Local champions honoured on Australia Day

Australia Day Honours 2021: rural champions among nation's most inspiring

Life & Style
Canowindra's Anne and Mark Ward have both received an Order of Australia Medal, after more than 40 years working as "ordinary" Australians with the Canowindra community on numerous community, show and landcare projects, while running their farm by the Belubula River.

Canowindra's Anne and Mark Ward have both received an Order of Australia Medal, after more than 40 years working as "ordinary" Australians with the Canowindra community on numerous community, show and landcare projects, while running their farm by the Belubula River.

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A top bunch of rural champions have been honoured this Australia Day.

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From bushfires, pandemics and drought recovery, 2020 was a year of triumph and adversity for many rural Australians.

And today more than 844 men and women will be recognised for their hard work and achievements on the Australia Day Honors List.

Of the 570 in the Order of Australia (general division) recipients in 2021 more than 43 per cent were for outstanding service or achievement in the community with the youngest recipient just 24 and the eldest 101.

Only 36.78 per cent were women with the Governor-General reaching out to organisations in the last 12 months to increase these nominations.

Given the lengthy time required in processing and considering nominations, this year is the first recognition for those who contributed to Australia's response to the 2019-20 bushfires and COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the meritorious awards was Sarah Wylie of Calala for her positive impact on traumatised and fragile communities trying to recover from bushfires.

As the director of the Bushfire Clean-Up Program she was tasked with undertaking the biggest bush fire clean-up in Australian history.

From July 31 2020 the remotely led team had cleaned up nearly 3500 properties and for more than six months Ms Wylie travelled across the state meeting with property owners and local contractors, and working with local councils and other state government agencies.

Joining her on the meritorious list was Ariah Park's Darren Breust as a member of New South Wales Rural Fire Service for more than 33 years where the well-respected leader takes on roles and responsibilities over and above those expected of him.

Among the NSW winners were a married couple who have worked tirelessly to help the Canowindra community over many decades. Both Anne and Mark Ward received an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in the General Division.

Mark came out to Australia as a "ten-pound Pom" and as an agriculture advisor back then in the 1960s, Canowindra locals were saying "Mark should meet Anne Gaton" and others were saying "Anne should meet Mark Ward".

And they did meet.

Another 50 odd years later they are celebrating a lifetime of local achievement, believing they are just "ordinary Australians" doing their bit.

They still run a farm by the Belubula River and fatten lambs on the lucerne flats, with six cuts of lucerne a year. They ran a winery for awhile, Swinging Bridge, that one of their sons now successfully runs near Orange.

But it is the couple's devotion to community ("we complement each other") that has brought this Australia Day award.

Everything from working on the Canowindra Showground Trust, the Belubula Landholders Association (of which Mark has been secretary-treasurer for 45 years), to being part of the community rally to provide housing for the Read family who had triplets that all suffered from the same debilitating muscular dystrophy condition that means the rest of their lives are confined to a wheelchair.

With the Canowindra community onside they have built a special hempcrete house, the "miracle house", for the family, and are now busy with the work of local teenagers putting in a new spa/exercise facility for the three Read children, now all 14 and "doing well".

Anne felt very humbled because they didn't seek awards.

"We are just ordinary Australians trying to pull our weight in our local community," she said.

"We accept this on behalf of all Australians who work in the community."

And Anne, 74, and Mark 77, aren't stopping there. Anne is setting up a local bridge club and Mark is setting up a Men's Luncheon Group "because men don't often enjoy the social life women do".

Meantime, the former secretary of the Federal Department of Agriculture, Daryl Quinlivan, was made an officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the General Division for almost 40 years of service, working in numerous senior public service roles since he first arrived in Canberra in 1982.

The current NSW Agriculture Commissioner, working on new policy directions for the NSW Government including the right to farm, he has been at the forefront of major policy development at a federal level, from the setting up of the ACCC, to the expansion of Telstra into the NBN, that he says has helped rural Australia have the best internet security in the world, to seeing through the Murray-Darling Basin plan under several Governments, that is "still bringing great benefits", although the road ahead will get harder.

The son of farmers, he now runs a small farm at Boorowa.

His vision for agriculture is now seeing it play out on the landscape.

He believes the farming community will have to live with less water in the future, but he says farmers are more resilient than ever, and the diversification of export markets has helped save farmers during the recent drought, as opposed to the millenium drought when many went to the wall.

"It's been an honour to work on some of the big issues," he said.

NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall applauded Mr Quinlivan's work.

"Congratulations to Daryl Quinlivan on receiving his AO. As a champion of the agricultural industry, this is well-deserved recognition of the powerful advocacy role he has played and the contribution he has made," Mr Marshall said.

