Medals were the order of the day

Peter Derrett with three of the stars of Trinity Catholic Colleges recent production of The Outsiders (l-r) Adam Madigan, Jo Witt and Hayley Armstrong.

After 40 years of helping young local thespians become stars of the stage, Peter Derrett got to enjoy his own time in the spotlight at Lismores recent Australia Day celebrations.

Peter was one of three local recipients of the Order of Australia, receiving his for service to the Northern Rivers performing arts community and in particular his work in drama education.

Peter has been Head of Drama at Trinity Catholic College for 31 years and helped design the HSC drama syllabus when it became part of the NSW curriculum. Trinity students consistently take out top honours in HSC Drama and Trinity was third in the state for 2006, so Peter is obviously doing something right.

Im interested in the art and history of drama, and the skills, said Peter. And Ive developed a process which challenges the students. I demand a lot of them, and they love it.

Peters passion for drama is contagious and it has spread far beyond the walls of Trinity. He also started Theatre North in 1983 with his wife Roslyn, a community-based theatre group that evolved to become a successful, touring theatre company.

As he nears retirement age, the Order of Australia is a timely acknowledgment of Peters contribution to local theatre, but he sees it as an incentive to do more.

It is fabulous to receive the award but I see it as just the beginning, said Peter. Not that many people in arts education get acknowledged in this way. I want to use it to raise the profile of drama education.

Corakis Lynnette Smart has a treasure chest of memories about being a foster carer but one in particular stands out.

I remember way back in the beginning, my husband George and I had three little foster babies and all of them were due to get their polio vaccinations, remembers Lyn. I had one in a pram, one in a carry basket and one on my hip!

Keeping in mind Lyn also had two children of her own, and you can begin to understand why she received an Order of Australia for her contribution to the lives of foster children.

We felt that we had a lot of love in our home, said Lyn of her and Georges decision to open their arms and their home to foster children. And our children were very generous and loving too.

In fact, Lyn says that many people remark on her wonderful family and that means the world to her.

Our children are marvellous parents and they have raised their children so well that people often comment about how lovely and generous in nature they are, and that does mean a great deal to us.

Besides providing love and care to many, many foster children since the 1970s, Lyn and George also adopted two children, Trista and Jason. Now aged 29, Jason has multiple disabilities and requires 24-hour care so Lyn has ceased fostering other children, but continues to contribute to the community in other ways.

When Coraki experienced major flooding in 1996, Lyn volunteered to help answer the phones and ended up as Deputy Controller. She is also President of the local Country Womens Association and former president and co-founder of the Lismore Foster Parents Support Group.

Everyone should contribute to their community, said Lyn. If everyone contributed just the smallest amount it would make their community that little bit better and life a lot easier.

It was a ten year battle but receiving an Order of Australia for his tireless campaign to establish the Kyogle Memorial Health Centre was the icing on the cake for Kyogles Tom Fitzgerald.

I certainly didnt do it to get an award, said Tom. But it is nice to be recognised and I am deeply honoured.

Toms campaign began in 1994 when he visited a friend in the old Kyogle Hospital and was appalled by the conditions. Although Tom said there were times when the red tape made him want to give up in frustration, his persistence paid off and Kyogle now boasts state-of-the-art health facilities.

Before the campaign Tom was no stranger to contributing to the Kyogle community. He has been a member of St Vincent de Paul for 40 years, including time as the president, and is currently the treasurer.

Kyogle is a close knit community and a very nice town, said Tom, who is a third generation Kyogle resident. And we do what we can do to keep it that way.

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