Ross B. Taylor AM
I was at King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women two days ago to visit our daughter Lisa and our gorgeous first granddaughter, Ember Katherine.
KEMH is a wonderful old maternity hospital with incredibly dedicated staff and doctors. The hospital cafe is, so I learned, operated to raise reasearch money for babies and mums’ who have been disadvantaged or facing major challenges in their life.
As I waited for Lisa’s coffee I couldn’t help notice the lady behind the counter. Her name was Ellen and her badge also stated, ‘Volunteer’.
So I asked her about the shop and what she does:
“Oh, I just work here five days a week as a volunteer trying to help the shop and all the mums in need”
“So how long have you been doing that?” I asked.
“About ten years now, love”, she replied with a smile, “But some of the ladies out the back making sandwiches and cakes have been here for 15 years. We love doing this.”
As I looked at this lady in her sixties, I reflected that two years ago I was humbled to receive an AM – A Member of the Order of Australia – for my services to the community and Indonesia-Australia relations. It was a high point of my life, and such an incredible honour to join with so many truly distinguished Australians.
But then I couldn’t stop looking at Ellen, as she went about her duties serving yet another customer buying a sandwich or coffee - probably for a loved one upstairs with a baby.
“But who recognises Ellen?” I asked myself out loud.
The truth is that ‘recognition’ would not have even entered the mind of this lovely lady and her other friends in this little coffee shop. And most people don’t even know about her contribution to making our country a better place.
For me, I have a relatively high profile. Ellen and her friends don't have a high profile ; they are the hidden gems in our society who ask for nothing and usually receive nothing. It really doesn’t matter to them.
As I walked towards the ward that is currently home to my daughter and granddaughter, I couldn’t help but reflect on the Knighthood to Prince Philip by our Prime Minister on Australia Day. A time of year that should be a day to acknowledge all the ‘Ellen’s’ who are found in every suburb, in every state in Australia. The real unsung heroes.
My award that I have proudly held for two years does indeed seem diminished by our Prime Minister’s actions in placing a foreign person above us all, including outstanding Australians such as Angus Houston and the Australian-of-the Year , Rosie Batty.
But my heart truly aches when I see Ellen. This Australia Day our PM sent a message to Ellen and her team at the KEMH .
“Ellen, small people like you, the Aussie battlers, don’t really count”.
And that breaks my heart because if this is the Australia Tony Abbott wants, then it’s not the Australia I want to be part of.