The Australia Day 2018 Honours List recognises 895 Australians across a diverse range of contributions and services in fields including professional endeavours, community work, Australia’s Defence Force and Emergency Services.
Since 1975 the awards have helped to define, encourage and reinforce Australian goals and values, Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove said. “They identify role models who give without thought of recognition or personal gain.”
Read more: Your guide to Australia Day in the Illawarra
Here are Illawarra’s Australia Day 2018 honours recipients:
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery
Twenty-two years ago, then 44-year-old Uniting Church Reverend Gordon Bradbery was awarded an Order of Australia medal (OAM) for his service during the devastating 1994 bush fires.
“Back then, I was in Jannali and the Sutherland Shire was ravaged in January that year, I helped to rebuild that community and coordinated the relief,” he said.
In the decades since, the religious minister, former emergency services chaplain, arts patron and now two-term Wollongong Lord Mayor has become one of the Illawarra’s best known citizens.
With this much longer list of service under his belt, Cr Bradbery – now 66 – will this year receive the next level up in the Australian order of chivalry: the Member of the Order of Australia (AM).
And, while his service to local government is among the reasons listed for his award, Cr Bradbery said his roles before he became Lord Mayor were the ones that most stuck in his mind.
“One of the greatest roles for me was chairing Lifeline on the South Coast,” he said. “Working with Grahame Gould, I think we really turned it around and it’s just an outstanding service for the community.”
“Also, one of the interesting things to think about now is, how many children I baptised, how many couples I married and how many funerals I conducted.
“I’ve been with people through their ups and downs, and that has brought me a great deal of pleasure and inspiration from listening to the stories of others.”
The Waterfall train disaster of 2003 was also unforgettable. When an Illawarra-bound train derailed early on a January morning, injuring 19 and killing seven people, Cr Bradbery attended the accident scene to provide support as Wollongong police chaplain.
He received high praise after the accident – and a police award – and was quoted at the time describing his attempts to “bring a little decency” to a harrowing scene of covered bodies and injured passengers.
Driving him to continue to serve the community amid this and many other accidents and tragedies in his 15 years as police chaplain, was “my deep inner conviction that I was the beneficiary of a lot of help when I was young, being raised in a children’s home”.
“The kindness of others meant I was given opportunities so I think it’s important one also contributes and leaves the world a bit better,” he said. “You just do your best and try to satisfy the needs of the most people.”
He admits this has been a challenge since become Lord Mayor of one of the largest council areas in NSW, but believes his ability to work with people from all walks of life has helped him in politics too.
“I’m a polymath, in that I just enjoy understanding the diversity of human understanding and endeavour,” he said.
“Life has been good to me… allowing me to mix with people who are challenging as well as inspiring.
“One of the great joys about being Lord Mayor of Wollongong is the fact we have a multicultural community and people do life differently.”
As for receiving the Member of the Order of Australia honour (which is open to a maximum of 340 people each year), Cr Bradbery hopes the service of the diverse people recognised at this years awards will inspire others.
“I think we’re very good at knocking people, but not so good at recognising and acknowledging what people have contributed,” he said.
“The awards system says a lot about Australia Day.
“Yeah, there’s a lot to be ashamed of when it comes to being white Australian, but at the same time, it’s a chance to recognise people who have contributed so much.”
- By Kate McIlwain
Helping people comes naturally to OAM recipient George Bartolo.
In fact even before Mr Bartolo set foot on Australian soil he was doing his bit to help his fellow man.
It happened back in 1959 on board a ship when Mr Bartolo was making his way to Australia from Malta.
“We were coming through Fremantle when a delegation from the Bank of NSW, which is now Westpac, boarded the ship to get people to open an account,” he said.
“There was some Maltese people who didnt know that much English so I was translating for them all the way from Fremantle to Sydney.
“So even before I arrived here I was already helping them.”
The Farmborough Heights man has been recognised for service to the Maltese and multicultural communities of NSW with an OAM.
The 78-year-old was “ecstatic” at receiving the honour.
“I'm very happy and proud of the fact that after all these years I’ve been recognised,’’ Mr Bartolo said.
“I mean you don’t go out of your way to do things so you will get recognised and get a reward. It’s not like that at all.
“You do it because you like to do it and you want to work with the community, whether it is the Maltese community or the community in general. You just want to help.”
The father of two girls has played an influential role in bettering the services for Illawarra’s Maltese community.
