Australia honours service to the people of the Congo

A member of Brisbane’s Gateway Baptist Church, and a volunteer for Scripture Union, Gwen Wetzig, has received an Officer award (AO) in the Order of Australia  for service to the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Her award is for distinguished service to the international community in the form of “medical support, teaching and training programs.”

Her AO citation notes that she has been the co-ordinator of the HEAL Africa Partnership since 2003 and a co-founder of the AusHEAL charity. AusHEAL describes itself as “Australians advancing healthcare in the developing world.”

It supports the HEAL Africa Hospital, in Goma, in the DRC. Wetzig’s AO citation describes her work at the hospital:

  • Volunteer, Administrative supporter, and English Teacher, since 2006.
  • Administrative supporter, HEAL Africa Training Service, current.
  • English Teacher, Basic Essential and Emergency Surgery training program, College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa, DRC, since 2015.

AusHEAL’s  role in Goma includes providing visiting medical teams of Australian specialists, nurses and paramedics. Their work includes mentoring and empowering the hospital personnel to reach out into their communities.

In an interview with Vision Christian Media in 2016, Gwen Wetzig’s husband Neil, described his experiences as a surgeon working in a war-torn nation.

““I was operating in the middle of some instability (at the HEAL Africa hospital in Goma) – rebel attacks on Congolese and vice versa, and I operated on a Congolese soldier and had my passport in my top pocket,” he explained.

“In the process of some surgery I realized the blood had soaked through, and when I took out my passport, there it was.”

“I felt that was a sealing of my relationship with Congo in a strange sort of way, and thankfully the patient did well and we were able to save his life.

He described the motives for the Wetzigs working in Goma: ““If I have gifts that God has given me in the case of surgery, and if I can train them (Congo medical staff) to do the surgery better, to deliver a baby safely, to do a Caesarian section safely, to take an appendix out safely, with one operation, then I think that’s making a big difference to not only the patient but also to the country.”

The ABC’s 7:30 report profiled the Wetzigs in 2o12. Here’s the transcript of a short interview with Gwen Wetzig.

GINNY STEIN: Gwen Wetzig has been coming to Goma for almost as long as her husband. It’s as volatile as ever. She coordinates the many Australian medical teams who donate time at the hospital.

GWEN WETZIG: So people have fear here, do they live in fear?

GOMA RESIDENT: It’s not so much fear as when they hear shouts.

GWEN WETZIG: When they hear shouts?

GOMA RESIDENT: Shouts of guns.


GOMA RESIDENT: As shouts are not yet heard then they don’t fear.

GINNY STEIN: Operating in the Congo, where war is never far away, presents a unique set of challenges.

Recipients awarded Member of the Order of Australia (AM) include:

Sara Megan David of Bull Creek WA, the founder of Living Child, “a not-for-profit organisation established to provide midwifery education, training and support to village birth attendants and health workers in the remote villages in Papua New Guinea, to reduce the number of maternal and newborn deaths.” She is a former member of Riverton Baptist Community Church, and current Parishioner of  Ross Memorial Church (Uniting Church in Australia) in West Perth.

The Reverend Ann Bryson Drummond, Docklands, VIC, for significant service to the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) and women. Her service to the UCA includes being Chair of the Sexual Misconduct Complaints Panel, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, since 2008, and a Member of the panel since 2001.

Former warden of St John’s College, Brisbane The Reverend Canon Dr John Laurence Morgan, Moe VIC. Morgan was Warden (head) of the Anglican college which serves the University of Queensland 1982-2012.

Professor Marea Nicholson, Glenhaven NSW, was Associate Vice-Chancellor – New South Wales, of the Australian Catholic University, 2009-2019.

Professor Pauline Margaret Nugent, East Melbourne VIC, Provost of the Australian Catholic University since 2012, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), 2011-2012, and Dean of Health Sciences, 2007-2011.

Mr George Savvides, Mount Martha VIC, received his AM for “significant service to the community, to charitable groups, and to business.” he was Chairman of World Vision Australia, 2012-2017, a Board Member, 2000-2017, and  a Board Member, World Vision International, 2001-2010. His church roles include

  • Chair, New Peninsula Baptist Church, Mount Martha, Victoria, 2009-2017.
  • Patron, Arrow Leadership Australia, since 2016, Chair, 2011-2015.
  • Parishioner/supporter, Glen Waverley Anglican Church, 1993-2008.
  • Member, Advisory Board, Fusion Housing Support for Young People, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria.

