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Eleven exceptional Gold Coasters receive the Order of Australia 2022

A girl and man on SLSC board in the ocean

Natalie O’Driscoll | February 3, 2022

Nicholas Marshall, OAM with Albatross Nippers

Eleven extraordinary Gold Coast residents have been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia on the 26 January 2022 honours list.

Of the 732 recipients of the General Division of the Order of Australia, these eleven outstanding Gold Coasters were recognised for noteworthy contributions to their respective fields and communities.

We chatted to three of this year’s recipients about their wins.

Simone Patterson, OAM

A woman sitting and smiling at the camera

Five and half years ago, following the violent death of Tara Brown at the hands of her partner, Gold Coast social worker and abuse survivor Simone Patterson said “enough” and resolved to do anything she could to help women escaping DV.

She and her husband took out a mortgage they couldn’t really afford, and set up the Sanctuary Refuge. It’s the only women’s DV crisis accommodation on the Gold Coast that takes boys over the age of 12 and pets, meaning that women can leave violent relationships without the fear of having to leave their teenage boys and pets behind with their abusers.

Unfortunately, Sanctuary Refuge does not qualify for government funding, making it wholly dependent on the generosity of philanthropists, and fundraising efforts. Simone’s effort to keep the Sanctuary running have been non-stop, frequently meaning months in a row without a day off for this dedicated advocate.

We spoke to her about her reaction to the award.

“I was pretty humbled actually,” Simon tells us, “and I think it’s gorgeous that it’s a child who nominated me and made it all happen.

“His mum is a volunteer at the refuge, so when it’s a personal connection like that, it’s even more beautiful.”

Simone has been nominated several times before, but it’s never gotten beyond the early stages, so at every step she was expecting to hear ‘thanks but no thanks’. Then when she found out about the award, she pondered whether she should even be receiving it.

“I thought ‘wow, someone else was surely better’,” she recalls. “People are curing cancer and things and I don’t feel like I do as good a job as some people out there that are doing amazing things.”

The number of women, children and animals helped and saved by Sanctuary would undoubtedly beg to differ, with the refuge now having provided a safe place for over 200 families since it opened its doors.

The Sanctuary does more than offer a room for the night. Families can stay for up to three months and are given access to mental health professionals, counselling and the tools they need to get a fresh start. Rarely do her residents go back to their previous home, because Simone and her team help to create new opportunities for these people.

These days Simone is constantly trying to raise awareness for the insanity of the current rules around refuges and boys over the age of 12 and pets being allowed to stay with their mothers and sisters. She is also desperately trying to keep the Sanctuary afloat by raising funds.

The definition of a survivor, Simone has fought through an abusive childhood, an abusive marriage and a toxic and abusive workplace. She’s recovered from major long-term injury from a crash and major surgery, requiring months of rehab. And yet still she spends her life fighting for others.

We can’t think of anyone more worthy of a nod.

Dr Stephen Godfrey, OAM.

A man smiling into the camera

Dr Stephen Godfrey an ophthalmologist and is one of the founding partners of Outlook Eye Specialists. He is also President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) Queensland Branch, a National RANZCO Examiner, and a Visiting Medical Officer at Gold Coast University Hospital, where he trains and supervises registrars. He was awarded for his services to Opthalmology.

“It’s a wonderful honour, I’m very chuffed,” says Dr Godfrey of his acknowledgment. “My dad got one of these for services to blue nursing. He was on the original steering committee that established Blue Nurses, now Blue Care, over half a century ago.

“He’s passed away now. So the main positive for me is following in my father’s footsteps.”
In addition to his work on the Gold Coast, Dr Godfrey is also heavily committed to the outreach eye surgery program in remote North Queensland where he helps to deliver eye care to the local Aboriginal communities.

“I think it’s fair to say the Cape York is regarded as the benchmark of Indigenous eye care in Australia,” Dr Godfrey explains.

“It was set up by Rowan Churchill and Mark Loane, and I’ve been going up there since 1999.

