25 January 2023

Regional community heroes recognised with honours for their contributions

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Barbara (centre) and Dave Rugendyke have both been awarded an OAM. Photo: Anglicare

“This is not a ‘me’ award, it’s a ‘we’ award. It’s an ‘us’ award,” says Gail Hanigan of her medal in the Order of Australia (OAM), awarded for services to the people of Young.

She’s one of a wide range of recipients across southern NSW who are being honoured on Australia Day for their selfless dedication and many years of service.

Goulburn resident the Hon. Prue Goward has been made an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO) for her distinguished service to the people and Parliament of New South Wales, and to women’s affairs, and longtime NewsCorp cartoonist and commentator Warren Brown has been made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his services to the media and to military history.

Gail Hanigan has been president of the Young/Boorowa CanAssist branch since 2009. The branch has operated for 35 years, raising more than $1 million to support cancer sufferers across the South West Slopes.

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The service ethic has permeated Gail’s life from the Bribbaree and Quandialla shows to teaching swimming and lifesaving to children in the tiny villages. When she and her partner Jim moved into Young, she volunteered for CanAssist because she knew the money would stay in town, helping locals.

“It was instilled in me from childhood that to be part of the community you have to give back,” she says.

“When you’ve got a community that supports you, it gives you confidence to go out and help. That’s a simple process because there’s a local on the end of the phone who knows about the challenges and problems of going through cancer treatment in rural Australia.

woman in blue shirt

Gail Hanigan has received an OAM for her services to the Young community. Photo: Supplied.

“We have a lovely group of people here in Young who make it all possible and I am so proud of them all.”

On the South Coast at Cobargo, former Canberra MLA Dave Rugendyke and his wife Barbara have both received an OAM for their work fostering more than 400 children over many years.

In common with many surprised recipients, Dave originally thought the email notifying him of his award might be a scam. “And then it sunk in that this was fair dinkum and we were just overwhelmed,” he says.

“We thought, why us? We just do what we normally do.”

Doing what they normally do has meant that an average of 10 kids each year have a chance at support, some structure and routine in their lives and a glimpse of what a good life looks like.

“I was a policeman when we started so I saw how much need there was for kids to be looked after properly,” Dave says. “My middle daughter piped up and suggested we do foster care, we took the course and we’ve never looked back.

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“We try to keep the relationship with the birth parents, a very important strategy, and we’ve always tried to give them a better life than what they came from.”

Across the region, the recipients include Carol Kiefer of Batlow, recognised with an AM for significant service to the community, and to women; an OAM to Ms Margaret Bennett of Bungendore for service to medical administration and an OAM to Mrs Bronwyn Crosby of Braidwood for service to community health.

Grenfell couple Terry and Deidre Carroll have both been awarded an OAM for their services to the community of the Grenfell region, while Young resident Sue Gordon has also received an OAM for her service to the community of Young.

In Harden, Mrs Monica O’Connor is being recognised for service to the community and longtime shire councillor and former mayor Dennis Palmer has also received the OAM for his services to Cootamundra.

Mrs Narelle O’Rourke of Queanbeyan East has been recognised for service to the preservation of nursing history with an OAM, and Mr Kenneth Stone of Jerrabomberra has also received an OAM for service to the community through a range of organisations.

Also in Queanbeyan, Ms Connee-Colleen Cameron was awarded a posthumous OAM for service to the community.

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