Locals including Ellen Leis and Robert Rotar have been recognised for their service and dedication to the Bundaberg Region with an Order of Australia Medal.
The Order of Australia recognises Australians who have demonstrated outstanding service or exceptional achievement.
Awarded for her service to the Bundaberg community, Ellen Leis has selflessly given thousands of hours and dedicated more than 45 years through local volunteering.
She has played vital roles in a number of community organisations including Fairymead Swimming Club, Bundaberg Athletics Club and West Bundaberg Little Athletics Club, Make A Wish Foundation and her passion continues at Brothers Bundaberg Bowls Club.
The great-grandmother has a strong connection to the local sporting community, with her children Brad, Jodi and Samantha, growing up heavily involved in sport.
“Sport has always just been part of our lives,” Ellen said.
“My biggest achievement in life was definitely having three wonderful kids.”
She said it was pleasure being involved in organisations which were family orientated especially with sport, as her children and grandchildren, including Australian Paralympic Rheed McCracken, were given excellent opportunities through this.
Living in the Bundaberg Region since 1975, Ellen joined the Fairymead Swimming Club in 1976 and she was instrumental in helping to establish the swimming pool.
“All of my memories are wonderful,” she said.
“We helped to build the Fairymead Pool complex and that was a wonderful, wonderful time.
“My daughter Jodi was an Australian champion swimmer and there was no winter training here, so we built the winter pool for them.
“We were fortunate to have the land donated, and we also held bingo for 15 years to do it.
“I supposed we worked every Saturday; I concreted around the side of the pool at times and things like that.
“It was definitely work, but we were very lucky and that’s how Fairymead Pool started.”
Ellen, 84, said she “never liked to sit around” and that philosophy remained strong today.
“Athletics was with my grandchildren Rheed and Madelyn, so I loved that,” she said.
“And bowls is what I do.
“While Make A Wish is for just doing something that was for the kids.
“It all keeps me busy. I enjoy being active – it keeps you young.
“When you get older there are a lot of things you can’t do, but I still help out at bowls it keeps your mind busy and if you stay with a group, such as the friends I made in 1975, it all helps.”
Robert Rotar, OAM, inspires through his music
During his musical career Robert has also been a conductor for Bundaberg Municipal Band and a guest conductor with Queensland Youth Orchestra, Queensland Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, and Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
His passion also led him to a career of sharing music with the next generation as a teacher at both St Luke's Anglican School and Kepnock State High School.
Bundaberg Youth Orchestra assistant conductor Delwyn Ainsworth congratulated Robert on behalf of the group for receiving the Order of Australia Medal.
“Robert is musical director of Bundaberg Youth Orchestra and conductor of our senior orchestra known as BYO1, and he celebrated his 30th year conducting this orchestra in 2021,” she said.
“Robert has long played a part in the musical community of Bundaberg since his arrival here as a music teacher with the Dept. of Ed in 1988.
“He conducted the Bundaberg Municipal Band for 21 years and has also been a guest conductor for Bundaberg Orpheus Singers, Bundaberg Sinfonietta and Pro Musica, as well as conducting touring groups from Queensland Youth Orchestras, Camerata and Queensland Symphony Orchestras.
“At Bundaberg Youth Orchestra we greatly value his expertise as a conductor and his immense skill as a teacher and mentor to young people.
“He has been an integral part of our organisation since 1991, and has encouraged many of our members to take up careers in music, both as professional musicians and teachers.”
Past concert master of BYO1 Kate Hardisty said of Robert continued to inspire others in the community.
“His passion and love of music has been an inspiration to many,” she said.
“He has a wealth of knowledge which he continues to generously share – he is so humble he wouldn't like me to say, but I believe Robert is the reason many of us pursued careers in music”.
Delwyn and Kate both agreed that Robert continued to inspire people in the rehearsal room to work to achieve their best, and they said the encouragement and support he provided to those he taught reached far beyond their musical abilities.
Governor-General applauds OAM receipients
Governor-General John Hurley applauded the outstanding Australians who were recognised in the Honours List.
“The recipients have had a significant impact at the local, national and international level and are, quite simply, inspiring,” the Governor-General said.
“They go above and beyond, are from all over the country, and contribute every day in every way imaginable. These are the people who see us through good times and bad. They’re the first to show up and the last to leave.
“They’re almost always humble to a fault but I urge recipients, for today, to put aside that humility – it’s important they know how much they are valued.”
There are 736 awards in the General Division of the Order of Australia, with 48 per cent for women and 45 per cent for service to local communities.
“It is encouraging to see an increase in diversity in the Order of Australia,” he said.
“Each recipient has something in common – someone nominated them.
“The Order belongs to each of us and we each have a part to play. The only way a person can be recognised is for someone to nominate them.”
To view the entire list of Order of Australia Medal recipients click here.