Queen’s Birthday honours celebrated

By Shepparton News

More than 1000 people across Australia are being recognised today for their contributions to their community.

The Queen’s Birthday honours celebrate the extraordinary efforts of people who have gone above and beyond to make their communities a better place.

This year four Goulburn Valley locals are receiving Queen’s Birthday honours for their work across various fields.

Shepparton’s Michael D’Elia and Joyce Baker-Dawber, Merrigum’s John Chant and Nathalia’s Elizabeth Giffard have all been recognised for their unique contributions.

Michael D'Elia

A long serving member of The Shepparton Search and Rescue Squad has been awarded with a Queens Birthday Honour.

Mr Michael D’Elia was acknowledged over the weekend on the Queens Birthday Honour list for his heroic contributions to the community and SSRS.

Mr D’Elia said he was very surprised when he heard about the honour.

‘‘When I first looked at the piece of paper I thought I haven't done enough but looking back and reflecting on it i have had some successes’’.

Mr D’Elia joined the club in 2003 after growing up around volunteering and emergency management.

Since joining the club he has been a pillar for continual improvement within the club which has resulted in many changes ranging from the implementation of professional standards, policies and systems, through to the development of a young membership base at the squad.

‘‘Talking to people and understanding what other peoples aspirations are and putting time into developing those people will build a strong team and strong organisation’’ he said.

Mr D’Eila became president of the SSRS in 2014 as his passion and commitment for the club and community was recognised by other volunteers.

‘‘If you are going to be a leader you need to be thinking about who is going to replace you and you need to be investing the time into other people, that’s what makes a good leader’’.

He said he was extremely humbled that his group of volunteers recognised his impact at the club but said the award was actually a reflection on his team.

Over the weekend Mr D’Elia celebrated with an unusual break in Melbourne with his family and friends.

‘‘I have an amazing wife Donna and two grown up children who support me in the things that i need to do, but that often means i am out of the house’’.

An official award ceremony will be held in October at Governor House in Melbourne where Mr D’Elia will be presented with a medal.

He will wear it alongside his National Medal that was awarded to him for his fifteen years of service to an emergency department and his Australian Defence Medal.

Mr D’Elia would like to thank the community for their continual support and all members of the SSRS.

‘‘ I firmly believe we can all spare some time to volunteer as it is by far the most rewarding thing you can do.’’

John Chant

John (Joe) Chant 

Merrigum’s John Chant has spent most of his life serving the small communities he has resided in.

Known by most as Joe, the retired teacher and sporting stalwart has been recognised with an Order of Australia Medal.

While the news came as a complete surprise, Mr Chant said he initially thought the email he received informing him about the award was a lie.

‘‘Six months ago I got an email saying you have been nominated - I first thought it was a scam,’’ he said.

‘‘I didn’t hear anything for ages and I thought it’s definitely a scam, nothing is going to happen.’’

However he was soon proven wrong when he received an email a week ago from the Governor General’s Office saying he was being awarded an OAM for his service to the community of the Goulburn Valley.

‘‘I’m chuffed, I can’t believe it ... something like this is beyond your wildest belief you would never think you would get an OAM for doing what you love,’’ Mr Chant said.

Mr Chant spent 45 years working as a teacher around the Goulburn Valley, with four of these years spent as the principal at Harston Primary School.

Aside from teaching he has a passion for local sport, contributing countless hours to a number of bowls, football and golf clubs around the region.

He has been an active member of the Merrigum Bowl Club since 1989, serving as the treasurer, secretary and vice-president during that time and is currently the chairman and publicity officer.

He has been an independent tribunal member for the Goulburn Valley Football League since 1990, an active member of the Merrigum Football Netball Club and a member of the Kyabram Catholic Parish Pastoral Council for many years.

Along with this he has been a committee member for both the Merrigum and Murchison Golf Clubs.

‘‘I’ve always been in small communities - I have regarded those communities as my own and I have tried to improve them,’’ he said.

While he has strived to give back to the communities he has called home, Mr Chant said his effort would not have been possible without the support of his family.

In particular he thanks his wife Johanne and his children for their support over the years.

‘‘It sounds like I have done lots but if it hadn’t of been for my wife and family it would not have been possible to do anything, you cannot do anything by yourself,’’ Mr Chant said.

Looking back over his impressive list of achievements, Mr Chant said the highlight was being recognised as volunteer of the year for the Central Goulburn Murray Bowls Region.

Mr Chant was awarded last October for being the heart of the Merrigum Bowls Club, dedicating hours as the clubs president whilst also skippering the side, organising transport, writing the match reports, stocking the fridge and working the bar.

‘‘That was a bit of a buzz to get that award ... being awarded that for the work at the bowling club, to get volunteer of the year that was a great honour,’’ he said.

‘‘You don’t do it so people to say thank you, but it’s nice when someone recognises what you have done.’’

Joyce Baker-Dawber

Joyce Baker-Dawber

Anyone who has ever sang, acted, danced, built a stage set or designed a theatre costume in the Goulburn Valley would have come across Joyce Baker-Dawber.

For more than 50 years she has been involved in musical theatre throughout the region, producing shows, sitting on committees and offering her lifetime of experience to younger starstruck performers.

Her years of commitment to performing arts have now been recognised with an Order of Australia Medal.

Mrs Baker-Dawber said when she received an email informing her of the award she was suspicious.

‘‘I thought it was spam, or someone having me on,’’ she said.