His business career includes the roles of Managing Director, Medibank Private, 2002-2016, Deputy Chairman, SBS, since 2017  and Non-Executive Director, Insurance Australia Group (IAG), since 2019.

Readers (and some extra time) helped us discover more Christians in the awards, especially at the medal level.

Reader Mark Tronson pointed to AM recipient Kim Gillis, honoured for his defence procurement work in the Department of Defence, who took over the Basil Sellers house in Moruya NSW. This respite ministry serves athletes from the Australian Institute of Sport.

Awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) 

Kenneth Bruce Adams, Bowral NSW “For service to the community of the Southern Highlands, and to the plumbing industry” has been a parishioner of Bowral Uniting since the 1950s, serving in many roles, a Sunday school teacher and church treasurer for 19 years.

Brian Leslie Allen, Rosebud VIC founded Teachers Across Borders (Australia) (a non-government not for profit organisation that conducts short term workshops for teachers in developing countries), and involved at St Paul’s Anglican Church, Boronia.

Rebecca Andrews, South Maroota NSW founded charity West Papuan Development Company, focussed on sanitation, and has been a Scripture Teacher, Maroota Public School, since 2003.

Patrick Joseph Bartolo, Toongabbie NSW, honoured for service to the Maltese Community, is a Catholic layperson.

Jocelyn Bignold, Footscray VIC, Chief Executive Officer, since 2008 of the Mercy Sisters McAuley Community Services for Women.

Helen Margaret Black, and Lawrence Peter Black Pullenvale QLD “For service to the community of Pittsworth”, long term parishioners at local Anglican churches.

The Reverend Margaret Jane Blair, Healesville VIC, hooted for  service to the Uniting Church in Australia.Her roles include a long term as secretary of the Ecumenical Relations Committee, 1993-2017. She also co-ordinated several local Greens election campaigns.

Georgina Byrom, Taringa QLD, “For service to the Anglican Church of Australia, and to education”, she has served St Andrew’s Anglican Church Indooroopilly in many roles including Sunday School Coordinator, since 1997

Sister Monica Mary Cavanagh, Waverton NSW “For service to the Catholic Church of Australia.” a sister of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart since 1973.

Michael Wan-Man Choi, Birkdale QLD, recognised for his service as an MP, is a lay preachers at Redlands Christian Reformed Church and an elder, 2016-2019.

James Clarke, Jurien Bay WA, honoured for service to his community is a parishioner at Jurien Bay Catholic Church

Robyn Madelon Claydon, Hornsby Heights NSW, a key evangelical leader  was Chair, Australian Lausanne Committee, 1992-2006 and a former Leader, World Evangelical Alliance Women’s Commission Network for Women in Christian Leadership. Claydon was Vice-Principal, Abbotsleigh School, 1980-1989.

John Alan Cootes, Belmont NSW a five times NSW State of Origin Player , is  a member and contributer to the St Vincent de Paul Society in the Maitland Newcastle diocese.

Peter Crook, Kinglake VIC lead the rebuilding of Kinglake Anglican Church, after the Black Saturday bushfires

Ruth Adelaide Daws, Burnside SA, honoured for service to Uniting Church netball, is President, Monday Fellowship Group Burnside Uniting Church.

Mary Teresa Foley, Margate QLD for her work with St Vincent de Paul Society

Associate Professor Cecily Jane Freemantle, Mansfield VIC honoured for medical research, board member of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, Synod Member, Anglican Diocese of Wangaratta.

Paul Matthew Freestone, Keilor Village VIC  honoured for Road Transport Industry career, cited as a supporter of Mill Valley Ranch Christian Youth Camp

Richard David Griffiths, Lyneham ACT, hounded for founding Safe Shelter ACT, also served on parish council of St John’s Anglican Church, Reid.

Geoffrey Ross Grinton, Blackburn South VIC Honoured for service to the Uniting Church in Australia. He was Business Manager for the UCA National Assembly (triennial) Meetings, 2003-2018,  member of the Vic/Tas Synod Standing Committee, 1981-2017 and a member of Burwood Heights Uniting church since 1977.

George Halvagis, Mentone VIC, hounded for his work with the Victims of Crime Association also received the Victorian Wilberforce Award, Australian Christian Values Institute, 2007.

