“Is this for real?”
That’s the first thought that ran through St Andrews resident Theo DeChaufpie’s mind when he found out he had been honoured with the Order of Australia Medal.
The 66-year-old was recognised for his service to veterans and their families.
One of the founders of the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps (RAAMC) Association, Mr DeChaufpie has dedicated his life to looking after the mental and physical help of veterans and their families.
“When I found out I got the OAM I thought there were so many other people more worthy than me,” he said.
“I know half a dozen people just in our community here that are worth it.
“There are a lot of people who have done a lot of good work, especially in the ex-service organisations.”
In addition to his work with the RAAMC – where he is the secretary and a co-patron and served as national president from 2012-2016 – Mr DeChaufpie is a life member of the Five Field Ambulance RAAMC Association, the former vice-president of the Ingleburn RSL Sub-Branch, a member of the Macarthur Vietnam Veterans’ Association and a former volunteer educator in Men’s Peer Health with the Commonwealth Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Mr DeChaufpie served in the RAAMC during the Vietnam War, spending six months of 1971 as a medic in Vietnam.
He continued his work with the army upon his return to Australia, spending more than 20 years in the army hospital at Ingleburn.
He said the desire to give back to veterans and their families was inspired by a bout of ill health more than a decade ago.
“In 2004 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and I felt back then that I needed to give back to the community that had given me so much support,” he said.
“I think that’s where it comes from.
“It’s been a wonderful go looking after veterans and their families.”
Fellow OAM recipient John Murray has been a devoted volunteer since he was just seven years old.
At almost 82 years of age the longtime Cobbitty resident has finally been recognised for his lifelong passion with an OAM.
Mr Murray said he was humbled to receive the prestigious award.
“This Australia Day award was most unexpected but I am pleased to accept the award,” he said.
“I have a firm belief and commitment to the spirit of volunteering and I hope that with this award I will be able to inspire others to take up the much-needed activity of volunteering.”
Mr Murray first volunteered for the Red Cross during World War II.
He followed that up with volunteer work at Bankstown Sports Club, Cobbitty Rural Fire Service, the Lions Club of Bankstown and various other fundraising events.
“All of us living in Australia are privileged because we are blessed with a beautiful country,” he said.
“I considered it my duty to volunteer and make a contribution wherever I could.”
Mr Murray served as a Camden councillor from 1989 to 1997.
He still volunteers as much as he can and hopes to do so for years to come.
Fellow Camden resident, John Ryan said finding out he would be named as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) was “like being struck by a lightning bolt of happiness”.
The long-time Narellan Vale resident received the national honour for significant service to New South Wales parliament, particularly the development of accommodation policy for people with a disability.
Mr Ryan was the opposition minister for disability services between 2003 and 2007.
He helped to revolutionise housing arrangements for people living with a disability – a job he still loves.
“It’s wonderful work and I love doing it,” he said.
“It’s delightful for me to see how much it can change people’s lives.
“I have seen people go from living in quasi-nursing home style accommodation to residential group houses and flourish.”
As the director of contemporary residential options for the New South Wales Department of Family and Community Services (FACS), Mr Ryan said he continues to help disabled people all over NSW gain some vital independence.
“Over the last five years we have built more than 140 group homes across the state,” he said.
“Just seeing how many lives have been touched makes it very rewarding work.
“I loved working in parliament because I could help people – but I love this even more.”
Mr Ryan has also been a member of St John’s Anglican Church, Camden since 1992.