Nepal continues to feature prominently within the list of achievements of half a dozen 2019 Order of Australia medal winners, with at least one recognised solely for their work in the Himalayan nation.
Paul Hameister – the first Australian to complete the Seven Summits and Polar Hat-trick, photographer Kerry Pryor, and polymer clay artist Wendy Moore have been awarded the 2019 Order of Australia medal by the outgoing Governor-General of Australia, Sir Peter Cosgrove.
They are among the 993 recipients in the general division of this year's Queen's Birthday Honours list.
Australia’s former ambassador to Nepal, Crispin Conroy, nursing educator Professor Kerry Anne Reid–Searl, and Rotarian Colin Harding have also been included in the list.
In announcing his last honours list at the end of his five - year term, the Governor General said the awards provide an opportunity to thank fellow Australians for their tireless service.
“On behalf of all Australians, I congratulate today’s recipients. They have made an enormous contribution to their local communities and to the entire nation and deserve our thanks, admiration and to be celebrated,” he said.
Of the 1,214 award winners that have been included in the honours list this year, 40 per cent are women. 221 people have also received meritorious and military awards.
“Some names on today’s list are well known. Many only those they help and serve day-in-day-out know more. They are all wonderful people and are all worthy of recognition and celebration,” said the Governor-General.
The Quiet Achiever
Wendy Moore from the Australian Capital Territory maybe one such person known only to people she is helping.
The Ainslie resident has been awarded the Order of Australia medal for her service to the international community of Nepal.
The Polymer clay artist is the founder and director at Friends of Samunnat, an organization in eastern Nepali district of Jhapa, that supports female victims of violence in the country.
Since its inception in 2006, she has been providing local women with training and support to make and sell polymer jewellery.
“Because you can’t get polymer in Nepal, initially Friends of Samunnat were buying the clay for women to make the jewellery – and we help them distribute,” says Moore.
Those pieces of jewellery are sold in Australia and the funds raised from the sales help provide legal, accommodation, education, and health support for Nepali women,” she told SBS Nepali.
Ms Moore has previously lived in Nepal for four years and now visits the country twice a year.
“I think I’ve had more than 40 trips to Nepal and that feeling I had the first time I visited the country in 1975 as a teenager, hasn’t left.
“It feels like one of my homes,” she says.
“My husband and I had felt we wanted to do some work over there in some capacity- when our kids left home. He got a job at BP Koirala hospital in Dharan. I had been working for many years in brain injury and I wanted to focus on arts – so at that stage, I was hoping that my art and my desire to work in Nepal would match.”
But for Wendy Moore, it’s not just about what she has given but what she has learnt from her experience in Nepal.
She thinks her work with Samunnat Nepal has provided meaning to her and her husband’s life.
The Nepali speaking OAM winner says she feels incredibly honoured and excited to receive the award.
“For me, the incentive and drive have always been about making a difference. If you have had a good fortune to be born in Australia then you have to share that fortune,” says Moore.
“I might be the most excited recipient, don’t know how I’ll bring it up in conversations.”
Off the beaten track
Kerry Pryor is another Australian who had never thought about being included in the Order of Australia award.
The award-winning Melbourne photographer is currently in Nepal and described what she thought when she first found out about the recognition.
“I do get a lot of spams so I did have to read the email a few times to make sure,” Pryor told SBS Nepali.
“It wasn’t on my radar so it is an honour to be acknowledged,” she said.
Pryor's first visit to Nepal was very different to many Australians who have visited the country.
In April 2015, when she was scheduled to travel to Kathmandu, a devastating earthquake rocked the country killing more than 8,000 people.
Two weeks later, in May, another quake took the lives of more than 1,900 people.
“The group I was meant to be meeting had a crisis to deal with after the first earthquake on April 25, so my trip got delayed.”
A month later, she arrived in the southern Nepali city of Birgunj.
Her visit to the city focused on seeing some of the local programs run by an Australian registered charity, called Beyond the Orphanage.
The group, she says, helps children rescued from child traffickers or housed at illegal orphanages.
Ms Pryor has been working as a Child Sponsorship Coordinator and Photographer for Beyond the Orphanage since 2011.
