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Federation Chamber – Order of Australia response

17:52, 12/02/2018: Thank you to my colleague the member for Berowra for raising this important topic. One of the greatest parts of Australia Day is the opportunity it gives us to recognise those in our community who often go unnoticed. There are thousands of such heroes across our country and dozens in Bennelong. Many remain without the appreciation they deserve. But this year we were able to identify a few more of our most worthy locals. I would like to talk about some of them today.

Marilyn Singer of Epping is a constituent of Bennelong who received the Order of Australia Medal as part of the 2018 Australia Day honours for her service to people with scleroderma. Scleroderma is an uncommon autoimmune connective tissue disease which is both hard to diagnose and devastating in its effects. Ms Singer has served as the president and secretary of the Scleroderma Association of New South Wales and has over the years devoted herself to the very noble cause of improving the lives of Australians through a commitment to science and health.

Dr Friedbert Kohler of Carlingford was another recipient of the Order of Australia Medal, for his service to rehabilitation medicine. Dr Kohler has served, among numerous other roles, as the director of the South Western Sydney Local Health District and has, since 2011, served as the clinical stream director of aged care and rehabilitation services. He has also been a conjoint associate professor at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales since 2009.

I am proud to bring attention to the work undertaken by Mrs Singer and Dr Kohler, who have both worked towards making Australia a healthier and happier place. The wellbeing of a nation begins at the individual level, and working to ensure that we learn more about those less common conditions and diseases will guarantee that every Australian can achieve their highest possible quality of life. I’m proud to have these two champions, and those who share their devotion to such noble causes, in the Bennelong community.

I would also like to mention Mark Anderson, a constituent of mine from Epping. Mark was awarded the title of Member of the Order of Australia for his significant service to secondary education in New South Wales through administrative and executive roles, and his service to educational standards. His services include his work at the Department of Education as the Director of Public Schools New South Wales, at the Hills School between 2016 and 2017 and also at the New South Wales Board of Studies, where he was a member of the teacher education policy advisory committee. Among numerous other roles, he was the founding college principal of the Sydney Secondary College from 2002 to 2004 and he served as the Principal of Davidson High School for four years between 1997 and 2001. We all understand the importance of education, which is well and truly the life blood of any nation. It is people like Mark who ensure that the education system in our country continues to provide Australian children and adolescents with a rigorous and rounded education. This ensures that they go on to be engaged members of our society with the knowledge and skills to maintain Australia’s position. I’m proud to say that, as a member of the Bennelong community, he has received serious recognition for his lifelong commitment to perhaps the most important area, education. Our community is strengthened by the efforts of those like Mark, who display a commitment to ensuring that young Australians receive an education of the highest standard.

Finally, I’d like to recognise a posthumous award for a good friend of mine, a famous local and true national hero. Betty Cuthbert has been posthumously awarded the nation’s highest honour, a Companion of the Order of Australia for eminent service to the sport of athletics as a fourfold Olympic champion, role model, fundraiser and advocate for research into a cure for multiple sclerosis. The Ermington Flash, as she was known in her youth, sadly, passed away last year, yet she remains Australia’s second highest medal winner, after only Ian Thorpe, and is today the only person in history to win Olympic gold in 100-, 200- and 400-metre sprints. These are incredible achievements.

It is the selfless devotion to something larger than oneself that greatly enriches our communities but also our nation more broadly. All recipients of these awards deserve recognition and praise for the work they’ve undertaken. I’m pleased to see these four members of the Bennelong community receive the Order of Australia medal. Congratulations to you all and may your example encourage others in our society to give more to their fellow Australians.