Ellen Mary Higham OAM was a gifted health administrator who never lost her love of people and her genuine concern for all those in her care.
Trained in the most demanding traditions of nursing she went on to challenge many of those traditions and open the vocation she loved to a new age of expert modem professionalism.
Her appointment as Matron of Grafton Base Hospital in 1959 made her the youngest hospital matron in NSW. Under her administration, Grafton Base became the first NSW country hospital to appoint and educate male nurses.
Product of an age when the desire to marry and raise a family meant an automatic end to dreams of a nursing career, she fostered formation of a post-graduate nurses’ association encouraging qualified nurses to undertake courses enabling them to return to hospital work.
In the 1980s she played a major role in the transfer of nurse education into tertiary institutions, helping lay the groundwork for the system still in place.
The eldest child of Walter and Margaret (nee Corcoran) Higham, Ellen grew up on the family property at Eatonsville.
Drawn to nursing, she was signed up for a “trial run” at Grafton’s old Runnymede Hospital and made light of early hurdles, which included several early occasions of fainting at the sight of blood in the operating theatre. She trained subsequently at Grafton Base Hospital followed by midwifery and tresillian training in Sydney before returning to Grafton Base Hospital in 1949 as theatre supervisor.
Appointed deputy matron in 1951, Ellen later spent a year in postgraduate studies at Rotunda Hospital, Dublin and at Guy’s Hospital, London. She would study in Great Britain again in 1972 after winning a Hospital Commission Scholarship to study senior nursing staff structures, reporting for the NSW State Health Department.
Ellen became Matron of Grafton Base Hospital in August, 1959. In her 27 years as matron and later director of nursing, she visited every patient in the hospital every day, knew their names and conditions and was constantly available for duty any time, day or night.
In the days before mobile telephones it was not uncommon for a police vehicle to collect her from social engagements to head back to a hospital emergency.
Residents at the hospital’s former Miller Ward, which cared for elderly women, showed a keen interest in the gowns their lively young “matron” planned to wear on social occasions and were frequently treated to a full-dress pre-event visit.
Always a people person, over the years she became godmother to more than 150 babies of family, friends and former patients.
In professional life Ellen was a Fellow of the NSW College of Nursing, a Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing Australia and a Foundation Fellow of the Institute of Nursing Administrators of NSW and the ACT. During the 1970s and 80s she was involved with various tertiary institutions, including the Northern Rivers College of Advanced Education and University of New England Northern Rivers, as proposals for tertiary nurse training were hammered out.
In the Queen’s Birthday Honours List of 1986, the year she retired as Director of Nursing at Grafton Base Hospital, Ellen Higham won the Medal of the Order of Australia for her services to nurse education. She was honoured by her colleagues later in the same year, becoming the first Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Nursing Administration for NSW and the ACT.
Retirement enabled her to return to another earlier ambition, undertaking external studies from the New England University, gaining distinctions as a Bachelor of Arts (Philosophy) in 1995. Ellen died last year.
Heading: Student talent on display at sparkling event
Sub-heading: The Order of Australia Association Foundation Awards
Darwin, the tropics and the annual conference of The Order of Australia Association. What a combination!
The members of the NT National Conference Organising Committee, chaired by Mrs Wendy James OAM, are to be congratulated for their determination, drive and empathy in offering a conference to showcase Darwin and the Territory in such a spectacular fashion.
After an entertaining two-day program, delegates mingled with Territorian and Commonwealth dignitaries at the Darwin Convention Centre on the waterfront for the sparkling conference dinner.
Even Friday the thirteenth could not dampen the electric atmosphere!
The annual dinner is the occasion for the presentation of the Foundation Awards of The Order of Australia Association.
The awardees are assessed for their potential as future leaders in their fields of study and their community involvement for the benefit of Australia, as well as their need for financial assistance to achieve their potential.
To date, 27 scholarships have been awarded to undergraduates in all states and territories. This year marked the awarding of the first indigenous scholarship.
The Association Foundation is grateful to the three donors — the Riddiford Trust, Mr Baillieu Myer AC and Mr Nicholas Paspaley AC.
A feature of the scholarship is that each awardee is introduced to a personal mentor who has an honour in the Order of Australia and who is eminent in the chosen field of study of the awardee.
This year Her Excellency, The Administrator of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, presented the awards to the three successful university students.
The National Chairman, Air Commodore Peter McDermott AM CSC, addressed more than 300 guests, then introduced Her Excellency.
