Coledale's Ross Cunningham has managed to pack a lot into his 66 years, much of it "pro bono", so it's no wonder he is being made a Member of the Order of Australia.
"When I was 14 I got my first job, I was still at high school, but I was making ice creams at the local picture show at Kogarah," he said. "When I got my HSC it broke mum and dad's heart, instead of being a teacher, the local [cinema] owner offered me a trainee manager position."
Cunningham's service to the arts industry flourished thereafter. His impressive career includes helping build a hotel and theatre at the Penrith Panthers, getting the Lyric Theatre started at the Star and helping found the Helpmann Awards - recognising all facets of the Australian stage - of which he's most proud.
When he and his wife Moira began building a house in the Illawarra, the dreams of semi-retirement faded away with the onset of the Global Financial Crisis.
Cunningham returned to work but had to commute from the coast to Brisbane most weeks to head up the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.
"I've always been an incredibly busy person with a very beautiful wife [Moira] of 42 years who has supported me," he said. "She's been very self sufficient herself ... but I've had incredible support from her to be able to do what I've done."
Cunningham recalls being a referee for 20 or 30 actors, performers and people in the arts nominated for Queen's Birthday Honours previously so said this was a lovely surprise to be honoured for his contributions.
"It's one of those things that makes you proud to be an Australian," he said.
Cunningham is now semi-retired doing various consulting work and sitting on various boards, but now his "number one job" is being a grandfather and spending time with his wife.