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Thursday, 25 November 1999
Page: 12774

Mrs ELSON (11:36 AM) —I was very honoured last Friday to attend a special luncheon here in Parliament House, hosted by the Minister for Aged Care and attended by some very extraordinary Australians. I am speaking of course of the many senior Australians around the country who represented their electorates as outstanding recipients of the Commonwealth recognition award for senior Australians. These awards were established to help ensure that our celebrations for the International Year of Older Persons included national recognition of the role that senior Australians play in the community and in the lives of all Australians.

This year is all about celebrating the wealth of knowledge, experience, talent, enthusiasm and skills that older members of our communities possess in such ample quantities. I believe the slogan `not old, just older' is a very apt one. Certainly there are many older residents in my electorate who are living proof that age is just a state of mind and that our later years can be the most productive and fulfilling of our lives. These people never seek recognition and are very modest and unassuming. They quietly and actively just go about helping others and making our local communities even better places to live.

I have been very pleased in the past to honour many of these people with my own Forde community contribution awards for their outstanding voluntary work. However, it was indeed a privilege last week to present 20 Forde residents with a Commonwealth recognition award for senior Australians on behalf of the federal government. As I told these special people, I am personally very inspired by their ongoing contributions to our community. I sincerely hope that when I retire I have even half the drive and ability that they display every day.

I would like to pay tribute in this House today to Joie Dwyer of Kalbar, Vincent Hertweck of Boonah, Larry Storey, 91, of Bethania, Stanley Miers, 83, of Beenleigh, Constance Miers, 72, of Beenleigh, Mac Smith, 82, of Beaudesert, George Harch, 80, of Beenleigh, Louisa Harch, 78, of Beenleigh, May Billiau, 71, of Beenleigh, Merle Brauer, 63, of Stapleton, Mabel Rodwell, 76, of Beaudesert, Albert Garcia, 88, of Beaudesert, Eva Woodrow, 88, of Mount Warren Park, Rae Doherty, 71, of Meadowbrook, John (Jack) Lewis, 92, of Beaudesert, Elizabeth Ellis, 80, of Beaudesert, Desmond (Des) Tutt, 74, of North Tamborine, Thelma Ward, 73, of Beaudesert, Mervyn Silcox, 83, of Beaudesert.

Unfortunately, time does not permit me to outline all of the remarkable achievements of these people. However, I would like to take a few moments to pay tribute to one recipient who, sadly, passed away recently. Mr John Wiltjer of Eagleby spent the last 22 years devoting himself to helping local young people through the Beenleigh Police Citizens Youth Club. He was a tireless worker, raising thousands of dollars through his personal efforts selling raffle tickets every week. An ex-POW, he was an outstanding role model for local children. Unfortunately, John lost his long battle with cancer earlier this month. Shortly before he passed away he was presented with his award, and the extent to which he will be missed was evidenced by the many people who attended his funeral.

Finally, I would like to tell the House about our overall local winner who represented us in Canberra last week, Ms Kath Ryan, 74, of Beaudesert. Kath is a lady who is known to many people throughout our area. She has been the absolute backbone of St Mary's Care and Concern in Beaudesert for over 20 years. Care and Concern is a practical organisation that offers assistance, advice and care when it is needed most.

Kath's work in caring for the frail aged and disabled led her to help establish a special respite centre in Beaudesert, aptly called `Kath's House'. Not only did she establish the centre but she also helped to secure special Home and Community Care funding for the Beaudesert region. Her caring nature has touched the lives of many people and, as the grateful person who nominated her said, `Kath's whole lifestyle is about looking after other people in a voluntary capacity.'

Kath has been an active member of the Country Women's Association for over 20 years. She is also a member of the Boystown Ladies Auxiliary, the St Vincent de Paul Regional Council, St Mary's tuckshop and P&C, and she has been on the Logan and Albert Rivers Regional Council for nine years. While I can list her membership of various important community organisations, there are simply not enough words to describe the impact she has had on the lives of so many local residents in Beaudesert and throughout our region. The demands on Kath are constant, yet she is always there first to offer a hand and to help out on other community events and occasions.

The International Year of Older Persons has been a special time to pay tribute to these and many other older Australians throughout the nation. I certainly hope the recognition and celebrations can be carried over well into the next century, and that our appreciation of the abilities, drive and talents of our older citizens will continue to grow.

Main Committee adjourned at 11.41 a.m.