, add value and enable change, in individuals, institutions, communities and countries; and in the process undergo change myself.”

He started working for the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1981 as a Team Leader in Medical Education in Nepal. He later worked for WHO in Geneva and Cambodia.

Closer to home, Bill has been a member of Berry Landcare since 2003, serving as Secretary, Secretary-Treasurer and then Chair, from 2009-2013. He was awarded life membership of Landcare NSW in 2021.

Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the General Division

Scouts leader Gregory Crofts

Gregory Crofts has served local youths through Scouts for almost five decades. Photo: Gregory Crofts.

Gregory Crofts – OAM for service to youth through Scouts

Next year marks half a century of Scouts leadership for Shell Cove’s Gregory (Greg) Crofts. Greg was “roped into” the gig when his son joined the Peakhurst Cub Pack in 1976, but said there’s more than one good reason he bucked the trend and stuck around long after his own kids had finished.

“I’ve made some amazing friends and worked with some amazing people, and I wouldn’t still be here now if I wasn’t having fun,” he said.

Greg served the Scouts in several capacities over the years including as District Commissioner for the Shoalhaven District from 2004 to 2006 and Assistant District Commissioner for the Illawarra South District from 2006 to 2009. More recently, he has been heavily involved with the Kiama Scouts, first as Group Leader from 2009 to 2020 and Group Advisor from 2020 to the present.

He said while he had seen a dip in attendance over the years, he believed Scouts could play an important role for many children as the country grappled with rising youth mental ill health.

“I think Scouts can go a long way to benefit children in the mental health space. With the rise of social media and kids being on screens all the time, involvement in things like Scouts will become more important for kids now more than ever,” he said.

“All my children were involved in Scouts. It teaches kids responsibility, how to work well together and leadership. It prepares them for life.”

Kenneth (Ken) Forbes – OAM for service to lawn bowls

Sometime in the 1970s a young Kenneth (Ken) Forbes was invited by his boss at BHP to join a lawn bowls session at Towradgi Bowls and Recreation Club.

“I thought I was a bit too young to play,” he laughed. Though he “wasn’t very good”, he couldn’t stay away and has been playing the game since.

In the mid 80s he became an official member of the Windang Bowling Club where he stayed for 20 years to serve in various roles, including as President from 2001 to 2007.

In 2000 Ken began his service with the Illawarra Zone 16 Bowls Association, most recently as President from 2008 to the present. He said the association was currently tackling a unification process that would bring 19 clubs from as far north as Scarborough to as far south as Bomaderry under the one district banner. He hoped it would attract more participation from women.

“Although I think some of the older men don’t like getting beaten by women,” he joked. “But it’s the inclusion and social aspects of bowls I love most. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are – it’s all first names and good, friendly games.”

Shelley Hancock

Shelley Hancock at the 2019 Annual Conference. Photo: Local Government NSW.

Shelley Hancock – OAM for service to the people and Parliament of NSW

Shelley was the Member for South Coast from 2003 until 2023.

Among her more notable achievements in her years of service to the Parliament of NSW, Shelley was the first woman to hold the role of Speaker, serving from 2011 to 2019.

Before entering parliament, Shelley served on Shoalhaven City Council for 17 years in a number of roles including Chair of the Rural Fire Service Strategic Planning Committee and Deputy Mayor from 2000 to 2001.

Upon retirement, president of the sector’s peak body Local Government NSW (LGNSW) Darriea Turley said Shelley’s time on the council gave her a “deep understanding of the role councils play as the closest level of government to the community, and enabled her to bring a wealth of grassroots experience to the portfolio”.

“Minister Hancock’s capacity and commitment to working collaboratively with the sector was particularly critical in helping to support our communities through the immense challenges of recent times, and she was a key driver behind significant funding support for councils and their communities,” she said.

“The first-ever woman to serve as the Speaker of the NSW Legislative Assembly did so with a firm hand and great humour.

“When she became Local Government Minister she continued to break down many of the barriers that can deter women from public life, including long-overdue superannuation for councillors, in line with the rest of the state’s workforce, and access to child care to enable attendance at council meetings.”

UOW professor Stuart Kaye

Stuart Kaye’s OAM joins many awards for his years of service, including the Australian Red Cross Society Distinguished Service Medal. Photo: UOW.

Distinguished Professor Stuart Kaye – OAM for service to international law, and to tertiary education

Among his many roles at the University of Wollongong, Stuart Kaye has been a Director at the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security since 2013, a Distinguished Professor since 2019 and was Dean and Professor of Law from 2006 to 2022.

