A NUMBER of central Victorians have been recognised for their contributions as part of the Australia Day Honours List.
The Bendigo Advertiser speaks to the 2020 recipients about why they give back to their communities.
Ian Green, Chairman of the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion
Ian Green says he has always wanted to create a more inclusive and welcoming society.
The 74-year-old is the chairman of the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion and is one of the founding committee members of the Bendigo Interfaith Council.
After 40 years of work, he has been recognised with a Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to Buddhism and to interfaith relations.
"I feel very happy," Mr Green said. "I don't see it as a personal thing but more something that reflects all of the people I work with.
"First of all, it's an honour to be involved with Buddhism, but also beyond that into our work for interfaith harmony.
"Both of those things are very important. This is very good recognition of what I and other people are doing."
Mr Green grew up in Bendigo and went to school in the region before moving to Melbourne for university. He lived and worked in the city, which is where he became involved with Buddhism.
But in 1980, Mr Green realised life in Melbourne was no longer for him.
"I guess I, like a lot of people, had that draw to come back to Bendigo," he said. "I had enough of living in all of that congestion of the big city.
"I wanted to come back and the desire to set up a Buddhist temple was a real incentive."
The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion in Bendigo has become the largest Buddhist shrine outside of Asia.
"It's been a long process to get it to this stage," Mr Green said. "I feel very fortunate and lucky that it has benefited so many people.
"Every day at the Great Stupa I see people coming from all parts of Australia because they have heard about it.
"They're all so peaceful and inspired by the place. I feel very lucky to have it particularly in the Bendigo region."
Mr Green is also one of the founding committee members of the Bendigo Interfaith Council. He said he took his work towards establishing interfaith harmony "extremely seriously".
"If the different faiths of the world can't work together, then I have very little hope for all of mankind," he said.
"It's important that we work together to be an example for how mankind can live harmoniously and compassionately."
Mr Green said Australia, in particular, had an important role to play.
"As a multicultural country, we need to think about how we can support and encourage other cultures and faiths that may be smaller or marginalised.
"I work with the smaller groups like the Karen Buddhists group and the Bendigo Interfaith Council. These things are very important in terms of developing faith and interfaith harmony.
"If faith is harmonious, then people can be inspired. That's exactly what I want to see and I think Bendigo can be a real example of what can happen when faiths all work together."
The Great Stupa's Peace Park has also become a feature of the site, with contributions from the Catholic Church and the Sikh community.
"We want to respect every faith and have all different faiths be acknowledged," Mr Green said. "We most recently had the Sikh's Ik Oankar put in place.
"We've had Sikh people come from everywhere to see it and they have all been so honoured.
"The Peace Park is a way we can demonstrate in the Bendigo region and beyond that we are a welcoming people. So much attention in the media is on disharmony and that those who are less privileged are bad.
"But we can demonstrate that this is not the Australian way. We are supportive and welcoming."
Mr Green said he was shocked when he found out he received the OAM.
"I thought it was a hoax initially because the email didn't have any official coat of arms or anything," he said. "Then a couple of months later there was another email following it up.
"That's when I realised it may actually be real. It is such an honour and I was so surprised."
Mr Green said his most recent accolade would only drive him further in his work.
"We're hoping to continue to develop the Great Stupa and the Peace Park," he said. "We're currently working with the Baha'i, Hindu, and Islamic community to develop other installations.
"Buddhism is also still quite small in Australia so it would be great to help that grow. I will just keep on doing what I'm doing. It's just another step along the path."
George Flack OAM, City of Greater Bendigo Councillor
George Flack says he was surprised when he found out he had received a Medal of the Order of Australia as part of the 2020 Australia Day Honours List.
"My proper email address was shut down in November 2018 so I ended up getting a phone call last year to find out about the nomination," Mr Flack said. "I was really excited but I had to keep it to myself."
The 67-year-old, who was born and raised in Bendigo, has been a councillor at the City of Greater Bendigo since 2016.
He has also been involved in the Bendigo Athletics Club, the Victorian Athletics League, and Relay for Life Bendigo at various stages over the past 20 years.
"I feel that this is not just an honour for me," he said. "It's an honour for all of those people who I have been involved with in the community."
Mr Flack has also dedicated his time to the Bendigo Country Fire Authority as a member, secretary and treasurer since the late 1960s.
"No one goes out to achieve honours, they just come along," Mr Flack said.
"I have no plans to do anything massive with this award. I just take each day as it comes. I just want to stay healthy, that's the main thing."
Mr Flack has also been the owner and financial consultant of Flack Advisory Services Group since 1987.
