The unsung heroes receiving Australia Day honours

Each year, Australians are honoured for their community work.

Each year, Australians are honoured for their community work. Photo: AAP

Every Australia Day, members of the community are honoured for their contributions to their community and the rest of the country.

Although they may not be as well known as celebrities who get similar awards, these unsung Aussie heroes are making a difference in the best way they can.

Preserving history

When Catherine Sedgewick started looking into her family history, she never thought it would result in an Australia Day honour.

She said before beginning her research, she wasn’t interested in history.

“It’s very addictive and you need to be like a detective because you’ll find a brick wall and have to find another way,” Sedgewick said.

“I was researching my husband’s side of the family tree and I joined a history website where you adopt a village, so I chose the village my grandfather lived in.”

There are about 3000 war graves of Australian soldiers in England, and that chance decision has led Sedgewick to plot them and make the information publicly available.

“I’ve been trying to educate people and let them know we’ve got World War I graves in England,” she said.

“Sometimes it will be six pages worth of information on a soldier, and other times it could be 26 pages.”

Catherine Sedgewick’s research has helped other people find their family history. Photo: Catherine Sedgewick

Her collaboration with other researchers has also led to the restoration of a World War I chalk map of Australia in the United Kingdom.

“They had training camps based in Salisbury, and the British soldiers started doing their badges along the hillside and the Australian decided we should do a map of Australia,” Sedgewick said.

“So Helen Roberts, a few years ago decided it should be restored, so she got all these volunteers together and got it done.”

Most of all, her research has helped countless other people to find out their history.

“People send emails to me, thanking me for helping them find their relatives,” Sedgewick said.

“I’ve never been to England and I hate flying, but we are going to have to go so I can see all my soldiers.”

Taking to the skies

When The New Daily caught up with Margaret-Anne Hayes, she was busy walking her three dogs Tom, Tilly and Thor.

“We’ve got a little rescue dog. He’s only about 18 months old and was dumped at a pound,” she said.

“We fostered her, but we kept her in the end.”

Hayes turns 84 years old in a few weeks, and the Turramurra local is planning her third charity skydive for when she is 85.

“I’m absolutely terrified of heights and snakes, and I was trying to think of ways that equate to sitting across from an oncologist and being told you have cancer,” she said.

“My passion is pancreatic cancer and rare cancers because they aren’t highly funded.”

Margaret-Anne Hayes is preparing for her third charity skydive. Photo: Skydive the beach

Having been involved in plenty of charitable drives, Hayes is showing no sign of slowing down.

“You hear people at 40 say, oh, I’m so old, but I didn’t really come into my own I was in my late 60s,” she said.

“It took me 10 years to raise $250,000, but I’m just one of many.”

Hayes has also launched her one-woman drought appeal, organised charity drives for people affected by the Cobargo bushfires and every May organises a flea market for her church, which led to her OAM nomination.

She said following the death of her son because of a “cancer of the soul”, she felt the need to give back to the community.

“I couldn’t save my son from dying, but if I can save another mother from losing a son to physical cancer, that in a way has kept me going,” she said.

“There’s so much generosity in the community that goes unheralded and unsung, and there are so many incredible volunteers who should be standing where I am.”

Giving back

Trevor Ricketts moved to Monbulk, Victoria at 16 years old with his mother and sister.

A few weeks shy of his 92nd birthday, Ricketts will be celebrating it with an OAM for his service to the town that welcomed him.

Today, he can usually be found at the Monbulk Men’s Shed, where he enjoys the friendship.

“I’m a glass cutter and I can help with that, although I’m not getting any younger,” he said.

“I put things back into this town because they were very good to me when I came out from England.”

His family chose Monbulk because his mother’s penpal helped sponsor them to move to Australia and Ricketts believes the town chose him just as much as they chose it.

Aside from being the vice president and founding member of the Men’s Shed, Ricketts has been president of the local Rotary Club, soccer club, Business and Traders Association, Scouts Parents Committee and a Justice of the Peace.

He said anybody wondering about getting involved in their local community should “do your best, join and help people out”.

“I wanted to see the rest of Victoria, but moved back to Monbulk,” he said.

“I put my heart and soul into this town, and it’s given me a lift in return.”

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