Australia Day Honours 2024

Australia Day Honours 2024

A former moderator, an opera singer, a mining engineer, an historian, a commissioner for Girl Guides Australia, a congregational Elder for four decades, and a church organist who began playing before Union are among the Uniting Church recipients of Australia Day Honours this year.

Esteemed Uniting Church leader and former Queensland Moderator, the late Rev. Donald Whebell, has been awarded an AM for his service to the Uniting Church in Australia.

Rev. Whebell was a much-loved minister across the church, deeply passionate about the Basis of Union and a mentor to many in the Queensland Synod and beyond.

Rev. Whebell was ordained in the Presbyterian church in Charleville in 1968 and later became the Director of Christian Education for the Presbyterian Church, helping parishes across the state. He was a Leader and Facilitator of Camp Quest for 16 years.

For his whole life, Don was a great advocate of the Uniting Church and in particular its founding vision contained in the Basis of Union. He was a lecturer on the document and in 2019 co-created an online resource “Listening to the Basis of Union”. In this Don says,  “I never cease to be amazed, inspired, guided by and awe-struck by the Basis of Union each time I read it – or even read bits of it! Its vision for Christian unity is always timely and necessarily provocative.”

Don served two terms as Uniting Church Moderator, in 1989-90 and as the first full time Moderator for three years, 1993 -96. Supported by and in partnership with his wife Pam (pictured above), Don served in many different roles across the church, including as Minister of St Stephen’s Uniting Church Toowoomba, Presbytery Chair in Mary-Burnett and Central Queensland Presbyteries, Secretary for Ecumenical Relationships and Interfaith Committees in the Synod in the 1990s-2000s and was Co-Secretary of the National Roman Catholic – Uniting Church Dialogue. Many in the Uniting Church saw him as a mentor and a formative influence in their ongoing ministry in the Church.

Other UCA recipients include Jeffrey Dry who after any decades of service to community sport and to the church was awarded an OAM. Jeffrey has been a member of Athelstone Uniting Church in South Australia for 40 years and is a current worship leader and Chair of the Church Council. He is also a Life Member of Burnside Hockey Club, a former umpire and player in the South Australian Football League and a former teacher at Athelstone Primary School.

Ann Sutton received an OAM for service to the community through a range of organisations. Ann has been an Elder at Wesley Uniting Church in Forrest ACT since 1982, an incredible four decades. Wesley Uniting is one of the many congregations Ann has served as a Lay Preacher across the Australian Capital Territory since 1993.

Since 2005 Ann has helped to organise the Thursday Friendship Group, a valued social group of the Wesley congregation which gathers a community around a varied program of speakers, activities and shared meals.

A high school science teacher from 1980-2007, Ann has made significant contributions beyond the Uniting Church, including the Royal Commonwealth Society (ACT), the Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem and a range of community music and social welfare organisations.

Helen Geard was awarded an AM for significant service to youth and to the community. Helen is member and secretary of the Claremont-Bagdad congregation, part of the Derwent Cluster of Uniting Churches in Tasmania. She has also served two terms on the Property Trust of the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania.

Beyond the Uniting Church, Helen has made an impressive contribution to Girl Guides Australia as Chief Commissioner and Chair, Chair of the Policy and Procedure Committee and a delegate to two World Conferences. A Unit Leader since 1992, she has also served as State Commissioner and State Communications Adviser for Girl Guides Tasmania.

Her broader service to Tasmania includes leadership roles with the Royal Agricultural Society of Tasmania and Rural Youth Tasmania. She is on the Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women.

 Dr Jennifer Barnes received an OAM for service to the performing arts through opera, and to the community. Jennifer is a member of Adamstown Uniting Church in NSW where she is a current member and volunteer and former chair of the congregation.

Jennifer has had a distinguished career as an opera singer since 1963, during which time she has performed with Opera Queensland and the Sydney Metropolitan Opera. She was Principal Soprano with Opera Australia from 1997 to 2003. She has worked to train a new generation of musicians as a voice teacher with the Newcastle Conservatorium of Music and director of the University of Newcastle Choir.

Also from Adamstown Uniting Church is Rodney Barnes, awarded an OAM for service to music and to the community. A music teacher for over 40 years, Rodney helped to found Adamstown Arts, a visual and performing arts program supported by Adamstown Uniting Church which includes vibrant live music space, the Dungeon Jazz Club. 20 years ago, Rodney founded the Dungeon Big Band which performs annually at the Newcastle Music Festival.

