Local volunteer awarded Queen’s birthday honour
Thursday, 17th June, 2021
By Nardia Keenan
Broken Hill resident, Sandra Haring, has been honoured in the Queen’s Birthday 2021 Honours List with the Medal of the Order of Australia or OAM for her decades of volunteer service with the St John Ambulance.
The Order of Australia is the pre-eminent way Australians recognise the achievements and service of their fellow citizens and on June 2, Sandra received an email which informed her the award had been bestowed and congratulated her on her medal. But she was sworn to secrecy.
“I was overwhelmed and excited but I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone.”
Sandra’s award was in recognition of her work as a Superintendent and cadet trainer at St John Ambulance over many years, work that saw her play a major role in transforming the organisation.
“When I started at St John at the age of nine there were nursing cadets, which meant girls, and ambulance cadets, which meant boys.”
According to Sandra, back in the day, as the children reached young adulthood, the women progressed to the nursing division and the young men the ambulance division, “even though they didn’t work in ambulances,” said Sandra.
“When I was 16, I was sent to the supper room with women who were set in their ways, separate from the men. They were just doing knitting and talking about their babies and grand-babies. I wanted some action.”
Women at that time were only permitted to volunteer as first aiders at indoor events, while the men volunteered outdoors, which didn’t agree with young Sandra, so she challenged the system.
“I asked to join the men’s group because they were doing the work.”
Sandra and Betty Newstead went on to merge the separate divisions for males and females into one division, which was considered disruptive in the mid-1970s.
“We were the rebels. I was at the ripe old age of 16 and Betty was 36.”
Sandra enjoyed her adult years in the new, unisex St John division and was disappointed when the Broken Hill cadets disbanded in 1983. However, Laurie Camilleri and Ray Mitchell, who is a Knight of the Order of St John, supported Sandra to become a trainer.
Five years after cadets disbanded, Sandra and John Stewart were able to re-open in 1988 and she has been teaching the cadet program ever since and enjoying watching young people learn life skills, gain confidence, grow and go on to excel in life.
“I won’t give up on a child unless that child gives up on me.”
A favourite anecdote of Sandra’s concerns the mother of a young new cadet who informed her that “the boy always drops out of every new venture” before asking Sandra to “let her know” when it started happening.
Sandra told the boy’s mother “I’m not going to report back to you because he won’t trust me.” That particular boy continued with the cadets until he left for university.
“On his way to university he stopped at my house to thank me and say goodbye.”
Sandra’s outstanding service to our community has now earned her an OAM which will go nicely with the Broken Hill Citizen of the Year Award she received in 2020 and the New South Wales Volunteer of the Year Award that was bestowed on her in 2019.
Although for Sandra, that particular boy’s thanks was “reward enough.”