June 16th 2010
Lorna Hempstead receives Order of Australia
“I burst into tears when I heard,” is how Magnetic Island Community Development Association President, Lorna Hempstead described her reaction to the news on Monday that she had been awarded an Order of Australia – making her Ms Lorna Hempstead AM.
When Magnetic Times arrived to learn more there were 16 pals of Lorna's sitting around the dining table and helping the Island dynamo enjoy the moment. Not least of whom was her husband Martin Gibson who said, “I am very proud of her award!”
As Lorna put it, “Martin was absolutely bursting with pride. He had known about the nomination since 2008.”
In fact, as one of the chief instigators of the gong for Lorna, Martin had gone to great lengths to keep the nomination process a secret. He used a code-named computer file for all the correspondence and accumulated material, titled “Shepherds pie” a recipe Lorna knew backwards and would never need to consult if ever she was browsing nearby.
The process actually started with former colleagues of Lorna's who worked with her in Townsville since she arrived from England 26 years ago.
Below we have included one of the submissions which supported Lorna's nomination so as to give readers something of an idea of what earns an Order of Australia.
But for a few moments among the celebrations Lorna, at 61 and looking 10 years the younger, was happy to reflect on her times and most fulfilling achievements which began in Australia at Townsville's professional Contemporary Dance Company, Dance North.
Arriving with a string of theatre related skills in 1984 Lorna took up the challenge of becoming General Manager of Dance North.
“We started from a base of nothing but two years later restarted the youth amateur company. Both were rebuilt from the ground up to do some really incredible things including taking the company to Burma and Vietnam in the 1980s then later China and Japan.
Lorna recalls how she spent every Sunday counting coin donations which eventually raised enough to send 26 young people to the World Youth Dance Festival. “I swear we banked $100,000 in change!” she laughs.
Feeling that the close-knit arts world was all-consuming at times and, with a life-long fondness for boating, Lorna, who was waiting for her partner Martin to join her in Australia, decided to join the volunteer Coast Guard. “It was such a fabulous contrast and in time I came to organise two big boat shows which raised money towards the Coast Guards new boats.” Martin soon joined Lorna in Australia and teamed up with the Coast Guard in his spare time as well.
In 1993 Martin had unfortunately been suffering from a serious heart ailment and had open heart surgery. She had been on tour with Dance North in Vietnam for 8 weeks with no options to leave or even get a phone call out when her brother-in-law died in South Africa. With a friend from the Soroptomists losing a husband at the time Lorna, had an “if only” question grow in her. The longer version of which was, “If only we had taken our chance to move to Magnetic Island when we could.”
With Martin on board the couple were moving within weeks. They'd already bought tiny Kareeka cottage which is next door to their present house on the Esplanade in Nelly Bay. The Dance North team helped load the truck with all their worldly possessions and onto the barge they rolled. But for an couple with such superb organisational skills (Martin was a mine site logistics planner) Magnetic Island was to cast an immediate and amusingly befuddling spell. It was only when they were half-way across Cleveland Bay that they realised that with Martin's heart condition, there was absolutely no way they would ever be able to unload.
For Magnetic Island the error was indeed fortunate. Two weeks earlier they had been over and introduced themselves to the neighbours. Now on arrival they back-up the truck with Martin under Doctor's orders not to lift anything and there were the neighbours including former Island resident's Alan valentine and his partner Erica with other neighbours, Cassy and Barry Tobin. Alan said, “Well let's get you unloaded”.
“That's when the charm of the Island really struck me. People we barely knew were there to help,” said Lorna. It fitted in with a deep seated motivation Lorna seems to have inherited from her parents. Her mother, a primary school teacher and her father, a middle manager, dedicated much of their personal time to “giving back”.
“It was never laid down and I was probably in my mid twenties when I twigged what was going on as a kid. During the school holidays mum went to work and would come back with 'friends' for me to play with through the day. Then they were taken home. Mum was taking kids who were at risk and abused. She was feeding them and giving them clothes. There were different kids coming and going. It was very transitory and I was supposed to share my toys with them. I suppose I just sensed what was going on.”
Lorna's father was, she learned before he died, approached by the Labour Party before WWII to run as a social justice candidate. “But dad was someone who could never handle the spotlight,” said Lorna.