"Daryl is incredibly well regarded in the industry and his wealth of experience has contributed to the growth and resilience of our primary industries sector.

"Last year, the NSW Government delivered on its election commitment by appointing Daryl as the State's first Agriculture Commissioner. The person in this role is tasked with advising the Government on how we can unlock the full potential of agriculture in NSW and remove impediments to its growth and development - and he has embraced this role with the same professionalism, innovation and knowledge that sees him awarded an AO today.

"Congratulations to Daryl on his special award and I look forward to continuing to work closely with him to further advance our State's $16 billion agricultural industry."

The Australia Day honours list featured 18 recipients from the primary industry category with six of them calling NSW home.

Patti Stacey, OAM, awarded for her volunteer work to progress the Australian custard apple industry.

Patti Stacey, OAM, awarded for her volunteer work to progress the Australian custard apple industry.

In 1978, when Patti Stacey and her husband Phil moved to the sub-tropics from the northern beaches of Sydney, they pursued a seachange career in growing fruit trees, focussing on the niche market custard apple.

More than 40 years of continuous service to their industry resulted in Mrs Stacey being awarded an Order of Australia Medal.

"We never for a moment regretted our decision to grow custard apples," she said, explaining the love of a new challenge to progress the hybrid fruit - a cross between the South American Cherimoya and Squamosa, or sugar apple, that has found favour with Asian eaters.

As industry secretary and treasurer from 1989 until she her husband sold the farm at the end of 2019, Mrs Stacey communicated tips and tricks that sustained growers over that time.

"A lot of grower were like us, new to farming, and they did not want to grow macadamias, or avocados," she said.

Unlike many of their contemporaries in 1978, when the Staceys developed a deteriorated red soil dairy farm on the eastern edge of the Alstonville Plateau they were young, in their early thirties, while most of their contemporaries were much older.

Mrs Stacey was a great advocate of spreading information that advanced the industry.

In the early years the mainstay was a variety of self-pollinating custard apple known as African Pride, but it was clear the original imported variety Pink Mammoth was a market favourite for its flavour and colour. Its popularity in the orchard was not so enthusiastic as each fruit had to be hand pollinated.

In 1999 Nambour, Qld growers Keith and Judy Paxton discovered a promising sport growing on a neglected Pink Mammoth tree that produced prolific fruit all by itself. The farming couple propagated the promising cultivar and a new variety KJ Pink was born.

The Staceys were not only early adopters of this fruit, that went on to dominate sales at market, but they adopted techniques more accustomed to apples, pear and grapes - training a branch to grow on a trellis.

"We were leaders in this technique," Mrs Stacey said, pointing out the style of growing has been adopted across the growing areas and has proven most beneficial in windy climates.

Canowindra's James O'Dea was awarded an OAM for his service to the wine industry having established the first commercial winery in the district, Windowrie Estate Wines, in the late 1980s.

He was also the president and now life member of the Canowindra Show and former chair of the Agricultural Show Committee while offering his services to community sporting clubs too.

Gordon Druitt was recognised for his work as a rice grower having been a member of the Ricegrowers' Association of Australia for 40 years, including executive delegate.

He was also Rice Growers Limited former deputy chairman, director and longstanding Lions Club member as well as a former president and foundation member of Griffith Apex Club.

Add that to the fact he is president of the Griffith Historical Car Club, chair of the Griffith Caravan Club social committee and a Meals on Wheels volunteer; just to name a few.

Peter Crowe of Thurgoona has long been a champion for the softwood plantation industry.

The OAM recipient has been chair of the Softwoods Working Group since 1987, a private forestry consultant since 2006 and chair of the National Foresters Grove (Albury) since 1995.

He had previously won NSW Premier's Public Service Award.

Katoomba's Rosemary Morrow was honoured for her service to permaculture as a co-funder of Blue Mountains Permaculture and author of a number of books.

Rounding out the primary industries category was Better Homes and Gardens presenter Graham Ross who will become an Officer of the Order for his dedication to broadcast media and gardening.

The Governor-General stressed the importance of all Australians nominating individuals from their own community for recognition.

"Over the last 12 months we have seen outstanding examples of achievement and service to the community as we have confronted fires and the COVID-19 pandemic," the Governor-General said.

"I encourage Australians to look to the Order of Australia as a means of acknowledging the important work of their peers during these extraordinary times."

  • Due to the large number of recipients The Land was unable to feature every winner.

Do you know someone who could be considered for an award in the Australian honours system? Click here to nominate.

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