The Order of Australia Association Foundation’s Chairman, Mr Hugh Morgan AC, introduced each recipient to Her Excellency and the Foundation’s Honorary Secretary, Adjunct Professor Brian O’Keeffe AO, delivered the outstanding, leather-embossed certificate folders for presentation.
Two of the three students are studying at the University of Adelaide and one is at Charles Darwin University.
All awardees have received excellent results to date and are clearly on a path of excellence.
We were delighted to have at the dinner representatives of the generous donors of the funding for the scholarships,
Ms Roslynne Bracher AM representing Mr Nicholas Paspaley AC and Mr Peter Benson OAM, representing the Riddiford Trust.
Heading: Economics and finance plus vines and cakes
Alexandra Grigg, of Uraidla, South Australia, is enrolled for the double degree of Bachelor of Economics with Bachelor of Finance at the University of Adelaide.
She completed Year 12 at Heathfield High School and, throughout her secondary schooling, was awarded with academic-excellence and outstanding-achievement prizes each term.
At present her GPA is 6.0 and she is placed in the top 15 per cent in her field of study.
In her second year at university, Alexandra was invited to join the Golden Key International Honour Society for ambitious, high-achieving, community-minded people.
Living at home in the rural area near Mt Lofty has placed some travel restrictions on Alexandra as she relies on public transport and family to provide access to the University of Adelaide campus.
Two separate part-time jobs entail working in vineyard maintenance and baking goods for local and urban organic health food stores.
She now has the happy prospect of using her scholarship to provide much-needed income and thus allowing more time to devote to the strict discipline required to excel in her studies.
Sport and community work include playing netball and representing in regional teams of which she is captain; Student Representative Council; Business and Professional Women’s Foundation Australia; and Zonta International.
At present, Alexandra and a friend use their baking talents to raise funds for an orphanage in Nepal.
Her career dream is to change people’s perception of economic policy.
She is fascinated by Australian politics and economic policy and how human psychology is the underlying driving force of the economy.
“I hope to one day merge the use of behavioural finance and human psychology in fiscal policy as a career at both a national and international level,” she says.
This dream seems to be well on the way to fruition!
Funding for Alexandra’s scholarship was generously donated by The Riddiford Trust.
Heading: Combining studies with community involvement
Karynne Lake (above) of Farrer, Northern Territory, is enrolled for the Bachelor of Social Work at Charles Darwin University. She completed Year 12 at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College in Enfield, South Australia, then undertook a series of trade-related subjects in the Bakers Certificate at Regency Park Campus of TAFE in Adelaide. This was followed by a Hospitality Certificate through the Australian Hotels Association on the Gold Coast, Queensland. Karynne has always brought a complete understanding of the workplace situation to each position she has held. She moved from being assistant manager of a cafe in Katherine to a distribution centre receptionist in Broome, then to a support-worker position in a women’s refuge, also in Broome.
Within the broad social-work field, she aspires to work in child protection with special emphasis on the placement of foster children and adopted children. Karynne knows first-hand the challenges facing children in desperate need of child protection. She understands the way in which a determination to succeed can strengthen a person to the point where he or she can ask for help. Now, as a mother of two, she is passionately embracing her social-work degree course because she can combine her life experiences with sound theory. Her excellent results reflect this nexus. Within her community and through her children, Karynne contributes extensively to many different activities — choir, horse-riding, swimming and wildlife protection. She is an outstanding group leader, a supporter of team members and a trusted confidante. She seeks to work in an environment with a high degree of teamwork, innovation and a potential for growth. She can effectively juggle the ever-present strains of daily living with the obligations of work and society, while displaying energy and vital enthusiasm.
Funding for Karynne’s scholarship was generously donated by Mr Nicholas Paspaley AC.
James Broinowski , of Battery Point, Tasmania, is enrolled for the Degree of Viticulture and Oenology at the University of Adelaide. He completed Year 12 at Hobart College. While in secondary education, James worked part-time in the hospitality industry, where he developed a solid work ethic and acquired the beginnings of world-class industry skills. He has travelled extensively in Australia, North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. He has accumulated certificates in Hospitality Management, Wine Knowledge and Evaluation, International Sommeliers’ Guild, Court of Master Sommeliers and Wine and Spirit Education from both Australian and internationally accredited bodies. In 2010 James returned to Australia to commence his degree studies. He has worked in restaurants of renown in Australia and overseas.
Community and sporting interests include hockey, swimming, scouting and sailing (in the Tasmanian squad for five years). He was involved in fund-raising for Save the Children’s Fund, the Heart Research Institute and Guide Dogs Australia.