It seems the Hempsteads were cast from a traditional British mould. Lorna speaks of a shared trait. “They had the ability to be apparently or publically unphased by adversity. The stiff upper lip!” She then reflects on personally painful experiences, “I'd be blowed if I'm gonna show other people that!”
Given their warm Island welcome it is little wonder that on the day they arrived on Magnetic, Lorna fell deeply for the Island and its community. She heard that the former MI Community and Commerce Association was soon to have an Annual General Meeting. The newcomers felt compelled to attend. They met more locals such as Geoff Considine, Sue Malone and Mike Mercer who were “struggling to find a secretary and treasurer” Lorna told them, "I don't mind doing secretary” and Martin said, “Then I'll be treasurer”. Many locals would know the rest that is history.
At the core of Lorna's success however, apart from the enormous amount of hard work, has been her superb organisational skills. When asked what the keys to being a great organiser are, she said – unaware of her highly organised answer: “A. Don't panic. B. Lateral thinking. An innate sense of ,'let's walk through it (a plan) and work out how it will go but with a lateral sense of what if it doesn't work that way, and being able to subconsciously know what might happen.”
Lorna will soon be visiting the Govenor of Queensland (date to be set) to receive her Order of Australia medal, "for service to the arts as an administrator in the fields of theatre and dance, and to the community through a range of heritage, tourism, aged care and educational institutions."
Story and photo: George Hirst
Following is an abridged version of Martin Gibson's submission in support of Lorna's nomination.
Written in support of an application for an Australian award recognising the contribution made by:
Lorna Rosemarie Hempstead – BA (hons – Manchester University)
Place of birth – Hornchurch Essex England
Arrived into Australia 28th April 1984
Australian Citizenship achieved 26th August 1987 –
Postal Address – 3 The Esplanade, Nelly Bay, Magnetic Island, Queensland 4819
Email address – firstname.lastname@example.org
During a lifetime of service to others – September 2008.
Very early in her life Lorna showed a tendency towards service before self.
Lorna joined Brownies at the age of 8
Lorna graduated up to the Girl Guides where she became a Queens Guide in March 1965 and received a Duke of Edinburgh Award and went on to become a Guide Leader (Girl Guides Warrant issued 7/6/67) and excelled as a quartermaster organising many successful Guide Camps while still in her mid teens.
Lorna achieved high academic achievements throughout her secondary Schooling - graduating with 9 ordinary and 5 advanced levels at the end of her senior high schools years.
While still at school was awarded a Scholar Instructor’s lifesaving Certificate to qualify as an instructor for the Royal Life Saving Society.
Rotary Club (UK) awarded certificate for ‘A Meritorious Performance in the 1965 ‘Youth Speaks out competition’, and a certificate for ‘A distinguished performance in the final of the “youth speaks out’ in 1966’
Lorna attended Manchester University obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree with Honors, awarded July 16th 1972
Lorna started her professional life as a theatre technician where she soon became sort after in the Theatre and Arts industry and soon became a technical manager. Lorna started her own company offering related services to the theatre and TV industry.
It should be stressed that all through her working life financial remuneration has NOT been an important aspect of her life, and that working in the arts industry has always meant long and erratic working hours and often involved being away from home in Australia and overseas, touring and managing events.
It should be stressed Lorna is always ready to help and promote her employees and in particular youth, with work experience tasks etc.
Then, as above, also with long hours of full-time employment Lorna has always given up her time and dedicated it to the community. It should be noted that apart from working for some Government Instrumentalities, where some expenses have been recovered, all duties have been performed in an unpaid/honorary basis.
At university Lorna was an active member of the Student Union
At the start of professional career became a member of the Association of the British Theatre Technicians and served a term as president promoting the cause for better pay and condition for its members (this involved many hours of driving between London and Manchester often after shows at night).
Lorna arrived in Australia and for 25 years has unselfishly given huge amounts her time and expertise to the community.
Within weeks of arriving in Townsville, and starting demanding full time work, General Manager for Dance North, Lorna was looking for ways to join and help in the community.
She firstly joined the Townsville Volunteer Coastguard where she gained tickets in seamanship, radio communication and first aid. She did regular 12 hour, 4 weekly, Sunday & public holiday ‘watches’, on duty at the Coast Guard centre, and regularly was on call to man the patrol boat to attend to after hours/nighttime medical evacuations from Magnetic Island, and numerous boating emergencies. Lorna was on the executive and was responsible for organising two big successful fund raising ‘Boat Shows’ for money to buy a replacement 45ft patrol/rescue craft.