Christine Butters received an OAM for service to the community through music and sport. At St Andrews Longueville in Sydney, Christine has served faithfully as Secretary since 1990, an Elder since 1997, a Church Council member since 2006 and a combined 16 years as a Sunday School teacher.

At different times since 1984, Christine has been the President, Secretary and Treasurer of Lane Cove Music, an organisation dedicated to high quality community concerts, and has been involved with the Sydney Eisteddfod since the 1990s. She was Lane Cove Council’s Citizen of the Year in 2016.

Long-time teacher Bruce Murray received an OAM for service to secondary education and to the community. A former member at St Columba’s Uniting Church where he was a member of the Church Council and Chair of the congregation, Bruce dedicated his career to a range of roles at Carey Baptist Grammar School between 1973 and 2018. 24 of those years were spent teaching before moving into a range of other leadership roles including Registrar, Assistant to the Head of the Senior School, Housemaster, coach, and Director of Community Relations. He is a life member of the Old Carey Grammarians Association.

Yvonne Tyler was awarded an OAM for service to community music. Yvonne took up the role of organist at Glengowrie Uniting Church in 1966 – before Union! She also served as choir director for an impressive 50 years from 1972-2022. Yvonne has been an Elder since 2002 and chair of the congregation since 2022. She was a music teacher at Glengowrie High School for 20 years from 1969-1989.

Recognising her significant contribution to the museums and galleries sector, Dr Judith McKay, was awarded an OAM. Among an impressive curation career which includes the Queensland Museum, Judith has played a significant role in preserving the heritage of the Australian Inland Mission (now Frontier Services).

Judith is the daughter of one of John Flynn’s outback padres, Rev Les McKay, and niece of Flynn’s successor, Rev Fred McKay. She was the Honorary Curator of the Friends of John Flynn Place Association from 2014-2019 and has been Advisor and Honorary Curator for Adelaide House Museum in Alice Springs and the Northern Synod since 2020.

She is the author of numerous historical publications, received several prestigious heritage awards and was acknowledged as a fellow of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland in 2003.

The late Dr James May was awarded an AM for significant service to mining research and governance, and to the community. During a long career in minerals engineering and research, James was Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Minerals Industry Research Association Limited (now AMIRA Global) from 1968-1994 and a committee member and Honorary Fellow of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM). Within the Church, James was a Choir Master and Secretary of the Management Committee at Rosanna Methodist Church (now the Rosanna Uniting Church), a member of the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania in the 1980s and 1990s and member of the Project Building Committee from 2015-2023.

Barbara Power received an OAM for service to child welfare organisations. Barbara has worked with UnitingCare Queensland community from 2015-2018 as the Client Safety Review Manager and has been the Child Safe Principal Practitioner for UnitingCare Queensland since 2018.

In 2010 Barbara was a founding member of the Child Protection Practitioners Association of Queensland and is the current Uniting Church Representative. She has been the General Manager Safeguarding for the Salvation Army Australia since 2022.

Other recipients included: 

Bronwyn Brown OAM, for service to the community through music, including as an Organist at Wesley Uniting Church in Canberra, Roseville Methodist/Uniting Church and St Andrew’s Uniting Church in Brisbane.

Lynette Franklin OAM, for service to the community in a range of roles in the Nathalia district in Victoria, including as a former Lay Preacher in the Uniting Church in Australia.

Margaret-Anne Hayes OAM, for service to the community through a range of charitable organisations, including as a volunteer at Turramurra Uniting Church and an organiser of various events at Northaven, UnitingCare Turramurra.

Richard Mills OAM, for service to the community of the Armidale and Uralla regions, including as the recipient of the Alwyn Jones Community Service Award given by Armidale Uniting Church and Armidale Dumaresq Council, 2016.

William Willis, OAM, for service to the community of Newcastle, including as a member of Warners Bay Uniting Church and a Lay Preacher in the Methodist and Uniting Churches since 1952.

Elizabeth Wynne OAM, for service to the community of Yarram, including as a member of Yarram Uniting Church.

This piece first appeared on the Assembly website. View the original post here.


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