Mr Bartolo was the inaugural president of the George Cross Falcons Club from 1986 to 2001. He is also a life member and former secretary of the club.
“I was the instigator for getting the money to build the George Cross Falcons Club in Cringila. That’s something I’m very proud of,” he said.
Mr Bartolo is also a foundation and life member of the Maltese Community Council of NSW, an organisation in which he held roles as president (1994-96), secretary (2003-05) and treasurer (since 2009).
He is also a founding member (1975) of the Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra (MCCI).
Mr Bartolo has served as senior vice-chairman of MCCI since 2004 and was made a life member in 2005.
The longest continuous member of the Illawarra Dog Training (Obedience) Club also has a real fondness for man’s best friend.
Mr Bartolo has been a member of the club since 1971 and has over the years served as club president and chief instructor.
The life member has also been a national and state sporting judge since 1985 and even been a competitor in dog training events.
The OAM is the latest award for Mr Bartolo, who has also received a Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal (1977), a FECCA Medal (Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia), a NSW Seniors Week Achievement Award (2007) and a United Nations International Day for the Elderly Award from Wollongong City Council in 2009.
- By Agron Latifi
Dapto Catholic parish priest Fr Francis Tran
Giving back to his adopted country has always been of paramount importance for Fr Francis Tran.
But the parish priest at St John the Evangelist Catholic Parish Dapto was nevertheless humbled and grateful to receive a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to the Catholic Church in Australia and the community.
In 1987 Australia welcomed Fr Tran when he fled Communist Vietnam at a time of serious persecution for members of the Church.
“I feel so grateful to be accepted by this country which has adopted me,” he said.
And ever since arriving at what is now the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, Fr Francis has worked hard to make a better life for himself and repay his adopted country.
“I worked in factories and farms for nearly three years doing manual labour—two jobs a day, working and working,” he said.
“I felt called to be a priest, but I had no English, so I stopped working and studied English for six months at Liverpool TAFE.
“It was hard. It had been many years since I had been to school. But I learnt it, entered the seminary and was ordained in 1995 at Fairy Meadow.”
The Australia Day honour may have come as a “complete surprise” to Fr Francis, but not to the various communities he has served.
He has had a “tremendous impact” on numerous parishes and communities in the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong, having spent time in Nowra, Fairy Meadow, Wollongong, Mittagong, Moss Vale, Vincentia, Helensburgh and Dapto during his 22 years as a priest.
Bishop Peter Ingham describes Fr Francis as a much-loved priest who never tires of working to build community.
Parishioners attest to Fr Francis as being a man who rolls-up his sleeves and gets his hands dirty, especially on projects that bring people together.
“I love the community. In whatever I do I think of the community. Even if I’m mentally and physically tired, I keep on working as I want to offer the community something and make people feel they belong and that they have a brighter tomorrow,” he said.
- By Agron Latifi
Former NSW politician Edward ‘Ted’ Pickering
A former NSW politician and self-described controversial figure, whose fight against police corruption saw him on the receiving end of bomb and death threats, has been honoured with an Australia Day accolade.
Edward ‘Ted’ Pickering, from Stanwell Park, has received a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his significant service to the NSW Parliament, and the community. The 78-year-old was a member of the state’s upper house between 1976 and 1995. He held a number of positions during that time, the most notable of which was a stint as police and emergency services minister from 1988 until 1992.
“I went into that with a determination to address a question of police corruption, which I did vigorously in the five years I was the minister,” Mr Pickering said.
The work eventually resulted in a royal commission.
“Today I think the people of NSW have a much better police service than they would have otherwise,” he said. Although a police minister going after the department “represented a very difficult challenge” and many in the community “weren’t happy about it”, Mr Pickering said the royal commission was his biggest achievement.
“I became a very controversial figure as a result and indeed when I started I received a lot of bomb threats against my office,” he said.
His office was shifted, which stopped the bomb threats. But death threats followed and he had to be driven around by an armed ministerial driver. “I was living in a fortress here at Stanwell Park,” he said.
“My daughter was taken off the streets of Sydney, driven down the road and thrown out of the car, so I got that message loud and clear.
“Then I woke up one morning to find a whole heap of posters on telegraph poles in Sydney with my face on it and a gun sight imposed over it with the caption ‘Improve the Greiner ministry’.”