In Wales he worked with disenchanted youth and children with physical and mental health problems. In Africa, he volunteered to assist with building a school. James is committed to excellence and becoming a world leader in the wine industry. He has already embarked on his wine-making business in the Barossa. He has been invited into the Waite Scholars’ program, which puts outstanding students in contact with industry leaders and includes acceptance into the honours course. James wants to break new ground to develop the Australian wine industry into a more diverse, exceptional world leader. He sees many economic and social benefits accruing from increased employment in local wine regions — with outstanding benefits for tourism. A fine sentiment indeed!
Funding for James’s scholarship was generously donated by Mr Baillieu Myer AC.
The Order of Australia Association proudly supports the Order of Australia — all members of the Association are recipients in the Order — and it works hard to promote the Order and to foster love of and pride in Australian citizenship. First among our activities is an annual conference that allows members to showcase the Association; engage with the community; meet our reporting needs; and celebrate our lives as proud and privileged citizens in our magnificent continent.
This year, for the first time since the Association was formed more than 30 years ago, we celebrated together in Darwin, Australia’s front door to the world. Delegates and guests came from all over Australia and Darwin became a showcase of achievement by quiet Australians — women and men from all walks of life who have given, in many cases, a lifetime of work to communities all over Australia.
So members of the Association went to Darwin’s new Convention Centre to enjoy two days of highly successful activities skilfully arranged by the NT Branch’s organising committee, chaired by Mrs Wendy James AM. Our Patron, the Governor-General, was unable to join us but sent her best wishes and arranged for Her Excellency the Administrator of the Government of the Commonwealth, Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, to be our guest of honour at our annual dinner, where she presented scholarship awards made in the name of our OAA Foundation. [See pages 13 and 14]
In these difficult economic times and cognisant of the costs to our members and to the Association’s coffers, we obtained sponsorship for the conference, not only to defray our costs but to offer places at the final dinner to members of the Northern Territory community, allowing us to tell others what we do in the Association. The National President, the Hon. Shane Stone AC PGDK QC, obtained significant support from the NT business community.
Highlights were many:
Government House visit and morning tea hosted by Her Honour the Hon. Sally Thomas AM, Administrator of the Northern Territory and Patron of the NT Branch. We saw state rooms and gardens of this historic building which has survived cyclones and the Darwin bombings in World War II;
The formal opening in the afternoon — which included greetings by Ali Mills, a Larrakia elder, and the Lord Mayor of Darwin, Katrina Fong Lim — was made by the National President, who spoke of the necessity for us to promote the Order of Australia more widely in our communities.
The oration was delivered by the Hon. Austin Asche AC QC, a former Administrator and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the NT. Under the rubric of history and social change in Australia, he spoke of the development of a genuine Australian nationality. Copy this web address to your browser to read this erudite and amusing view of ourselves.
The NT Government hosted a welcome reception for us at Parliament House, the Hon. KonstantineVatskalis MLA representing the Hon. Paul Henderson MLA, Chief Minister, providing a heartfelt welcome to the Territory.
On the second day we conducted a memorable multifaith observance and wreath-laying ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral conducted by the Dean, the Very Reverend Jeremy Greaves, music provided by the Darwin Chorale under the direction of Nora Lewis AM.
The core of conference, the annual general meeting,was the opportunity to look hard at our organisation for the first major review of its constitution in more than 30 years. The National Secretary, Colonel (Retd) Roger Dace AM QGM, has worked very hard with the National Chairman and directors to produce this forward-looking document and its emphasis on building a strong future for the Association.
A members’ forum, led by Deputy National Chairman Bill Galvin OAM, generated lively discussion on a wide range of topics, all members given the chance to exchange ideas and raise issues for consideration by the board. Members were given a taste of next year’s events by outgoing director and now organiser of the 2013 annual conference Mr Len Goodman AO. Len told us that the 2013 event would be held in Canberra on February 14 to 16, coinciding with Canberra’s centenary.
The glittering dinner on the last day attracted a record number — more than 400 members and partners — as well as leaders of almost every ethnic community and other groups in the Territory. Mr Hugh Morgan AC, Chairman of the OAA Foundation, introduced to our guest of honour the new scholarship awardees, Alexandra Grigg of Uraidla (SA); James Broinowski of Hobart (Tas); and Karynne Lake of Farrar (NT).
These impressive young Australians are distinguishing themselves in the community and our support of them as they pursue their studies gives real meaning to the association’s commitment to serving the Australian community.
In this first — but not last — conducting of the OAA conference in the tropics, so remote from our usual locales, we extended our reach to ensure that the name of the Order and the work of the association is better known in the Australian community.
