Australian Honours recognise Freo contributors to the greater good

Published on Mon 12 February 2018 5:02pm

Mr Wilson (5:02pm) — I thank the member for Berowra for bringing this motion forward for debate. It provides an opportunity for members to further acknowledge people in our communities who have made a contribution to the greater good. This year’s Order of Australia awards have recognised three very worthy recipients in my electorate of Fremantle.

Dr Philip House from North Fremantle has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for his service to medicine as an ophthalmologist, for his contribution to the work of eye surgery foundations and for his personal efforts in supporting eye health in Timor-Leste. Dr House’s research at the University of Western Australia has helped to deliver a better understanding of glaucoma and of the factors that underlie poor eye health in Indigenous communities. Indeed, Dr House is rightly commended for providing eye health services to communities in the Pilbara over more than 25 years. In addition to his academic and clinical work in Australia, he has been a regular visitor to Timor-Leste, where he lends his passion, humanity and expertise in training young local doctors to provide basic eye care. It’s almost impossible, I’m sure, to overstate the positive impact of that kind of work.

I also take this opportunity to congratulate Victor Paino, the owner of the iconic Fremantle business Sealanes, who has received a Medal of the Order of Australia for his significant and extensive service to the seafood-retailing industry and to the broader community’s welfare through his support of charitable organisations. Mr Paino is a third-generation Fremantle fisherman in a city with a proud ongoing tradition of successful and sustainable fishing. He began working in his family’s shop as a 15-year-old and soon graduated to driving the truck that transported freshly caught produce from Esperance to Perth. I can tell you that is some kind of drive to do on a regular basis. Victor and his brother, working together, have taken Sealanes from a small business to a veritable seafood empire, but his success has always been premised on giving back to the community, as evidenced, for example, by his work as the founding director of the Fremantle Hospital Medical Research Foundation.

Finally, I’m very pleased to acknowledge and celebrate the achievement of Roger Underwood, who has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in relation to the extensive and leading work in the areas of forestry and bushfire management. As an historian and writer, Roger Underwood has brought to his work an understanding that our relationship with the land is deeply cultural as well as scientific. Of course, Indigenous Australians have known for thousands of years that fire is a potent tool for land management and regeneration, as well as being a sometimes catastrophic hazard. Mr Underwood’s work has drawn upon and illuminated the history of bushfire.

He’s been an expert on and an influential advocate for sustainable land management for 59 years, following his distinguished career as a forester and then general manager of the WA Department of Conservation and Land Management, as it was then. Mr Underwood founded the volunteer Bushfire Front group in 2003. In a state like ours, in Western Australia, his work has undoubtedly helped to save lives and conserve our natural environment.

Today’s motion gives me the opportunity to mention the achievement of the 2018 Young Australian of the Year, Samantha Kerr, who is also a Fremantle electorate constituent. She was born in East Freo and was a sporting phenomenon from a young age. She’s gone on to become an national and international superstar. When she was 15, Sam was told that despite her skills she couldn’t hope to play AFL professionally, because those opportunities simply didn’t exist for women. They do now, but didn’t then. So she turned her attention to round-ball football and began a journey that has included playing for Perth Glory, Sydney FC and the Chicago Red Stars, becoming, along the way, the all-time leading goal scorer in America’s National Women’s Soccer League. She is, arguably, the best player in the world, and I would happily make that argument. There’s no doubt that Samantha Kerr is a leader within the Matildas and she’s a leader and role model within the community. Her skill, athleticism, energy and dedication to the sport are an inspiration, but her character and determination are more impressive still.

I’ll finish by making the point that the Order of Australia’s honours program, like many aspects of Australian life, does need some rebalancing if it’s to properly reflect the diverse make-up of our society. Western Australians are consistently under-represented, but that’s largely the result, or it appears to be largely the result, of the fact there are just not enough nominees from WA. I also note that across the program only one in three award recipients are women, and that ratio is even worse in relation to nominees. I encourage people in my home state and across Australia to consider the full range of potential award recipients, because I know there are lots of women, and men, who deserve to be recognised for their contributions to the greater good in many areas of our national life.

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