“At first I thought ‘gee whiz, to get an award for that’, because really it’s given me everything. I’ve enjoyed every minute up there. It’s a wonderful opportunity to make a real difference. If it wasn’t for this program, the Indigenous people up there wouldn’t see an optometrist or opthalmologist, full stop.”

Dr Godfrey spent seven years as a GP and country medical superintendent in the central west of Queensland, before coming to Brisbane to gain his Opthalmology fellowship in 1999, something he recalls as a career highlight.

But it’s teaching on the Gold Coast that he considers one of the greatest opportunities in his work.

“I love teaching registrars,” he says.

“I’ve been working at the Gold Coast Hospital for 23 years now, and I can tell you, our Gold Coast University Hospital is running one of the premium eye units in Australia.

“Everyone wants to train on the Gold Coast.”

Nicholas Marshall, OAM

A man smiling into the camera

Sports and musculoskeletal physiotherapist, Adjunct Assistant Professor, and founder of Albatross Nippers Nick Marshall, has a passion for ensuring those with special needs and disability are included in the community.

He’ll also tell you until he’s blue in the face that he’s nothing special and isn’t deserving of any kind of recognition. But anyone who has met him – and the Albatross Nippers community in particular – will tell you otherwise, hence his nomination for an award.

An advocate for increased participation in surf lifesaving activities for many years, in 2015 Nick created the Albatross Nippers – an all-inclusive Nipper program at Nobbys Beach SLSC, helping children with special needs experience nippers with other children of similar ages.

The program has now expanded to multiple surf lifesaving clubs all over Australia, and even one in New Zealand.

“I didn’t realise how big of a deal the award was until everyone made a big deal of it,” laughs Nick.

“Because of COVID, things haven’t happened as fast as I hoped, but there are still clubs all over the country that have started a program.

“Every state now has one, except for the Northern Territory, and people are finding that it’s been easily replicable wherever they live.”

Nick feels strongly that the world has changed for the better – particularly in the last four or five years – when it comes to conversations around accessibility and inclusion.

“People are shifting their general beliefs around what’s possible, what inclusion looks like, what accessibility looks like,” he says.

“Five years ago Dylan Alcott certainly wasn’t Australian of the Year. All our attitudes have changed, and mine included!

“I didn’t know anyone with a disability growing up and no one in my family had a disability, so when I was putting the program together I was quite blind and naïve.

“Over time I’ve learned about my own biases and prejudices, thinking that things can’t be done, and then it happens and you see what’s possible and realise you can actually do more.”
Nick’s work with the Albatross Nippers has been the subject of a documentary titled ‘Included’ and also a book by the same name.

“I’d like to encourage people to buy the book ‘Included’ from the Albatross nippers website,’ says Nick. “I put it out to show people how ordinary I am and how anyone can implement this program themselves.

“It’s a not-for-profit thing, all the proceeds go back to keep the program free for these families, and to give us the legs to branch out into more surf clubs.”

As for Nick’s long-term dream? “In a decade’s time there won’t be Albatross nippers, it’ll just be nippers and it will be for everyone.”

Other Gold Coast recipients:

  • The Honourable Samuel Sydney DOUMANY Sanctuary Cove QLD 4212 For significant service to parliament and politics in Queensland, and to the community
  • Mr Roger Mallory EMMERSON Paradise Point QLD 4216 For service to the community through a range of organisations.
  • Professor Alfred King-yin LAM Reedy Creek QLD 4227 For significant service to tertiary education, to research, and to pathology.
  • Emeritus Professor Marianne Clare WALLIS Gold Coast QLD 4217 For significant service to tertiary education, to nursing, and to research.
  • Ms Chelsea Mae HODGES Benowa QLD 4217 For service to sport as a gold medallist at the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020.
  • Mr Logan MARTIN QLD 4210 For service to sport as a gold medallist at the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020.
  • Mr Keegan Christopher PALMER Gold Coast QLD 4217 For service to sport as a gold medallist at the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020.
  • Mr Jean VAN DER WESTHUYZEN Mermaid Beach QLD 4218 For service to sport as a gold medallist at the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020.

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