We were highly successful by any measure, and we will again use a model of sponsored support for future conferences to ensure that all members can enjoy their participation in our annual event with support from the community that they have so proudly served.
Heading: Cost-cutting essential to financial health
National office notes
By Roger Dace AM QGM
Since the last edition of The Order the Association has implemented a number of changes that will have a direct bearing on all members. The first was the retirement of Mrs Pam Peterson, who has served the association with dedication and commitment for more than seven years. We wish her and husband David well in their retirement — although, knowing Pam, she won’t be just sitting watching the flowers grow.
As a consequence of Pam’s retirement we have employed a new National Manager, Ms Rosemary Everett, to take on those tasks with which Pam was so familiar and to play a new role in monitoring the accounts in preparation for the annual audit. In recent years our audit compliance has drawn some observations from the auditors and the Board has resolved to tighten the way we manage this at national, branch and regional group level.
I am well aware that some members wonder why we have to demonstrate strict compliance with our financial reporting obligations but that is the law and all directors ignore that at their personal peril.
At the last board meeting the Treasurer, Mr Geoff Vincent AM, reminded all directors that we are still suffering under the effect of the global financial crisis and expressed concern that for the last two years we had delivered a negative budget. While this did not pose any immediate threat to the Association’s financial viability, the directors agreed that it was a bad practice and consequently some tightening of the 2011–2012 budget was unavoidable. For this financial year it was unanimously agreed:
The branch administrative grants would not be paid;
The next edition of The Order would be available only in an electronic format;
National Office expenditure would be reduced by $20,000;
Meetings of the board for the remainder of this financial year would be via teleconferencing;
Commercial sponsorship would be actively sought.
During the AGM the new constitution, which has been under development for the last 12 months, was approved unanimously with dissent by one Director, Mr Len Goodman AO (Chairman ACT Branch) who indicated that he would seek, at the next AGM, a change to how we refer to the Sovereign. [See report on page 9] A copy of the new constitution is available through the OAA web site. I would like to thank the many members who assisted during its development.
The Board is now reviewing the Association’s by-laws to ensure their continuing relevance, their compliance with legislative changes and compatibility with the new constitution. It is hoped to complete this process over the next few months.
I have referred previously to the association’s intention to seek eligibility as a deductible gift recipient entity. Our proposal has now been submitted to the Australian Tax Office for review and comment. Subject to the result of that, we will seek formal approval from the Assistant Treasurer, The Hon David Bradbury MP. That approval is not a given and is a political rather than a legal process.
The next two pages, pages 17 and 18, contain only a selection of pictures taken at the national conference in Darwin. They have no captions.
Heading: Rick’s journey: from Italian POW to Australian cattle breeder
Preamble: People who choose the country they want to live in are often more passionate about it than those born there. Rick Pisaturo AM is one of those fortunate people. His autobiography, Australia, My Love, has a foreword written by rural journalist Malcolm McKosker OAM in which he sets out how an Italian-born POW became a Member in the Order of Australia.
Main text: While most people on their life’s journeys have to triumph over one or more major adversities, those encountered by remarkable Italian-born Australian legend Riccardo (Rick) Pisaturo AM would have loomed so insurmountable as to blunt and break the will of a lesser man.
The inspirational life story of this high achiever in a multitude of endeavours is captured with vibrant clarity in his epic book, Australia, My Love.
The book spans an amazing spectrum of mixed emotions; of fear, frustration, joy, determination, humility, longing and love, the latter word describing Rick’s total commitment to his chosen country, a land to which he first came as prisoner of war.
Born in rural Italy and growing up under the repressive heel of dictator Benito Mussolini, young Riccardo joined the Italian Army as a volunteer to avoid later compulsory military service, only to find himself thrown into deadly hostilities when Mussolini joined the German Axis forces to declare war on Great Britain and its allies, including Australia.
Italy having invaded and colonised a number of North African countries early in the 20th century, Rick was sent with thousands of other young Italian men to the strategic centres of Benghazi, Tripoli and Tobruk to fight British forces and pursue Mussolini’s impossible dream of capturing the prized possession of Egypt from the British.
Clad in heavy winter woollen uniforms totally unsuited to the scorching North African heat, with insufficient water even to drink, let alone wash lice-infested uniforms and armed with the most obsolete rifles and other weapons, the Italian troops had little hope of success against well-equipped and highly mobile British forces.
This gave the demoralised young Italians little choice but to surrender in huge numbers to British forces, a much safer option then surrendering to the French, which could have resulted in their mass execution.
