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'The most humbling day of my life'_ Decades of community work inspires OAM

Petrina and her brother Dr Harry Zaphir hosting the White Orchid Charity Ball in Broadbeach. Courtesy: Supplied

“I’m well thank you,“ I reply, eager to sound friendly and unaffected by my natural suspicions when receiving a call from an unidentified number.

“I have some good news for you Petrina! You’ve been nominated for an Australian honour, an OAM, the Medal of the Order of Australia, for a lifetime of service to the community of the Gold Coast”.

From that moment, everything is a blur. My eyes fill with tears, I’m listening intently, but not comprehending. My mind is racing.

Katie continues: “If successful, would you accept it, and would you be happy for us to release information about you to the media?”

“Absolutely,” I say, trying to sound nonchalant.
“Oh, perhaps not my age.“

It’s difficult to describe the deep pride you feel in these moments for your immediate family who support you (Damian, Jasper, Cazmir and Dakota) and for your country, but I can say it was the most humbling day of my life.

No one achieves such an honour alone. My next thought was for my late brother Dr Harry Zaphir, who voluntarily hosted several events with me over the past decade, in the fight against cancer.

How proud he’d be, how far we’ve come, since our childhood days of going around our neighbourhood in Mansfield, Brisbane delivering lollipops to children at Christmas time; Harry dressed in Dad’s Santa suit jacket, which was huge on him, falling past his knees.

I was his trusted helper, wearing the Santa pants that came up to my neck. We even had a secret pocket for the lollies.

Harry was thirteen, I was just seven.
That’s where I learnt the importance and joy of helping others.

Then at 15, I got my first melanoma.

I’d grown up in Queensland and although I wasn’t one for lathering myself in coconut oil and baking, I had been sunburned numerous times in my early years.

After having it removed I was given the all clear, and was determined to take advantage of every opportunity.

As a teen, I volunteered for the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games. I was tasked with releasing the balloons as Matilda made her cheeky way around the arena. (For anyone who remembers, sorry I was a bit late with the release as they got stuck in the net.)

At the Games I also learnt to dodge bullets literally, as I gathered data for the ‘real journos’ at the Belmont shooting range.

I truly thought I was bullet-proof, until a second melanoma appeared.
It changes you. You reassess your priorities.

Melanoma drove me into charity work and I was on a mission.

I’ve worked behind the scenes as a Cancer Council Queensland Ambassador for almost 15 years, hosting and participating in marathon events like “Relay for Life” across the state.

At the 2000 Gold Coast Women at Work International Women’s Day awards I was dubbed the “Millennium Woman” for my other passion, mentoring young women and helping them negotiate the pitfalls from ‘tweenager’ into adulthood.

My daughter Cazmir has attended events with me since she was eight years old. Just like my brother taught me, charity starts at home.

I have also been a longtime advocate for Medi-Aid Centre Foundation, a charity set up by Dr John Knight AM (alias Dr James Wright of the Midday Show fame) which helps house disadvantaged elderly people, about 1000 all up, here on the Gold Coast and in Sydney.

I am grateful to have the chance to do so.

The best thing about receiving this honour, is it’s given me a springboard to reach out and encourage other Aussies.

Loneliness is a real problem in our country with technology making more people feel isolated than ever before.

Some are directionless due to having lost their job, being unable to work because of injury, or being retired.

Others have doubt about where they belong in this great country of ours.
If that sounds familiar, I encourage you to check online and contact any number of our charity organisations that would welcome you with open arms.

They always need help, even for just a couple of hours a month.

The sense of personal satisfaction and pride at being part of a network is priceless. It’ll enrich your life, give you purpose and bring you a new circle of like-minded friends and a built-in support system.

Our Surf Lifesavers are the backbone of our culture, our volunteers make major sporting events like the Commonwealth Games a huge success.

We are the lucky country built on mateship and generosity of spirit.

To all the Queen’s Birthday honours recipients and especially our hardworking volunteers and charity workers: thank you, we appreciate your sacrifices and commitment.

To anyone feeling lost, why not join a community group and just give it a go?

Source: https://www.9news.com.au/national/queensland-news-petrina-zaphir-queens-birthday-honours-most-humbling-day-of-my-life/44b71f19-4de7-4a0e-933b-4e559805f66b