Queen's Birthday Honours in sport, mining, medicine

WHEN Brett Austine returned home from the national gymnastics championships in Sydney a week ago, his wife had a letter for him.

In honour of his service to gymnastics, first as a competitor, and now as a coach and Olympic-level judge, he was to receive a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).

Mr Austine is one of 23 Hunter identities who appear on today’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list, and one of 13 to receive an OAM.

Click on the link at the right of the page for a full list of Hunter residents on the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

This year’s recipients cover a wide spectrum of professions and areas of contribution from sports and social welfare to mineral resources, medicine, botanic gardens and Landcare.

For Mr Austine, it has been a humbling experience, but he admits that as a coach he continues to put in a lot of hard work, with more than few eleven o’clock and midnight finishes.

‘‘It’s one of those things that you know if you are going to get these things done, provide opportunities to the kids, you have just got to put the work in.’’

Mr Austine, who is the sports co-ordinator at Belmont High School where he has been based for several years, started competitive trampolining at the age of seven.

His father, Fred Austine, was the national coach for about 15 years and had a big influence on him, Mr Austine said.

‘‘I guess I had access to, and was indoctrinated into having an active lifestyle and trampolining was my thing, and my real passion.’’

Mr Austine won five consecutive championships from the age of eight, and went on to win more than 40 national trampoline titles.

‘‘You don’t set out to do those things, to win awards, you follow your passion and you work hard and ... I’m just trying to encourage kids within our community to be active, which is critical when we are being influenced more and more by sedentary activities such as computers and computer games.’’

Other recipients include Mineral Resources NSW executive director Brad Mullard, of Rutherford, who will receive a Public Service Medal, Geoffrey Olsen OAM, who will receive an Australian Fire Service Medal, and Hunter Valley Local Area Commander Des Organ, who will receive an Australian Police Medal.

The region will lay claim to four appointees to the Order of Australia (AMs) while two identities will be apointed Officers of the Order of Australia (AO), including the former vice-chancellor of the University of Newcastle, Professor Nick Saunders.

Professor Saunders, who retired as vice-chancellor in October, said he was enjoying a break, spending time with families and friends and doing some consulting work, before taking on his next role. He was recently appointed chairman of the Australian Government’s Repatriation Medical Authority, which he takes up next month.

The authority is a medical science body of specialists who look at the scientific evidence of medical injuries and illness.

Professor Saunders said it had been a long time since he had been focused on medicine and public health and he was looking forward to reviewing scientific literature again.

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