Thursday, 7 April 2016

OAM, the big day....


As many of you already know on Australia Day this year I was honoured to be awarded 
The Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the community through support to serving defence members. 

I really have no words to describe how this feels but I need to emphasize that I share this with all of you who make Aussie Heroes possible because though I may be the "leader" for want of a better way of putting it, I alone could achieve nothing without the team.

So many people have been asking when my investiture was going to be and have I got my medal yet etc, so here is my attempt to share as much of the day with you all as possible. 

I had never driven through these gates before so it was a pretty special experience.   I will say at the outset, as I look at the photos of the day, there are so many more than I would have taken if I had my time over, but the whole event was rather overwhelming and humbling and I was rather intent on just enjoying it.  


We pulled up at the gate inside and there was Chaplain Duncan waiting to be given his Entree Card so that he could proceed in on foot. The rest of us, including my husband and son showed our cards and drove the short distance to where we parked.

What an amazing sight Government House is.  It was designed in a romantic Gothic Revival Style —castellated, crenellated, turreted, and is decorated with oil portraits and the coats of arms of its successive occupants.  Construction commenced in 1837 and was completed in 1845.   Stone, cedar, and marble for the construction were obtained from various areas of New South Wales.


Accompanying me were my husband, David, one of my twin sons, Linton, (the other having Uni commitments that he could not escape) and, as mentioned, one of the Navy Chaplains I have dealt with over the years who has become a great friend, Chaplain Duncan.  My husband, son and I each wore one of the Aussie Hero lapel pins.  :-)


My three handsome escorts for the day, my husband David, Chaplain Duncan and my son, Linton.




As we walked through the giant archways and doors we were greeted by very smartly dressed defence personnel from all three services who congratulated me, welcomed the others and then instructed us in what to do. Recipients were taken to a desk where there seat number was written on their entree card.  Family members were ushered into the Ballroom and were seated to wait.  We had to be seated by 230pm.  The Ceremony began at 3pm. In the meantime members of the Army Band played in the garden and the music drifted in through large open doors.


This was my husband's view as he and the others sat and waited.  They were taken into a large room that was divided from us by huge floor to ceiling sliding doors. Today I am kicking myself for not taking any more photos of the surroundings and the room.  It was all very grand and I was just enjoying sitting there, soaking it all in as the musicians played.  It was quite stuffy in the room so I was grateful that I had taken a japanese fan with me and was able to use that to generate a little breeze.  You can just see the painting on the ceiling in the room the guests sat in. The ceiling in our room was just as ornate but different.  Huge portraits hung on the walls all around too.  I was on the end of a row, closest to the veranda and could look out the window down to the harbour.... there were trees framing the view I had of the harbour and boats of all sorts sailing by.  

Would be so tough to live there I tell you!



We recipients had to be seated by 230pm so that we could be briefed on the proceedings. The first thing that happened was a special pin was attached where our medal would be normally be pinned, the idea being that the Governor could just hook the medal clasp over the pin easily without having to actually pin the medal on.... much quicker than trying to pin a medal on all the different types of clothing people were wearing.  Although this was a very formal event we were regularly told that it was all about us and to relax and enjoy it.

Waiting for each of us on our chairs was this little bundle. 


This comprised the Order of Service...


The big white cardboard folder covered this magnificent blue velvet folder 


with this lovely crest on it... did not show up well in the above photo. 

Inside was this booklet which tells you all about the Order of Australia as well as the information about where to buy the offical photos of the day.  These were tucked neatly into a pocket on the left hand side of the folder. 


On the right hand side is this certificate.... 


if you can't read it it says....

To 

JAN-MAREE BALL

Greeting

NOW KNOW YOU THAT, with the approval of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Second, Queen of Australia and Sovereign of the Order of Australia, I have been pleased to award you the Medal of the Order of Australia in the General Division. 

I DO by these Presents authorise you to hold and enjoy the dignity of such an award together with membership in said Order and all the privileges thereunto appertaining.  