Rick’s story describes the horrors of his first internment camp where unfriendly and often drunken guards added to the fear and misery, then the relief of being shipped along with other POWs on the former Cunard luxury liner Queen Mary to Australia, the far more agreeable conditions in Australian prison camps and then the enormous relief of being allocated as workers on Australian farms.
Fortune smiled on the young Rick in his allocation to the farm of Mr Reay Badgery and his wife, a kindly couple at Sutton Forest, NSW. There, the strong young Italian was quick to reward the Badgerys’ kindness and trust with hard work and a dedication to doing well any job allocated to him.
This contact was to have a profound influence on his life, the Badgerys tending to regard Rick more as a son than a compulsory worker.
With the end of the war in Europe, most Italian prisoners of war were returned to camps where they were supposed to await the Australian Government’s decision on their repatriation to Italy.
By that time Rick had developed such a love for Australia and a longing to stay here that he escaped from his camp with the help of an Australian friend, going first to a Lismore district banana farm owned by Italian immigrants, where he was treated as a despised slave and was not paid for this three weeks’ work.
After returning to Sydney, Rick heard that the then Minister for Immigration, the Hon. Arthur Calwell, was offering a moratorium to repatriate any escaped Italian POWs back to their home country if they gave themselves up by a specified date. Taking the risk, Rick eventually sailed back to Naples in Italy to rejoin his family.
With the love of Australia tugging at his heart strings, Rick could not settle back into an Italian way of life that had become so different. Unable to reach agreement with his farming father on acquiring land of his own, Rick married a local Italian girl and obtained permission to return to Australia.
After, again, working in the country, which his wife could not stand, the couple moved to Sydney where the embers of Rick’s entrepreneurial skills were quickly fanned into success with real estate, rental properties and house building. When his wife, never happy in Australia, left him to return to Italy, Rick continued to expand his business interests and was becoming a wealthy man.
By his own admission a workaholic, Rick then added rural land and cattle breeding endeavours to his already prodigious workload, eventually gaining Australian and world recognition for his Poll Shorthorn and Charolais cattle. That was in joyous contrast with earlier bitter times when the cattle of this “foreigner and ex-prisoner of war” were virtually ignored and downgraded in show competition because many judges came from an establishment club which didn’t want outsiders muscling in.
Moving further into cattle successes at his Mandalong Park property on the western outskirts of Sydney, Rick later founded his own Mandalong Specials breed, the more compact Square Meaters breed based on Murray Grey genetics and then Tropicanas, as well as introducing the giant Italian Chianina and associated breeds to this country.
After marrying a second time, Rick divested much of his real estate and house building business to concentrate on expanding cattle breeding and rural interests, developing advanced skills in animal nutrition and health matters, being made a JP and having his achievements recognised as a Member in the Order of Australia (AM) plus other top decorations awarded by the Ita1ian Government and other countries to which he had established export trading links.
Most remarkable of his fascinating story is the absence of bitterness and rancour where it may well have been justified. His monumental achievements are told with humility, wit and the best form of passion — that which harnesses a dream and moulds it to reality.
This indeed is a story that should be read and enjoyed by all Australians, as well as others in foreign fields who may aspire to a new future in this land of opportunity, inspired by a former Italian lad who did it his way.
Australia, My Love, is published by the author, Rick Pisaturo. Special offer price $25 (RRP $30) plus $9.30 postage. All net proceeds to St Vincent’s Prostate Cancer Centre. To buy, email: email@example.com or call Rick’s office 02 9834 5092.
Sub-heading: People, places, achievement and service
Heading: Helping hands across the sea
The after-effects of natural disasters such as those in Aceh, the tsunami and nuclear melt-down in Japan and the earthquakes in Christchurch, NZ, continue long after events move on.
On March 11 this year, the Chairman of the Australia-Japan Foundation (AJF), Murray McLean OAM, expressed his deep condolences and support for the people of Japan on the first anniversary of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Mr McLean said that like so many other Australians who had extended the hand of friendship in a time of need, the AJF, under its Reconstruction Initiative, was seeking to help devastated communities recover.
Among its programs it was helping to rebuild Australia House in the Echigo-Tsumari region, destroyed in an aftershock.
It had also funded a visit to Australia by 24 students from Minami-Sanriku, enabling them to experience Australia’s school and cultural life through home stays and cultural activities.
It would fund a playground for a new school the Fukushima Board of Education is establishing for children displaced by the accident at the city’s nuclear-power plant and also help establish a mobile library service to communities in Fukushima Prefecture.
Heading: First RSM farewelled at Rocks ceremony