Dr Ian Victor Hansen, a former lecturer and reader in education at the University of Melbourne is a lay preacher at North Balwyn Uniting Church  and previously at Baptist churches.

Brian Douglas Hern, Walkerville SA, For service to the Uniting Church in Australia. Chair, Synod Stipends Committee, since 1999 and Treasurer, Brougham Place Uniting Church, since 1981

Neil Laurence Hirt, West Ulverstone TAS is honoured for service to many Anglican churches in Victoria and Tasmania.

Dr Morris Arthur Lee Holland Park West QLD honoured for missionary service in Bangladesh, 1977-1991. Founded Symbiosis International, a non- government organisation, assisting poverty stricken people of Bangladesh in 1993. President, Baptist Union of Queensland, 1993-1994.

James Rodham Lindsay, Gisborne VIC, a former Missionary Aviation Fellowship pilot, honoured for service to the community of the Macedon Ranges.

Roger Wilfrid McCauley, a lay preacher at Branches Community Church in Modbury SA (UCA) and a State Chaplain, Area Director and Secretary of Gideons.

Bridget Noreen McNamara, Shepparton VIC, a former Special Minister of the Eucharist and currently an emergency minister of St Brendan’s  parish.

Peter Charles McPhee, Leeton NSW 2705, a co-founder of the Catholic “Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults,” and a long career at St Francis de Sales Regional College.

Naim Melhem, Dandenong VIC, Member, Board of Trustees, Antioch Orthodox Church of Australia and New Zealand, since 2002.

Pastor Lance Gregory Mergard Founder, Senior Chaplain and Chief Executive Officer, since 2001 of Chaplainwatch based in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. Chaplainwatch is a “faith based ministry we are dedicated to serving anyone without prejuChief Executive, 2000-2017 dice.”  Mergard was ordained as a Minister through the Assemblies of God in Australia. He was Minister of Jimboomba Baptist Church, 1998-2000, and  Minister, Parramatta Christian Family Church, 1981-1985. He was also Chief Executive Officer, Teen Challenge New South Wales, 1988-1996.

Catherine Anne Milgate, Strathfield NSW, has been a long-term foster carer since 2003 and the Co-ordinator, Prayer and Reflection Time Group, Silverwater Women’s Prison, 2004-2017. she is Co-ordinator of  Monday Prayer Group at St Martha’s Strathfield.

Mark Anthony Morrison, Kempsey NSW was the subject of a recent ABC Australian Story for his work at the MacLeay Vocational College. He received his OAM for “service to vocational education, and to the community”. His citation notes that he has held many roles in the Lismore Catholic Diocese including Council Member, All Saints Parish, 1994-1997 and Council Member, Lismore Diocese Parish Council, 1997-2001.

Rosalind Kaye Murree-Allen, Newcastle NSW has been a chorister in the cathedral choir for more than 27 years.

Glenn Elliott Muskett, Hillarys WA received his OAM for service to aged care through the Presbyterian Church. He was CEO of Braemar Presbyterian Care, 2000-2017. He was Past Commissioner and Clerk of Assembly, of the PC in WA 2001-2013.

The Reverend Beth O’Neill, Blackall QLD, received her OAM for “For service to the community of Blackall.” She has been  Honorary Priest-In-Charge, Anglican Parish of Barcoo, Anglican Diocese of Rockhampton, since 1993.

Meryl Joy Packer, Kingston ACT  has been honoured for service to the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA). She volunteered at the Immanuel Woden Valley Op Shop for 32 years, and was a Sunday school teacher. Rex William Packer, Kingston ACT, was hounded also for service to the LCA including 30 years volunteering at the op-shop.

Raymond Ernest Palmer, Rouse Hill NSW, a member of Epping Baptist Church
since 1973 is honoured for his service to people of Epping. He “assists the elderly or sick, transport to/from church services and weekday activities, and distributing weekly church bulletins.”

Ian Mead Paterson, Devonport TAS , is a former Moderator of the Presbyterian church in Tasmania  and has been an elder of Devonport presbyterian church since 1964. His award is for “service to the community of Tasmania.”

The late Boniface Pirrimngip Perdjert, of Wadeye NT was the first Indigenous permanent deacon ordained in Australia following the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Deacon Boniface was a senior elder of the Kardu Diminin clan and a Murrinhpatha language speaker, and a traditional owner of the land on which the town of Wadeye (Port Keats) is built.