GIVEN at Government House, Canberra, under the seal of the Order of Australia this twenty-sixth day of January 2016.

By His Excellency's Command

...

Inside the box was the ribbon and lapel pin on the left and the miniature on the right. Of course the ful size medal in the medal was not added till it had been presented later.  My name is engraved on the back of the medal.


Finally the huge sliding doors that separated us from the guests were pushed aside and the Official Party entered, comprised of digitaries from various organisations.  Coming so soon after our Visit to RAAF Glenbrook it made me smile to see an Air Commodore there to represent ACAUST (Air Commander Australia) having just met the real Air Commander. 

We all stood as His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret'd), Governor of New South Wales and Mrs Linda Hurley entered the Ballroom.

We remained standing as we sang the National Anthem and then the Governor opened the proceedings with a few words.  Finally the time came for the recipients to be Invested.  

It was not only people receiving OAMs who were being invested yesterday, but also one gentleman who was appointed as Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia and several others who were being appointed as Members in the General Division of the Order of Australia.   Two recipients were awarded the Public Service Medal, six were awarded the Australian Fire Service Medal and then came the recipients of Medal of the Order of Australia.

Row by row we were lead out to the verandah to the right of the ballroom by a RAAF Warrant Officer.   He then handed us off to another RAAF fellow who told us when to move forward one by one to the doorway where we were to enter the front of the ballroom. Every step of the way we were met by another defence member who congratulated us and then told us exactly what to expect and what to do.   Finally I was about to enter the ballroom.   First they would say your name at which point you stepped up on to the first step and then you moved forward to the edge of the carpet.... 

During this time someone, I never saw who, read out what the individual had done to be awarded whatever award they were receiving that day.  Once the information had been read the recipient's name was announced again and that was the cue to walk forward to meet the Governor and acknowledge him with a nod or a curtsy (no, I did not curtsy, my knees would not allow that) and shake his hand. 

I had met Mrs Hurley once before in October last year and we had had a good talk about Aussie Heroes in general and about the Centenary Quilt.   She had actually borrowed one of the two special spiral bound picture books that I use when I go to shows to show people what we do so that she could take them home to show her husband, the Governor.  Whilst I stood in the doorway waiting to meet her husband she gave me a smile and a small nod which was lovely. 

I tried hard to remember what His Excellency said to me when he presented the medal...  thanked me for what we all do,  told me his wife very much likes what we do and his final words were to say thank you on behalf of all of the ADF for what we do. 

A quick handshake and we turned to face the official photographer for a few photos and then I walked down the centre of the aisle and out into the ante room outside where there was another photographer waiting to take another official photo. 

Once outside in the ante room a lovely lady in Navy uniform quickly removed the temporary pin and pinned the medal on properly.  Then I was ushered to stand on the line taped on the carpet, look this way, turn your shoulders that way... click click click and the photos were taken, then back to the seat I was originally in. 

The whole process, from the moment we arrived at the gate, ran incredibly smoothly with absolute military precision.  The organisation and attention to detail itself was very impressive.

After all the awards were presented His Excellency made a few closing remarks before he and his wife withdrew.  Finally we were all invited out on to the Veranda and into the gardens for refreshments.    We were all encouraged to take a glass so that we would be prepared to toast the Queen's impending birthday and to sing Happy Birthday to Her Majesty.   Sandwiches and nibblies, (or smallie eats as the Navy calls them) were handed around with trays of champagne, wine, juice, soft drink and water making the rounds.  

 Once outside, and once the toast to the Queen was completed, the Governor and his wife began to mingle with the recipients and their guests.   Believe it or not I am actually still wearing my medal but it just matches my outfit so well you cannot see it unless you know to look for it. 