He previously served as Dean at the University of Western Australia’s School of Law and as Winthrop Professor of Law from 2010 to 2013 and also made numerous other contributions in the area of law education in various roles at The University of Melbourne, James Cook University and University of Tasmania

Since 1995 he has been on the International Hydrographic Organization’s Panel of Experts on Maritime Boundary Delimitation and in 2000, he was appointed to the List of Arbitrators under the Environmental Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty. He is also currently a Chief Investigator at Securing Antarctica’s Environmental Future.

His OAM joins many awards for his years of service, including the Australian Red Cross Society Distinguished Service Medal for his service as Chair of the Australian International Humanitarian Law Committee from 2003 to 2009.

Helen Pittman – OAM for service to the community through a range of organisations

Woonona’s Helen Pittman’s resume of services to the community goes back to the early 70s when her tireless efforts saw her volunteering in the canteen and as fete coordinator for Russell Vale Public School, as well as President and committee member of the school’s Parents and Citizens’ Association. In those early years she also volunteered for Russel Vale Scouts and the Russell Vale Junior Soccer Club.

Among her valuable contributions to education in the Illawarra, Helen served as a School Support Officer for Fairy Meadow Demonstration School, Corrimal High School, Woonona East Public School and Balgownie Public School at various points between 1970 and the early 2000s.

A seemingly endless list of organisations she has volunteered, organised and fundraised for includes the Cancer Council and the Australian Red Cross.

More recently, she served in various roles at the Woonona Women’s Bowling Club for more than 20 years, including President from 2019 to 2021, and has been a Woonona Men’s and Women’s Bowling and Recreation Club board member since 2019.

Colin Rathbone Bicentennial National Trail

Colin Rathbone was instrumental in starting a troupe of the Australian Light Horse in Kiama in time for the centenary of the Light Horse in 2015. Photo: Supplied.

Colin Roy Rathbone – OAM for service to the community of Kiama

Kiama’s Colin Rathbone may have recently turned his focus to his dream of riding the Bicentennial National Trail from Melbourne to Cooktown on horseback, but even that has an element of service. He will be using the bucket list item to raise funds for melanoma research in memory of his wife Veronica, who passed away from cancer in 2020.

Among the beneficiaries of Colin’s countless community contributions are the Kiama branch of the Australian Red Cross and Friends of Blue Haven Aged Care Facility. However his work with the Kiama District Sports Association takes the cake. Involved with the association since launch year, by the second year had been voted in as President – a role he kept for more than 40 years.

Among his accolades, Colin was named Australia Day Citizen of the Year, Kiama in 2017 and Kiama Council Sports Star of the Year in 2010. The addition of an OAM was an unexpected honour.

“You do what you do because you want to do it, not because of any rewards you’re going to get, so I was really thrilled,” he said.

Public Service Medal (PSM)

Sonia Marshall's leadership during the COVID crisis saved lives.

Sonia Marshall’s leadership during the COVID crisis saved lives. Photo: SWSLHD.

Sonia Marshall – PSM for outstanding public service to the South Western Sydney Local Health District particularly in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

The South Western Sydney Vaccination Centre, which offered mass vaccination to the community at the height of the pandemic, was operational within 28 days of notification, in no small part owing to the hands-on approach and profound commitment to public health of Balgownie’s Sonia Marshall.

“It was something no amount of my education and training could have prepared me for,” she said.

“I led the health response in southwestern Sydney, and that was the region hit hardest with COVID and lockdowns. Working with a very culturally, linguistically and economically diverse community to get their support and help them understand what was required to keep their loved ones and themselves safe was so important.

“It opened my eyes to the fact that we can’t take a cookie-cutter approach to all things. We needed to look at individual communities and work with their leaders and influencers to ensure we got the messaging out to those who really needed it.”

Sonia’s leadership during this unprecedented time saw the delivery of more than 650,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, resulting in an 85 per cent compliance rate of two doses for the community. This rapid vaccine roll-out ultimately contributed to saving lives.

Sonia’s 30-year career in nursing more recently culminated in her appointment as CEO of the South Western Sydney Local Health District. Before that, she served as Executive Director of Nursing and Midwifery and as the incident controller of the Emergency Operations Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite her achievements she didn’t expect to be among the King’s honourees.

“It was very out of the blue to receive this honour for what I just considered to be part of my role,” she said.

Anyone can nominate any Australian for an Order of Australia honour. If you know someone worthy, nominate them now at www.gg.gov.au.

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