Soroptismists 1988 – 2007 - Lorna was for many years and until recently, an active participating member of the business women’s service organisation – Soroptimists. She reluctantly had to give it up as she felt she did not have the time to devote to the club although she still remains in communication and advises.
Lorna has always been a strong advocate for Women’s equality and rights – In March 1999 she was awarded a Queensland Government Certificate of Excellence awarded on the 70th Anniversary of International Woman’s Day “to congratulate you on your outstanding achievements”.
Always active in trying to promote the betterment of the arts industry Lorna served on the National Performing Arts Board (Federal Government) of the Australian Council for 9 years, and in June 94, received a commendation from the Arts Minister at the end of her term in office.
Lorna has actively served on the executive of Townsville Enterprise (A part of the Townsville City Council’s business and tourism promotions organisation)
Lorna has been a long time member of the Townsville Chamber of Commerce and was given an award of distinction for honorary services to the chamber as Vice President 93 -97
In April 1998 Lorna was awarded by the Australasian Community Association Services Sector – The Drucker Award is for outstanding services to the nonprofit industry.
Lorna has been an active member of the Townsville City Councils Sister City Committee. Promoting Townsville to our sister city’s and been a member of delegations to Japan and elsewhere.
In 2004 Lorna was awarded the Townsville City Council’s Community Leadership Award, and in the same year was awarded by the Townsville City Council, the Environmental Excellence and Sustainability Award for ‘being a dedicated volunteer with a strong commitment to protecting Magnetic Islands world heritage values and unique environment’
In June 06 Lorna became a Facilitator for the Queensland Government Community/Arts Networks.
Lorna was awarded the AIAM Nugget Award (regional category) 2000 for the contribution and pursuit of excellence in the sector. Australian Institute of Arts Management (AIAM) is the peak national body representing arts managers in Australia.
Lorna is, and has been a long time serving and active member of James Cook University Governing Council. A member of various committee’s and an attendee at graduation ceremonies and business meetings at various JCU campus (Cairns, Mackay, Townsville etc)
For a full term of 6 years plus a special services extension of one year, Lorna sat on the board of Tourism Queensland. For a further 3 allowable years, which comes to an end later in this year, Lorna has been a judge on the Queensland Tourism Awards panel, travelling to areas of the state to assess and culminating in 2 x 4 day determinations held in Brisbane.
On a personal note – in 1986 Lorna sponsored her parents, then aged 79, to immigrate to Australia. Her father died three years later and Lorna looked after her mother for many years while she suffered worsening dementia. Her mother eventually was placed in the Good Shepherd Nursing home which for Lorna started a long association with the management of the home and now Lorna is a long term serving member of the Good Shepherd Management Board.
In 1993 Lorna came to live on Magnetic Island. In a matter of months she was a member of the predominantly Tourism oriented MICCA (Magnetic Island Community & Commerce Association) seeking ways to promote the Island flagging tourism industry. In a matter of months Lorna was the President and in an attempt to bring cohesion to the Island and to expand it’s outlook, the association was rebranded MICDA (Magnetic Island Community Development Association) with Lorna as President, the honorary position she still holds today.
In the position as president Lorna has guided the association into an organisation that campaigns for Tourism, sustainability both lifestyle and environmental, and many social issues relating to the Island. Under Lorna’s presidency Magnetic Island has rightly regained its recognised status as World Heritage, and has set about campaigning for better planning for sustainability and the environment in accordance with this status.
Under Lorna’s presidency, many issues are discussed and campaigned for, with all levels of governance, local, state and federal. The association has actively promoted many activities to help sustain the Islands tourist economy and maintain its World Heritage values
It’s true to say the Lorna, literally, spends just about ALL (99%) of her spare time, when not working in very demanding positions, and eating and sleeping (and not much of the later) in campaigning for and promoting Magnetic Island and the many not for profit organisations she is associated with. She works tirelessly, without fear, favour or recompense, in an honest forthright manner for people, the environmental and social issues.
In 2001, the centenary year of Australian Federation, Lorna received a Commonwealth Centenary Medal for services to the Arts and Tourism.
Lorna has devoted a lifetime to help others.
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