Rosemary Plummer, Tennant Creek NT honoured for service to the Indigenous community of the Northern Territory is a Domestic Violence Liaison Officer and Aboriginal Cultural Safety Trainer  for Catholiccare and a published poet.

Nigel James Porteous, South Yarra VIC, honoured for service to the community, and to the shipping transport industry , has been Vice Chairman, Mission to Seafarers Victoria Inc, since 2000.

Patricia Lorraine Powell, Rockingham WA  “for service to people who are homeless.” She is the Co-Founder and Manager, Servants of United Love (S.O.U.L) Soup Patrol (provides food and soup for the homeless), since 2008, and Co-Founder and Manager, S.O.U.L Care (provides support for women who are pregnant and homeless), since 2009.

Marjorie Anne Quinn, WA, awarded for “service to the community through a range of roles.” She has been a parishioner of St Christopher’s Anglican Church, Bicton since the 1960s.

Nerida Constance Reid, Hay NSW “For service to the community of Hay,” is a member of Hay Presbyterian Church.

Annette Gay (Honi) Reifler, NSW, was chair of Coffs Harbour Christian Community School, 2003-2018 and is a Sunday school teacher at Coffs Harbour Baptist Church. Jean-Pierre Reifler, Glenreagh NSW is honoured with Annette as co-founders of Sherwood Cliffs Christian Rehabilitation Centre.

Jose Relunia, Penrith NSW “For service to the Filipino community of New South Wales,” was President, Australian Devotees of Our Lady of Penafrancia, 2005-2016, and has many roles in the Catholic Filipino Chaplaincy.

The Reverend Albert William Rosier, Galston NSW, “for service to the Uniting Church of Australia, and to the community.” Bible Society’s Melisaa Lipsett says “His life has been filled with service to others. This includes serving as a chaplain for 26 years in the Navy, a chaplain at Royal North Shore Hospital, 60+ years as a minister in the Uniting Church and many roles in service to the community.All done with with a humble and caring heart. He opened the Bible to me over 36 years ago and helped me to understand that I wasn’t who I thought I was, but I was who God said I was. Life changing! ”

Adrian John Rumore, Lyneham ACT helped found Youtcare Canberra. he is cited as a parishioner of St Michael’s Catholic Church, Kaleen.

Michael Francis Said, Montmorency VIC, honoured for services to accountancy, is cited as a St Vincent de Paul volunteer.

Nenia Helen Tavrou, Ascot Vale VIC has been a volunteer in  Prayer Counselling at Williamstown Baptist Church, since 1998.
She has also served as a Foster Carer, BaptCare for 14 years and as a volunteer Justice of the Peace.

Janet Iris Thomas, Chapel Hill QLD,  “For service to youth through the Girls Brigade”. She has lead companies of the girls brigade at Moore Park Baptist Church, St Lucia Uniting Church, and Balgowlah Methodist Church since 1972.

The Reverend Father Christos Triandafyllou, Sans Souci NSW “For service to the Greek Orthodox community of Belmore,” where he has been priest since 1976.

The Reverend Dr Jennifer Gibson Turner, Watermans Bay WA, has been honoured for service to the Baptist Church, and to Churches of Christ. in addition to pastoring churches she has been a writer for Zadok Institute for Christianity and Society, 1983-1997 and forScripture Union.

The late Daniele Velcich of Blacktown NSW founded Saint Maria of Cherso, a Croatian Cultural Club and was President, 1966 until 2018. he was a parishioner at several local churches.

Peter James Walsh, Beaumaris VIC “for service to the Catholic Church”. He was a co-founder of a Catholic men’s group Catenians Victoria

Esther Meryl Watson and Pastor Francis James Watson, Belgrave Heights VIC, served the Dandenong Ranges Emergency Relief Service and were co-founders of Highway Christian Fellowship.

Jocelyn Yvonne Watson, Newstead TAS was church elder at East Launceston Uniting Church for over 20 years.

The late Guy Alan Winship, Belrose NSW, founded Good Return a microfinace and business education charity. He was a Board Member for Salvation Army International Development, 2016-2018.

Lexie Eileen Young, Deloraine TAS . “For service to the community of Deloraine” has been a member of Deloraine Uniting church’s Adult Fellowship Group for 55 years, a Sunday school teacher and active in many community groups.






Please point out other recipients of awards who are Christians.