Posted by: jkirkby8712 | January 27, 2011

Wednesday, 26th January, 2011 – our Australia Day!

Certainly, upon looking out the window this morning, on this Australia Day public holiday, it did not seem like a typical ‘Australian’ summer’s day  –  drizzling rain, overcast skies, and [pleasantly] cool conditions. I immediately felt for Susie, who with a group of friends had planned a day down at one of the popular southern coastal beaches – Torquay.  Wandering into the kitchen before she left, it seemed as though she was catering for the whole group – sandwiches and other food everywhere – presumably it was a joint contribution, but Susie was doing all of the preparatory work for their beachside luncheon!!  For myself, I had planned a day at home – there were local Australia Day celebrations planned for this morning, down at Sunbury’s Village Green,  but it was going to be a bit of a damp affair for a while, the way things were looking above. Meanwhile, I assured Susie that the day’s weather was going to improve, and by the time she and her girlfriends reached the coast, it would be a fine day – perhaps not so warm for the swimming they had hoped for. Personally, I don’t mind the beach when the weather is cooler, cloudy, even rainy, means it is less crowded, and has an environment that is not going to ‘burn’ one to cancer inducing proportions!

Before all this happened however, I happened to be awake earlier this morning, with the radio switched on quietly in the background, and was rather pleased at the Soccer result – Asian Cup Semi Finals  –  Japan defeated the Korea Republic, after a penalty shoot out, when scores were still level at the end of extra time. More importantly, in the second Semi, Australia had a mammoth win over Uzbekistan, whom I described yesterday as the form team of the tournament – the final score – Australia defeated Uzbekistan  6- 0, unbelievable.  Still annoyed however, that there was no free to air TV coverage of the tournament, nor even any kind of direct radio coverage that I could find. I wondered had stayed awake long enough to watch it  –  he has his own Foxtel TV [note I with extreme jealousy  – actually, not really, I could never have the time to watch pay TV enough to justify the cost, even though there are occasionally events such as this present Asian Cup that I would relish the opportunity to see!

One of the features of Australia Day each year, is the announcement of the ‘Australians’ for the year [2011]. The winners were actually announced at a ceremony last night, and were as follows.

The 2011 Australian of the Year is a Victorian businessman and philanthropist Simon McKeon is the executive chairman of Macquarie Bank’s Melbourne office, but performs the role on a part-time basis, freeing himself to support a range of causes and organisations, He has been a director of World Vision for 15 years and is a director of the Global Poverty Project. He volunteers as a counsellor for heroin addicts in St Kilda, and works with remote indigenous communities. Simon McKeon is the executive chairman of Macquarie Bank’s Melbourne office, but performs the role on a part-time basis, freeing himself to support a range of causes and organisations, He has been a director of World Vision for 15 years and is a director of the Global Poverty Project. He volunteers as a counsellor for heroin addicts in St Kilda, and works with remote indigenous communities. Mr McKeon, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 10 years ago, is also chairman of the CSIRO and Business for Millennium Development, an organisation that encourages business to engage with the developing world. He recently retired as founding chairman of MS Research Australia and founding president of the federal government’s takeover panel

The Young Australian of the Year is the teenage sailor Jessica Watson. At the age of 16, Ms Watson endured 12-metre seas, 75-knot winds, storms and loneliness throughout her seven-month solo journey round the globe.

 I thought this was a much deserved award to Jessica, and I commented to that fact in a note on Facebook this morning, while at the same time, acknowledging that not all would agree. Helen, a friend here in Sunbury didn’t agree. She noted that ‘Sorry Bill, but I don’t agree – about Jessica. I thought Australia Day honours were for those who ‘make a significant contribution to the community’. I don’t feel that lone sailors contribute to anything other than their own satisfaction and subsequent publicity. Often their personal adventure results in thousands being spent on search and rescue [luckily for her this didn’t happen]. I felt a response was justified in this case, and replied as follows.  ‘Fair enough Helen, and thanks for your viewpoint. I guess that I was looking at it from a different angle, and applying the contribution to the community aspect in a broader sense = the actions of a young person getting out and inspiring others her age to be adventurous, and get beyond the rut of video games, and the like, that was how I saw her contribution to a part of the community. The motto I apply to her, and the difference between her and many of us –  the difference between a dreamer and a doer. Like it or not, she was an inspiration to thousands, not just in Australia, but around the world, as evidenced by the overload to her blog throughout the journey.  I would apply the same philosophy to and I feel similarly about ‘The Australian of the Year’, Simon McKeon, whose work in community, and not for profit areas, etc, inspires others to take the lead and participate for the benefit of the community, but obviously in a different way to Jessica.   However I accept that we don’t always agree with the ‘reasoning’ behind the type of decisions that come up with these Award recipients – one only has to ,look back at the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barak Obama, just a few weeks after he came into office p- basically awarded for the ‘potential’ he represented rather than what he had actually achieved to that point in time in respect to world peace, which two years down the track, still appears to be little changed!!