Can you believe that I actually knew someone else there on the day to receive her OAM as well. This is Tamara Sloper-Harding.  We served in the Navy together just a few years ago... well maybe a bit more than a few.  Tamara does amazing work, running the  Pittwater Friends of Siobada.  Having once deployed to Timor Leste, Tamara came home affected by what she saw. She now devotes a significant part of her life to raising funds to create a better life for the people of Siobada - they are curently involved in raising money to build a High School in Siobada.  What she and her team have achieved and continue to achieve is amazing.


This is Tamara with her mother and Mrs Hurley and I.



 A bit of a glimpse of the gardens and the view...

The verandah where we had waited to enter the ballroom became the venue for the refreshments later


One of the nice surprises of the afternoon was meeting some of the service people who were there.  This Warrant Officer had been responsible for taking us out to the verandah when it was our turn.  Whilst waiting for the proceedings to get underway I asked him about his deployments and, of course, asked him if he had received a quilt or a laundry bag.  

It is that moment when a recipient realises that you are one of the Aussie Hero Friends, when their whole expression changes and their face just lights up and they become very animated, telling you how much they love their quilt or their laundry bag, describing it and explaining what it meant to them, that I wish you could all experience. 

This fellow received his quilt, made by Robin A, whilst he was in South Sudan.   He just loves it and actually wants to have it framed behind glass. We talked for some time, whilst waiting for the proceedings to begin and also whilst being served refreshments.  Many of the serving members who were there actually volunteer for the duty whenever they can. They make themselves available for the three days of the Investitures and then go back to their regular duties afterward. 

As well as this fellow, one of the RAN girls came up to congratulate me as she had also received a laundry bag or quilt and was so appreciative, saying thank you on behalf of all the RAN personnel.   They were not the only recipients there either. 


All in all it was a very special experience, a memory which will stay with me forever. 

Tomorrow I will be attending a lunch at Parliament House here in Sydney with the Order of Australia Association.  Those, like me, who are new to the Association are invited guests and we are invited to take along family and friends. My husband had to head back down to Canberra for work today and both my sons have lectures etc at Uni that they cannot miss so I have invited Maridy Morrison whose husband was the Captain of HMAS Darwin last time they deployed. 

This will be the first time for me to wear my medals with the OAM and I am glad it will be with a lot of other new Attendees as it will feel a little strange. The next time I wear them will be ANZAC Day.   

There are two choices when it comes to wearing medals. Some people where their originals and some prefer to get replica sets made and wear those. 

I prefer to wear replicas and had mine re-mounted ready for Friday.... many thanks to the lovely ladies from Lone Pine Medals for the awesome, quick and efficient job they did for me.   I can't recommend them highly enough.   Thanks ladies (and not I did not get a discount so get nothing from mentioning them - they were a dream to deal with and very quick)


Well I hope you enjoyed reading about yesterday. I figured writing a full report on the way was the best way to share it as much as possible with all of you who sew for us and who support us.  I am very conscious that Aussie Heroes is very much a team effort and everyone's contribution counts, no matter how small.

Till next time...................keep spreading the word and happy stitching!

Jan-Maree  xx

6 comments:

  1. And a great day was had by all after reading this. An experience very few will achieve but well deserved by the one who did

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  2. Oh Jan Maree how surreal and what a humbling experience I bet it was like a wedding day all over again... Went so fast but was absolutely perfect. So so proud of what you do. On behalf of all other quilters, I'd like to thank you for organising and doing what you do for our defence forces. They deserve to feel as important as they are to us and you've found the perfect way to show it using a draft we all live dearly. Congratulations to you and your team. Xxxx

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  3. You deserve it Jan Maree so glad they honered you

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  4. Thank you for sharing your day with us in words and photos.
    A well deserved award.
    Sandy A.

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  5. Wonderful stuff, Thanks for sharing it with us.

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  6. Go girl, So proud of you and so well deserved, I thank you for allowing me to be part of your wonderful team. It's a win win! Wonderful story, thankyou so much for taking the time to share it. Cheers!!

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