Along with Nepal, the organization also works in Kenya.
Kerry Pryor's volunteer photography began about ten years ago when she was working for Eyes for Africa charitable foundation.
Among her roles in Nepal, she has to coordinate correspondence between sponsors and the children through the orphanage every six months.
Pryor says she likes to show hope through her photography.
“The kids are really resilient… I want to show those kids getting stronger.”
But she is also aware of the issues surrounding volunteer tourism or “voluntourism” where tourists can do more harm than good for the locals.
“It’s something we’re becoming more aware of. It can be difficult to regulate the world over. With the photography I do, I am very conscious of that – who I’m doing the photography for and do my due diligence.”
Like daughter, like father
Record making is turning into a family affair for another Order of Australia medal winner this year.
Mountaineer and entrepreneur Paul Hameister is another Victorian to be included in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
He has been recognized for his service to exploration and to business.
In 2018, he became the first Australian to successfully scale the seven tallest mountains in seven continents and complete the Polar hat trick by skiing through the South Pole, the North Pole and Greenland.
Paul’s 17-year-old daughter Jade has also set her own world record by becoming the youngest person to ski through Greenland and the north and south poles.
He accompanied his daughter for the polar adventure. Jade Hameister was also awarded the Order of Australia medal.
Among Paul Hameister’s key achievements, Nepal has occupied a prominent space.
He reached the top of Mount Everest in 2011 and founded a charity, the same year, called Sunrise Children's Association the same year to support children in Nepal.
“When I was privileged enough to reach the top of Everest, I felt very deep debt gratitude to the people of Nepal. Not just due to my experience there but I do not think there are many westerners who would be able to do that without the help of local people,” he says.
“The program I’ve been involved with through sunrise is the educational scholarship program where, rather than support the orphanages, they also run a program to try and stop children being abandoned into orphanages.”
In 2013, the Nepalese Association of Victoria recognized his work in Nepal with an excellence award.
Unlike Kerry Pryor, Mr Hameister’s first visit to Nepal was for trekking and white water rafting when he was 20-years-old.
He has also conducted research into the impact of tourism on developing countries and that has provided him with some insights on Nepal.
Two years after summiting Mount Everest in 2011, Paul brought his wife and two kids and trekked to the base camp of the world’s tallest mountain.
Jade, his daughter was 12 and his son was 10 years old.
With the current debate surrounding the number of mountaineers on Everest this season, Paul Hamister doesn’t think the number of climbers attempting to summit the mountain has changed significantly over the last decade.
“What has changed is the accuracy of weather forecasting,” he says.
The improvement in weather forecasting means people wanting to utilize the limited summit days available will increase and this he says can lead to the situation where people are seen queuing on the mountain.
“The teams at base camp see the forecast and decide what day to summit. But there’s no coordination between the teams at basecamp to try and spread themselves across various days. Each season there are days when you’re able to take photos like that,” says Hamister referring to the viral image of mountaineers in a long line.
According to him, the solution to such a situation is about coordination rather than reducing the number of permits issued for mountaineers.
With numerous mountaineering and business achievements under his name, Hameister wants to change his approach to life. He doesn’t shy away from accepting that his early days in expedition and business were driven by ego.
Now, he says, it’s about giving back and being less focused on goals.
“Acknowledging and recognizing what I gained from those expeditions – which are a deep appreciation of nature and the environment and its importance.”
Other winners of the Order of Australia medal in the general category also include Australia’s former Ambassador to Nepal Crispin Conroy.
Currently serving as Representative Director at the International Chamber of Commerce in Switzerland, Mr Conroy was in Nepal from 1999–2002.
He was awarded for significant service to international relations and trade.
The Order of Australia medal for providing significant service to nurse education was awarded to Queensland Professor Kerry Anne Reid- Searl.
The registered nurse and midwife with 36 years of experience have been coordinating student learning experiences in Nepal since 2010.
Rotarian Colin Harding from Victoria, who has served as a volunteer in Nepal was recognized for his service to the community through a range of organisations.
Anyone can nominate any Australian for an award in the Order of Australia. If you know someone worthy, nominate them now at www.gg.gov.au.