His work has taken him to a number of international financial planning conferences, including several trips to the United States.
Mr Flack said it was rewarding that the Governor-General noted his contributions to the financial sector in his award.
"It's a nice feeling to have that recognition," he said. "One thing that I reflect on was that I worked for men and women to get the aged pension at the same time. I was proud of that achievement."
One of Mr Flack' strongest passions is the Marist Brass Band, which he has been part of since 1964. He has written two books on the band's history and still performs his trombone.
Mr Flack even ran as a torch bearer for the Sydney Olympics.
"I was really proud of carrying the torch," he said. "I ran through the Castlemaine and Chewton area in July 2000. It was a really great honour."
Mr Flack said he didn't want too much fuss about his new accolade, instead choosing to have a quiet celebration on Australia Day.
"I might go and try to fit in a beer about 4pm," he said. "I'll see what I can do."
Rae Kingsbury AM, Timor-Leste advocate
Muckleford resident Rae Kingsbury has received one of the top honours on Australia Day, being recognised with a Member of the Order of Australia for her service to the international community of Timor-Leste.
Mrs Kingsbury was Mayor of Melbourne's City of Darebin Council in 2004 and was involved in the Victorian Local Governance Association for more than 10 years.
But it is her work as founder of the Australia Timor-Leste Friendship Network and Facilitators Incorporated that has brought her recognition.
"I am delighted on behalf of myself and of course Timor-Leste being honoured as well," she said. "Democracy is important. People being able to express their will is important.
"The Timorese have had a long time of struggle and if we could do something to help, we should."
Through the AusTimorFN, Mrs Kingsbury coordinated the international observer mission to Timor-Leste's vote for independence in 1999 and has since coordinated Australian observer groups to Timor-Leste elections in 2002, 2007, 2012, and 2017.
She has also been an Honorary Consul for Timor-Leste in Victoria since 2012.
Sue Walsh, Strathfieldsaye MICA paramedic
Strathfieldsaye MICA paramedic Sue Walsh has received an Ambulance Service Medal as part of the Australia Day Honours List for 2020.
Ms Walsh has worked at Ambulance Victoria for the past 25 years in a number of roles, including as a clinical and community support officer. She said she was overwhelmed by the recognition.
"It's just very humbling," she said. "My passion is providing a high level of paramedic care and looking after my community. That's how I have focused my career.
"There are a lot of others who are equally or more deserving than me. There are a lot of people who do a lot of good work behind the scenes who won't be recognised."
Ms Walsh said she would continue to focus on mentoring roles.
"I think my main driving force is helping people within Ambulance Victoria, whether that be with students or other paramedics," she said.
"Early on in my career, I faced some challenging roles. I really feel passionate about passing along those lessons I've learnt."
Ms Walsh said she would spend time with family to celebrate the award.
"Working at Ambulance Victoria can be a very challenging role," she said. "The family is really the back bone of our support system. They are deserving of this award as much as I am."
Charles Roderick Curwen CVO OBE AO, serving the Governor of Victoria
Charles Roderick Curwen CVO OBE has been awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia.
The Tylden resident has been recognised for distinguished service to the Crown and to public administration in Victoria, to medical research, and to Australia-China business relations.
Mr Curwen has been vice president of the Australia China Business Council (Victoria) since 2009.
He also worked under the Governor of Victoria for more than 40 years.
Mr Curwen's most recent accolade, the AO, comes after a number of awards over the years.
He received an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1977, was the recipient of a Doctor of Laws from Monash University in 1998, and received a Life Time Achievement Award from the World Chinese Economic Forum in 2013.
He was also appointed as an Extra Enquerry to the Queen in May 2017.
James Lindsay OAM, Gisborne community member
Gisborne resident James Lindsay has also been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the Macedon Ranges community.
Mr Lindsay has been an assistant organist at the Anglican Parish of Gisborne since 2003 and a volunteer at Macedon Ranges Health Care since 2007.
He also spent time on the Macedon Grammar School board in the 1980s, and was a member of the Kyneton Brass Band for more than 20 years.
Mr Lindsay worked as a pilot for Emirates from 1989 to 1999. He was also a pilot under the New Guinea Missionary Aviation Fellowships.
It has been Australia's lost summer. Drought, hail, floods and, worst of all, bushfires have ravaged communities all over the nation. But the selfless actions of friends, family, neighbours, strangers, local groups and volunteer organisations have inspired us and strengthened the bonds of community. Please join us in saying thanks to the heroes of the home front by sharing your stories of gratitude. To salute a person or a group, please use the form below.