Outstanding teachers honoured on Australia Day

A range of NSW educators have been recognised in the Australia Day honours list.

Image: Stepping up during a crisis: Meghanne Wellard

NSW teachers are among the eminent Australians recognised today for their service to the community as part of the Australia Day honours.

School Performance Executive Director, Rural North Meghanne Wellard and Auburn North Public School Principal Mark Harris received the Public Service Medal for their work in education.

NSW Department of Education Secretary Georgina Harrisson said she was delighted to begin the new school year highlighting the work of outstanding teachers.

“I want to congratulate all the educators who have been honoured today,” Ms Harrisson said.

“Whether they are in early childhood, schools or post-school pathways, or in the public or non-government sector, the Australia Day awards highlight the extraordinary impact educators have – not just on their students, but as part of their communities.”

Ms Harrisson said the recognition of Mr Harris and Ms Wellard was well deserved.

“Through their long career with the Department, Mark and Meghanne have always been guided by a commitment to improving outcomes for their students – whether at a school level or system wide,” Ms Harrisson said.

“They exemplify the selfless commitment so many of our staff demonstrate each day in supporting students to achieve their best and I congratulate them on this well-deserved honour.”

Mrs Wellard said she was overwhelmed by the recognition.

“This is not about me, but it is a recognition of my team who did such an amazing job,” she said.

Mrs Wellard said the award was an “absolute highlight” of her 31 years of service in the Department of Education.

“To know you are valued and people see the work you do that is very special to me,” she said.

“To be nominated by my peers in the department means a lot, because the department means a lot to me.”

Mrs Wellard received the Public Service Medal for outstanding public service in the recovery of the Department of Education's Rural North community following the Northern Rivers flood crisis

Her citation said she had provided hope, routine and safe spaces to children and communities that were devastated by the catastrophic flooding that, at its peak, closed more than 130 public schools in the Northern Rivers and inundated thousands of homes.

Mrs Wellard was convinced that a key ingredient for the community’s recovery was for all school students to be in a safe space and in a routine, which could best be provided by their school. With only 18,000 of the Northern Rivers’ 45,000 school students able to attend school in March 2020, and with her own home under threat from floodwaters, Mrs Wellard worked tirelessly to ensure that all students had a physical site at which they could continue their schooling within two weeks.

She also advocated for and secured adequate counselling services on the ground, providing face-to-face mental health support for those affected.

Image: Building community: Auburn North Public School principal Mark Harris

Principal Mark Harris received his PSM for outstanding public service in education, in particular for driving outcomes at Auburn North Public School.

Mr Harris has been a teacher for 40 years – 20 of them as principal of Auburn. His citation described him as a bedrock in the local community, which has a high non-English speaking population, as well as within the diverse school community where he has driven links between school and home.

At Auburn North Public School, families are encouraged and supported to be partners in learning, which not only helps the students, but gives parents and carers valuable new language skills. Harmony House, a drop-in centre for parents; homework clubs for parents; and toolkits for at-home learning together are all some of the innovative ways Mr Harris has engaged the school community and overseen steadily improving student performance.

Mr Harris said he proudly shared his award with all the students, staff and parents who had been part of the Auburn North multicultural family over the past 23 years.

“We have worked tirelessly, strategically and in perfect harmony to assist our students to achieve outstanding wellbeing and learning outcomes,” he said.

“Over the past 23 years we have watched a whole generation of wonderful students graduate from our school and grow up to be happy, well-rounded adults who have assisted Australia to become a better country for all of its children and adults.”

Among the other department educators and staff honoured were:

  • Dr Robert Morgan, who was made an Officer (AO) in the General Division Of The Order Of Australia for his distinguished service to the Indigenous community, to tertiary education leadership, and in health advisory roles. Dr Morgan is a life member of the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group and is a mentor to Menindee Central School.
  • Former Holroyd School principal Anne Flint was made a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia for significant service to education, and to those with disability.

The Order of Australia in the General Division Medal was received by:

  • Former NSW Education district guidance officer and teacher Dr Jeanette Berman in Armidale for service to education.
  • Former Rozelle Public School principal Lynette Doppler for service to education, and to the community.
  • NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group member Patricia Ellis for service to the Indigenous community of the Eurobodalla Shire. Community
  • Former teacher and long-term NSW Primary School Sports Association executive Marie Kelly for service to netball, and to education
  • Former teacher Dr Coral Kemp, of Balmain for service to special needs education.
  • Saturday School of Community languages Khmer language teacher Sorathy Michell, of Greenfield, for service to the Khmer community.
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