The new Senior Australian of the Year is Professor Ron McCallum, the first totally blind person to have been appointed to a full professorship at an Australian university. The New South Welshman is a fierce advocate of equal rights for the blind, and is one of two deputy chairs of Vision Australia, and one of 12 members of the first monitoring committee for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Finally, the Local Hero is a Sydney man , Donald Richie, who has saved more 160 people from taking their own lives at a notorious suicide spot. The 84-year-old lives by the infamous cliff, and keeps an eye out for people likely to jump. He then coaxes them away from the edge by inviting them into his house for a cup of tea. Mr Ritchie has lived near The Gap for almost five decades and has kept up a voluntary watch from the window of his second-storey bedroom for most of that time. In the early years, Mr Ritchie tried to physically restrain people wanting to jump while his wife called the police, but since then he has taken a more hands-off approach. He’s been recognised multiple times for his efforts; he was given a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2006, while both he and his wife Moya were named Woollahra Council’s Citizens of the Year in 2010.  My late mother and her family used to live just opposite The Gap also, probably not many houses from where Mr Ritchie lives, may even have known each other back in the 1950s/60s. She told us of various incidents of suicides and/or attempted suicides taking place at that location. I’ve  wandered around the cliff tops myself on the occasional visit to the area, in fact one year, with brother, Robert, we watched the start of the Boxing Day Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race from The Gap, and I can easily testify as to how potentially dangerous is the cliff face on the South Head of Sydney Harbour

Of course, in addition to the above principal awards, there are some 700 Australia Day honors handed out – and as I do each year, a perusal of the list of names, failed to find ‘my own name’ listed J Another friend was kind enough to suggest that ‘It’s because you are too modest to put yourself forward – maybe next year J’  Too kind, indeed!

As a matter of interest, the outgoing Australian of the Year, Professor Patrick McGorry, yesterday described Australia’s mental system as dysfunctional, and piled pressure on Prime Minister Julia Gillard to deliver additional funding for mental health care and prevention. “We want to see Australia invest to the level of other developed countries, like New Zealand. New Zealand spends 11 per cent of its health budget on mental health care, we spend 7 per cent. Countries in Western Europe are even more appropriate,” Professor McGorry said. “Money is important, but it has to be put into new models of care, not more of the same, not just incremental patching up of this dysfunctional system that’s currently operating in this country.” Professor McGorry also said that as somebody born overseas — in Ireland — he had always felt privileged to have become Australian, but that our society is growing less equal as the years pass. An interesting comment, and certainly throughout his year in the role, Professor McGorry has been very active in speaking up and for the mental health environment within Australia.

To more mundane matters, as I suggested at the beginning of this piece, my plan was a quiet day at home, and I think that was generally achieved – bit of writing, reading, housework, and other research, in what remained a cool day, although the rain from early this morning disappeared. Apparently down at the Torquay beach resort, the weather was perfect all day, so the decision of Susan and her friends to have a day at the beach was a good move. It was quite popular down there today also, with a number of Australia Day festivities happening, as was the case throughout Australia.

Incidentally, in the Australian Open Tennis tonight, a bit of sensation in the men’s quarter final stage of the competition, with hot favourite Rafael Nadal, hampered by some kind of hamstring injury, was defeated by fellow countryman, friend and Davis Cup team-mate, David Ferrer, in straight sets. I think the admirable thing about this loss was that instead of pulling out before the match ended, because of his injury, Nadal played through to the end, though it was obvious a loss was inevitable – I think he hinted later, that he wanted Ferrer to win the match, by playing it to the end, rather than getting it on a forfeit. He didn’t want to talk about the injury out of respect for his opponent who had played a good match and deserved the win.

Meanwhile, on the cricket scene, in the 4th of the seven one day matches between Australia and England,  the Aussies, chasing 300 runs to win the game, fell short by about 35 runs in the end I think.  Maureen was quickly back on Facebook to be sure I noted that result!!!



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