A breakdown in relations with the then commissioner Tony Lauer resulted in Mr Pickering resigning as minister in 1992. The royal commission followed.
“At times, many of my colleagues would have thought I was less than judicious but I knew what I wanted to achieve and set out to achieve it,” he said.
Mr Pickering – who was born in Newcastle, but spent most of his life in Stanwell Park – also covered the energy, local government and justice portfolios during his political career. He was the leader of the government in the upper house prior to his retirement from politics.
Mr Pickering said he was “humbly honoured” to receive the accolade.
“I was very surprised, it was the last thing I expected,” he said. “One doesn’t work in Parliament with a view to receiving honours. You get a great deal of satisfaction doing what you think is helping the community that you live in ... and I thoroughly enjoyed the job as a result.”
- By Andrew Pearson
Former Shellharbour councillor Don Briggs
Having lived in and served his beloved Shellharbour City for more than 50 years, Don Briggs says his community-minded outlook was influenced by family.
“I think I got it from my grandparents really - they were always community service people,” he said.
“It’s just something that I grew up with, that there's always someone worse off than yourself, and you help them.”
Flinders resident Mr Briggs, 72, has been recognised for his service to the community of Shellharbour, and to local government with an OAM.
“There’s lots of people out there who do lots more than I ever did, but I'm so pleased and honoured to get it.”
A Shellharbour councillor from 1996-2008, Mr Briggs was also deputy mayor on two occasions.
“I wanted Shellharbour to grow, and make it the city where everyone wanted to be,” he said. “Make it a city of excellence. We've got everything here, it was just a matter of build(ing) on what we've got and improve our infrastructure.”
Mr Briggs has also been chairperson of the Shellharbour Sports Assistance Fund for more than 20 years.
The fund aims to helps athletes and coaches throughout the Shellharbour area succeed in their sports by assisting them and their families with associated costs.
“It makes a difference between some kids actually continuing on in their sport, or not playing sport,” he said.
Mr Briggs’ CV also includes being a member and former president of Warilla RSL Sub-Branch.
“Since I retired (two years ago) I’ve joined the Oak Flats Lions Club - I needed something else to do,” he joked.
- By Brendan Crabb
Kiama pharmacist Gerry McInerney
A Kiama resident has been recognised for extensive contributions to the pharmacy industry, as well as community service.
Kiama pharmacist Gerry McInerney, 77, has been awarded an OAM for service to the pharmacy profession, and to the community.
“I was a bit surprised - I thought I'd reached my pinnacle when I got the Kiama Australia Day Citizen of the Year,” he said.
In 2015, Mr McInerney was named Kiama Citizen of the Year.
Mr McInerney also received the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia’s 2016 NSW Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognised his service to pharmacy at international, national, state and local level.
A pharmacist in Kiama for 50 years, Mr McInerney said he had “been very fortunate” regarding his profession.
“It’s been a wonderful profession for our family, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I guess it’s like any other health profession. You do your bit, but you become very involved with your clients, particularly in a smaller community where you know most of the people in town.”
He retired from community pharmacy in 2013.
However, he remains a registered pharmacist and still practices in the area of regulatory affairs.
A former president of the Pharmacy Board of NSW and the Illawarra Pharmacists’ Association, he has also served on the Australian Pharmacy Council and the Pharmacy Board of Australia.
Mr McInerney is a former president of Kiama Lions Club, and received Lions’ prestigious Melvin Jones Fellowship in recognition of humanitarian work.
- By Brendan Crabb
Assistant Commissioner Joe Cassar
Former high profile Shoalhaven and Wollongong officer Joe Cassar has been awarded the Police Medal. Now an Assistant Commissioner, he is in charge of the Capability, Performance and Youth Command in Sydney.
“I feel very honoured to be nominated after 31 years of policing in the state,” he said.
In 1992 he started criminal investigation duties serving at Port Kembla where in 1994 he was designated as a detective. In 2000 he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant (criminal investigation) at Lake Illawarra, and in 2005 was promoted to the rank of Inspector (Crime Manager) at Eastern Beaches Local Area Command, later serving at Central Metropolitan Region and Homicide.
In 2011 he was promoted to the rank of Superintendent (Commander) at Cabramatta Local Area Command, later serving at Shoalhaven and Wollongong Local Area Commands.
His citation reads Assistant Commissioner Cassar has performed his duties for 30 years with outstanding dedication to service, diligence and integrity.
- By Robert Crawford