Actor Chris Hemsworth, former prime ministerial advisor Peta Credlin and the nation’s first female police chief commissioner are among more than 1,100 Australians getting a royal nod this Queen’s birthday.
But the vast majority of those honoured weren’t Hollywood actors, political staffers-turned pundits, or senior cops.
Instead they were unsung heroes in the Australian community, including children’s cancer nurses, prison volunteers, retired ambulance officers and the sister of a high-profile murder victim.
Actor Chris Hemsworth was named a Member of the Order of Australia for ‘significant service to the performing arts, and to charitable organisations’. But most awarded were not famous celebrities
Most of those honoured in the awards expressed humility about their work serving the community.
‘I feel very honoured by it, but I feel there’s a lot more people more deserving than me,’ children’s cancer nurse Mary McGowan told The Age. ‘I don’t see it as just for me, it’s a team effort.’
Ms McGowan worked in the pediatric oncology ward at the Royal Children’s Hospital for 40 years before taking on a role as community liaison manager with the Children’s Cancer Centre.
Awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in today’s announcement, she acknowledged that working with childhood sufferers of cancer could be sad, but emphasised the improved recovery rates from childhood cancer since she’d first started.
She was one of 416 women on the general awards list, which equals 44 per cent of recipients, a record number of females.
Mary McGowan’s work as a children’s cancer nurse for 40 years at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, and later with the Children’s Cancer Centre, was recognised with a Medal of the Order of Australia
Nevill Knell, also awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia, visited prisons to speak to inmates for 28 years.
The 85-year-old retired engineer originally answered an ad run by Prison Fellowship Australia, a Christian organisation that organises visits for prisoners.
‘I can give the prisoners a listening ear, friendship, and the possibility, on release, of continuing to support them, if they want to,’ he told the newspaper.
In Queensland the sister of murder victim Allison Baden-Clay, Vanessa Fowler, was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for services to social welfare organisations.
Ms Fowler helped establish the Allison Baden-Clay Foundation after her sister’s death at the hands of her husband Gerard in 2012, becoming director and chairman of the board.
She is now co-chairwoman of the Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Council.
‘I share this honour with my family and those who work tirelessly for the Allison Baden-Clay Foundation,’ she told The Courier-Mail.
Vanessa Fowler (left), the sister of murder victim Allison Baden-Clay, was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for services to social welfare organisations
Chas Martin, 83, was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to community history as founder of the Ambulance Victoria Museum
Chas Martin, 83, was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to community history. Mr Martin, who joined Victoria’s Civil Ambulance Service back in 1962, founded the Ambulance Victoria Museum in 2006, showcasing vintage ambulances.
The museum at Bayswater features more than 20 restored ambulances dating back to 1912.
‘I believe that all history should be kept and that’s why I’m doing this,’ Mr Martin told The Age.
There were 947 recipients of awards in the General Division of the Order of Australia this year, including 640 Medal of the Order of Australia recipients.