Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

Ku-ring-gai Australia Day Honours

Award Recipients

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS ( Ku-ring-gai ) ( 18:16 :41 ): When Australia Day Awards are announced, the focus of media commentators is inevitably on the well-known celebrities—the actors, musicians and sports stars, and even former politicians, whose meritorious work in their chosen fields has earned them special recognition. Ku-ring-gai is certainly not lacking in famous inhabitants. However, what is always exciting for me is that the awards bestowed on 26 January each year invariably highlight local residents whose achievements might not otherwise have come to the attention of the wider public. Given the significance of what they have done, these people should be celebrated, and, more than that, they deserve our thanks.

For more than 20 years, Associate Professor Geoffrey Painter of Warrawee has been travelling to China, to the Philippines and, most frequently, to the Solomon Islands to perform cataract surgery on patients whose lack of resources and inability to access skilled medical assistance had condemned them to a life of blindness. He has given the gift of sight to thousands. In typically modest fashion, Professor Painter insists that he is "just part of a team" and that "it's your obligation to humanity to help where you can". If that is so, then this ophthalmologist has fulfilled his obligation with distinction and is a most worthy new Member of the Order of Australia for his promotion of eye care in Asia and the Pacific.

Killara's Dr David Chen, another of Ku-ring-gai's doctors, was awarded an OAM for his service not only to medicine but also to professional associations. Dr Chen has been a highly respected medical practitioner since 1977, but he has also served since 1993 as the Secretary and the President of the Medical Benevolent Association of NSW and the ACT, caring for doctors and their families when they are doing it tough themselves.

To the congregation of the Chinese Christian Church Sydney at Milsons Point, he has been a Sunday schoolteacher for 49 years, for many of those as the superintendent. He has been the Chairman of the Board of Deacons, a member of the choir and the organist too, which is an extraordinary contribution by a remarkable and humble man.

Two pillars of the Uniting Church, Susan Nurse and Pamela Walker, both of Pymble, now have the letters OAM after their names for their service to that denomination and, in the case of Ms Walker, to pastoral care programs. Helen Miller of Turramurra also has an OAM for her work with veterans and their families, which includes 20 years as the New South Wales General Secretary of the HMAS Canberra-HMAS Shropshire Association, a not-for-profit association that was formed to encourage and foster the comradeship developed by the men and women who served on those ships.

Volunteering has also been a way of life for Patricia Spooner of North Turramurra, who was awarded an Order of Australia Medal for her tireless community involvement. She has been the honorary secretary of the opportunity shop of St John's Church, Gordon, since 2003; she has been a volunteer at the Lady Davidson Hospital since 2004; and a guide at the hospital's Flowton Museum. The late and fondly remembered Turramurra scientist Dr Owen Slee was also awarded an AM this year. Dr Slee was an internationally recognised pioneer in the field of radio astronomy and he later made important contributions as a researcher, author and mentor of young scientists over a storied 70-year career.

Joining the Australia Day celebrations at Bicentennial Park, West Pymble, also gave me the opportunity to express my gratitude to Ku-ring-gai's local award winners, whose efforts have made a significant impact on the community. Dr Zeny Edwards of Turramurra is an emigrant from the Philippines who is a past president of the National Trust of Australia (NSW). She has devoted her life to promoting the sustainability of the cultural heritage of Australia. She is also a noted philanthropist who assists charities with their fundraising programs and now serves as director of the Peace Program of the United Nations Association of Australia. Her greatest love, however, is the architectural heritage of Ku-ring-gai. Her unfailing commitment to her area and its residents has led to her being named Ku-ring-gai's Citizen of the Year for 2017.

David Taylor of Warrawee is no doubt in a position to pursue a financially rewarding musical career with his considerable ability, but he prefers to use his talents for the benefit of others who need help. David wrote and released two songs in support of KYDS, which is a free counselling service for children. He recently donated all profits he received for those songs to that organisation, which is only the latest example of his championing of causes within the community. He was chosen as Young Citizen of the Year for his backing of mental health services and the young people of Ku-ring-gai.

Ku-ring-gai is justifiably proud of its substantial natural bushland and for many years its preservation has been the abiding interest of Helen Wortham of South Turramurra. Helen is the secretary of STEP, a community‑based environmental protection organisation based in Ku-ring-gai, which has become a vital force in conservation in northern Sydney. Helen received the Individual Award for Outstanding Service to Ku-ring-gai. Earlier today I informed the House of the 25 volunteer researchers from the Ku-ring-gai Historical Society whose writer's group received the Outstanding Service to the Ku-ring-gai Community Award, which is an acknowledgement of their commitment to keeping the area's treasured history alive. I congratulate all of Ku‑ring‑gai's award winners on making a difference and for improving the lives of others locally, across Australia and around the world.