She said when it dawned on her the award was real - she shed a few tears.

‘‘It’s such an honour - I’ve met so many wonderful people in theatre. It’s given me great joy over the years,’’ she said.

Mrs Baker-Dawber’s award citation records a long list of achievements.

She was a founding member of Sheppparton Theatre Arts Group in 1975 and is a past president and vice president, a current committee member, and she still enjoys performing.

She has been president of the Georgy Awards - the Goulburn Valley’s annual drama and theatrical awards - since 1991.

She has also been an awards committee member since 1973 and a judge and judging panel co-ordinator since 1987.

She has also worked with district theatre groups as a performer and creative consultant including with Turaton Music Company (Tatura), Numurkah Singers, and Echuca Musical Theatre Company.

As well, Mrs Baker-Dawber was principal dance instructor at Tantilising Tappers for 13 years since 2005, and a foundation dance instructor for Initial Stages Theatre Company during the early 2000s.

Her theatrical awards include Ted Malloy Award, Georgy Awards Association, 2010,and the Edith Harrhy Award, Music Theatre Guild Awards, in 2003.

For many years, Mrs Baker-Dawber was a committee member on Shepparton Ladies Fire Brigade Auxiliary.

In 2011, she received the Greater Shepparton Senior Citizen of the Year award.

She said her involvement with Shepparton theatre began in 1965 when musician Geoff Cabble asked her to organise wardrobe for a production of the musical Salad Days by the Shepparton Light Music Company.

She said that production sparked the idea to merge the light music company with the Shepparton Dramatic Company which eventually happened in 1975 when STAG was formed.

Mrs Baker-Dawber said over her many years of theatrical involvement her proudest achievements have always involved the progress of young people.

‘‘To see our junior performers go on to gain confidence and move into adult roles and others gaining skills in set and lighting design has been wonderful.

‘‘We’ve nurtured some real talents in our community,’’ she said.

Mrs Baker-Dawber, 77, said she wanted to thank all the people who have supported her over the years especially her husband Max, son Paul and her extended family.

‘‘I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with so many wonderful and talented people. People come to a theatre company and they say ‘I just want to do something backstage’.

‘‘Then you see them in bit parts on stage, and gaining confidence and overcoming challenge - that’s the important thing.

‘‘It’s been such a warm and encouraging environment,’’ she said.

Elizabeth Giffard

Elizabeth Giffard

In honour of the Queen’s Birthday, Nathalia’s Elizabeth Leigh Giffard has three new letters to add onto her title, OAM.

Known to her friends and family as Leigh, Mrs Giffard’s strengths and passion for the rural health service has been recognised after devoting more than 20 years to the nursing profession.

Originally from Melbourne, Mrs Giffard moved to the country with her husband and settled into a nursing position at Nathalia District Hospital, where she later moved into a directing role in 1997.

Moving from the big smoke and working in main stream hospitals, such as The Royal Children’s Hospital, St Vincent’s Hospital and The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Mrs Giffard said she noticed straight away the difficulties in accessing health care in rural and remote areas.

In wanting to provide better access to rural health care, Mrs Giffard, along with a colleague at the time approached Charles Sturt University to train and upskill nurses in the area.

‘‘Charles Sturt now have a program run out of Wangaratta because of that program,’’ she said.

Having the support from the hospital Board of Management and CEO, Mrs Giffard pushed further and set up a program across Victoria, the Rural and Isolated Practice.

‘‘We decided that nurses needed to be allowed to do more than what they were doing, so we put a program in place for rural nurses to be trained in triage four and five — rather than relaying on a doctor,’’ she said.

‘‘That program now runs across the state.’’

Mrs Giffard’s next move was to keep rural nurses knowledgeable and up to date with the latest technology.

‘‘We formed a group of directors of nursing for small rural health services and we met once every three months in Melbourne, where the people with the knowledge came and spoke to us about what was happening and what was changing,’’ she said.

This group is still in opperation today, known as the Rural Executive Nursing Group.

Mrs Giffard said she believed in providing proper care and a high level of skill to the community, including branching out of the traditions of status quo.

‘‘One of the nursing staff at Numurkah (hospital) helped me write up a submission to the department to get x-rays for nurses — so now the small rural health services across the state can run x-rays,’’ she said.

‘‘If we followed the traditional thing, nothing would advance.’’

Taking her passion for the rural health service one step higher, Mrs Giffard successfully applied to become a contributor and auditor with the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards.

‘‘I am quite passionate about quality because I think you need to have a certain standard that meets the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards,’’ she said.

Finding what she learnt ‘‘invaluable’’ Mrs Giffard said she would share her new knowledge with the group including her concerns about the laws in resuscitation.

‘‘One of the laws that comes under the NSGHS Standards is about the resuscitation of patents, you have to have access to somebody that’s qualified for resuscitation,’’ she said.

Recognising there was a problem within the system, the group approached the department to make a change.

‘‘I said you’ve got your staff qualified for resus, but they can’t legally give the drugs because there must have a doctor’s order,’’ Mrs Giffard said.

The legislation was changed entitling the nurses to administer the medications to initiate the resuscitation process appropriately.

Mrs Giffard said becoming a part of the Nathalia community helped her understand the rural health system.

‘‘It’s a team effort on behalf of everybody, if I hadn’t had the support of a lot of people along the way, these changes wouldn’t have happened,’’ she said.

Honoured to have been nominated, Mrs Giffard said she could now retire in peace.