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Seniors Week Ambassadors named

27 February 2012

The 2012 NSW Seniors Week has been launched with the naming of some of Australia’s most successful seniors as this year’s ambassadors.

Minister for Ageing, Andrew Constance, said the 15 ambassadors are:

  • Robina Beard OAM
  • Professor Michael Besser AM
  • Paul Biscoe
  • Murray Cox
  • Bruce Elder
  • Aunty Millie Ingram
  • Irene ‘IJ’ Juergens APM
  • Tom McCammont
  • Brian McGuigan AM
  • Dr Sudha Natarajan
  • Merle Parrish
  • Kumar Pereira
  • Graham Ross VMM
  • Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo
  • Pat Woodley

“The ambassadors are the face of Seniors Week which is now in its 54th year and the largest festival for seniors in the Southern Hemisphere,” Mr Constance said.

“They will promote the ‘Live Life’ message, share their stories and attend many of the 900 events to be held throughout NSW from 18-25 March 2012.

“With so many events throughout metropolitan and regional NSW, there is something for all tastes and I encourage seniors to pick up a program from registered clubs or”

One of the highlights of Seniors Week is the three Premier’s Gala Concerts, with the theme ‘On Broadway’, which were booked out just hours after 30,000 tickets were released.

The concerts will be held at the Sydney Entertainment Centre with two on Monday, 19 March at 10.30am and 2.30pm, and the third for registered groups on Tuesday, 20 March at 11am.

The Minister said a standby list is being operated by Ticketmaster (1300 855 501) for returned tickets, which will be available on Thursday, 8 March.

“These concerts are funded by the NSW Government as a thank you to seniors for the contribution they make to the community,” the Minister said.


ROBINA BEARD OAM is an actor, director, dancer, choreographer and teacher. Instantly recognisable for her role as ‘Madge’ the manicurist in a 1970s television commercial, Robina has performed her hit comedy skit ‘The Dying Swan’ at the Sydney Opera House and danced in ‘Chicago’. As a musical theatre director, she often worked with children in shows performed for schools like ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Peter Pan’. Television viewers will know her from ‘A Country Practice’ and ‘All Saints’ among many others. Not surprisingly, Robina’s passions are dancing and the theatre, as well as swimming, cooking, entertaining, crosswords and jigsaw puzzles.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL BESSER AM is a retired consultant neurosurgeon at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Michael is studying for his Masters Degree in Medical Humanities and is a volunteer in his medical specialty. He also competes in cycling, triathlon and ironman events throughout Australia.

PAUL BISCOE was an officer in the NSW Police Force for 26 years and completed a stint in the Citizen Military Forces (Army Reserve). Since retiring, Paul has been President of the NSW Retired Police Association for the past 12 years, overseeing the social, welfare, benefit and entitlement needs of former police officers. He works with Police Legacy looking after police widows and/or their families and dependents. Paul has also been an active member of his local State Emergency Service unit for the past seven years. He is currently a Director on the Board of the NSW Police Credit Union.

MURRAY COX is at one with the earth and the sea. During the week he is a landscape gardener, while on weekends he is often found offshore, swimming in the open water that has become his other life over the past 12 years. In 2010, he swam the length of Sydney’s 50-kilometre coastline from Barrenjoey Head to Botany Bay every weekend over a 40 week period.

BRUCE ELDER is a journalist, author and commentator. He was the London correspondent for ABC’s 2JJ in the 1970s and is now part of a popular music segment on ABC Radio’s Tony Delroy’s Nightlife Program. In his book, ‘Remember When’, Bruce reflected on a changing Australia and his acclaimed ‘Blood on the Wattle’ looked at the history of mistreatment of Aboriginal people. Bruce also edited the Australian version of Trivial Pursuit for 20 years. Travel writing keeps him busy, but he still finds time to volunteer on the board of Lifeline on the NSW South Coast.

AUNTY MILLIE INGRAM is a campaigner for Aboriginal rights in childcare, education, employment and seniors’ care at a community level. A highly respected Elder born on an Aboriginal reserve in Wiradjuri country in central NSW, Millie has lived in Redfern for most of her life. She helped establish the Murawina Aboriginal Pre-school and Wyanga Aboriginal Elders Program, as well as the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council. Millie is Chief Executive of the Wyanga Aboriginal Aged Care Program, which cares for Aboriginal Elders in their own homes and is a strong supporter of Reconciliation.

