OUR LOCAL HEROES
By MEL MARTIN
ONCE again, Coffs Coast residents have shown their commitment to the community, with five locals receiving the highest recognition given by the nation in the Australia Day 2006 Honours List.
The first Aboriginal Nambucca councillor, a passionate theatre performer and director, a woman whose work has made all the difference for hundreds of cancer sufferers and their families, an international tennis champion, and a dedicated firefighter were all rewarded for their tireless work.
Former Australian and French Open tennis champion Mervyn Rose, was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his service to tennis.
Medals of the Order of Australia (OAM) were awarded to Councillor Martin Ballangarry for his dedication to Aboriginal issues, Shirley Barnett for her work in the theatrical arts, and Ann Aichroy for 20 years of raising cancer awareness and developing patient assistance and palliative care.
Grant Anderson's 24 years of firefighting was rewarded with an Australian Fire Service Medal.
All the recipients expressed surprise at being recognised for their work.
For his many national and international tennis achievements, Mervyn Rose, of Coffs Harbour, has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).
"I'm very proud. It came as a complete surprise," Mr Rose said.
The seven-time Grand Slam winner and five-time Davis Cup winner was awarded an Australia Day AM for his service to tennis, particularly as a competitor at national and international levels, and as a coach and mentor to both amateur and professional players.
And while he's been unable to attend the Australian Open for the first time in 20 years, Mr Rose is still very much involved, coaching a young local girl five days a week.
WHEN he heard he had been nominated for a Medal in the Order of Australia (OAM), Councillor Martin Ballangarry, of Macksville, wasn't sure he should accept.
"I was very surprised, I weighed the pros and cons, and I thought, am I worthy of this?" Cr Ballangarry said. "But my wife said to me, 'if people nominated you, then they must believe you are'."
The first Aboriginal councillor at Nambucca Shire Council, Cr Ballangarry received an Australia Day OAM for his service to the Indigenous community of the Nambucca Shire, particularly through youth, reconciliation, cultural and health initiatives.
SHIRLEY Barnett, of Coffs Harbour, says her Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) is recognition not just of her work, but of all those involved in Coffs Harbour's theatre culture.
"I was really embarrassed, to be honest, because I feel there are a lot of other people who deserve it," she said. Mrs Barnett received her medal for her services to the community of Coffs Harbour, particularly through theatrical arts initiatives for young people.
She founded CHATTERS Teen Theatre, and is still involved with the Coffs Harbour Amateur Theatrical Society (CHATS).
ANN Aichroy, of Safety Beach, was 'floored' when she heard she had been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).
"In no way did I imagine anything like that was about to happen, I'm deeply honoured," she said.
Mrs Aichroy was rewarded for her service to the Riverina community through organisations supporting cancer awareness, patient assistance and palliative care, something she worked on tirelessely for two decades.
INSPECTOR Grant James Anderson, of Lanitza was awarded an Australian Fire Service Medal for his work with the Lanitza Rural Fire Brigade.
"I was pretty stunned when I found out," he said.
"You try to help people and do the right thing, and to get rewarded for it is very humbling."