IRENE ‘IJ’ JUERGENS APM is a retired Inspector who joined the NSW Police Force in February 1966 at age 19. During her 43 years of service she performed traffic, criminal investigation and general duties. In 1982, ‘IJ’ was appointed the first female Officer in Charge of the Crime Prevention Unit in NSW. In 1988, she was selected for a senior support position for the implementation of community-based policing in the Northern Region (Sydney to Tweed Heads). She was also involved in the tutoring of frontline police in management and ethics. In 1995, ‘IJ’ became the first female sergeant to be awarded the Australian Police Medal in the Australia Day Honours list. In May 2002, she was appointed State Coordinator for the Volunteers in Policing Unit and was responsible for the co-ordination and management of volunteers statewide. ‘IJ’ retired from active duty on 31 December 2009. Her current interests include travel, walking, card making and scrapbooking.

TOM MCCAMMONT is a former navy seaman who served on a number of submarines. He is President of the East Coast Submariners Association and gives talks on submarines to various groups including Rotary and Probus both of which he is a member. He also shared his life on national television to help others caring for a loved one suffering Alzheimer’s. Tom’s wife, Brenda, to whom he was married for 54 years, had Alzheimer’s for the last 10 years of her life. He agreed to be filmed for the documentary, ‘The Long Goodbye’, which was screened on the ABC last year. Brenda died towards the end of filming and the documentary is dedicated to her. Tom recently travelled through six countries in South America and dived with whales in Tonga with fellow members of the Scuba Club Terrigal Underwater Group. He swims every morning with the Haven Stingrays.

BRIAN MCGUIGAN AM helped put Australian wines on international dinner tables and is one of the industry’s most respected and successful winemakers. He founded the Wyndham Estate Wine Company at Dalwood in the Hunter Valley in the 1970s and built up the sales of its brands, including Richmond Grove, Poets Corner, and Saxonvale, to well over two million cases. Since 1991, he has run Brian McGuigan Wines, which controls its own vineyards and has made him one of the top grape growers in the world.

DR SUDHA NATARAJAN is a founding member of the Resourceful Australian Indian Network (RAIN), which provides support to members of the Indian community in Sydney’s south. The network’s volunteers prepare Indian vegetarian meals regularly for the local Meals on Wheels. RAIN also has two choirs and takes part in Diwali celebrations held in Hurstville. Sudha facilitates a regular carers’ support group and is actively involved in promoting cultural exchange. She is a member of the St George Women’s Interfaith Network which brings together women of different faiths to learn about, understand and respect each other’s beliefs and customs.

MERLE PARRISH is a baking phenomenon. From the age of seven, Merle competed in cooking competitions and is still winning prizes at the age of 78. She has twice won the most successful ribbon at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. Last year, her appearance on ‘MasterChef’ Australia won the hearts of viewers. Merle continues to enter her cakes, sponges, biscuits and scones in country shows. A book of her recipes, ‘Merle’s Kitchen’, was released this February. One of the recipes featured is her Supreme Chocolate Cake which recently won her the Donna Latter Memorial Trophy.

KUMAR PEREIRA left Sri Lanka for a glittering career in graphic design and has never looked back. After studying and working in London, he lived in Hong Kong for 18 years where he designed for studios and agencies and taught at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Kumar has run his own consultancy firm and has designed many award winning publications. He now lives and works in Sydney with his wife and their two sons. Kumar’s interest in cooking has seen his own recipes featured in publications while he competed in ‘MasterChef Australia’ in 2011, finishing in top 12.

GRAHAM ROSS VMM believes gardening provides gentle exercise, fresh flowers and vegetables while encouraging independence and enjoyment of the simple pleasures in life. Followers of his program, The Garden Clinic on radio 2GB, or his regular appearances on Channel Seven’s Better Homes and Gardens, are drawn to his encyclopaedic knowledge, enthusiasm and useful tips. Graham has escorted more than 400 groups on trips to world gardens and is the recipient of numerous awards for his services to horticulture. He has the honour of being only the fourth Australian to receive the British Gold Veitch Memorial Medal since its inception in 1870.

AUNTY BERYL VAN-OPLOO remembers traditional fishing with Elders of the Gamillaroi nation of Walgett, cooking the catch and sharing it with her extended family. After a 50-year career in hospitality and teaching, Beryl set up Yaama Dhiyaan Hospitality Training, a catering service, function centre and hospitality training school for Aboriginal youth. Assisted by chef Mathew Cribb, Beryl established a program featuring a fusion cuisine that uses both Aboriginal and international methods and ingredients. Aunty Beryl has twice prepared food for royalty – Prince Charles and, 40 years later, his son Prince William. She travelled to Sweden in 2011 for the Indigenous Terra Madre, which is part of the Slow Food Movement.

PAT WOODLEY is a former Miss NSW who has run her own modelling agency and deportment school. She is a communications consultant who works with all company staff, from receptionists to executives and their families, advising them on communication, etiquette and presentation. Pat has studied art in Australia and overseas and an exhibition of her pencil drawings from colour and black and white photographs of politicians and media stars is currently on display at NSW Parliament House.

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