New awards announced by the Irish Government in March offer the chance for Irish expats in Australia to earn recognition for their valuable work in the community.
The Presidential Distinguished Service Award, which was announced by the Tánaiste, Eamon Gilmore, on his St Patrick’s visit to Canada, provides recognition to those who have made a sustained and distinguished service to Ireland or Irish communities abroad.
“These are small, but important, steps in a new attentiveness to the vital contribution that all those who belong to the Irish family can make to the process of renewal,” President Michael D Higgins said of the awards during an address to the Irish American Historical Society in early May.
This is a welcome initiative.
While many other nations have awards for distinguished service, they are often stacked towards those who have, for instance, served in the military rather than those who have served the community.
The United States, Canada and Britain have their Distinguished Service Medals, all with military recipients to the fore.
It is refreshing that Ireland’s new award system aims to recognise those who have left Ireland, yet stayed involved with those of shared heritage abroad.
With the measurement of one’s worth among the Irish diaspora often measured in crude although fundamentally necessary economic terms, these awards, it is hoped, will focus on the more personal contributions of the Irish in Australia and elsewhere.
If you know someone who has given their all to Irish community support; the arts, culture and sport; charities; business, education and peace, or reconciliation and development then you should investigate putting forward a nomination.
On the basis of past policy around the Irish abroad, the United States and Britain are likely to feature heavily in the awards.
There is no reason why this should be so. Often, it is the loudest voice that gets a hearing in such scenarios.
In this regard, it is not a time for the Irish in Australia to downplay their achievements.
It would be unfair to single out one person or organisation for meritorious service in this forum. But it is likely that you can think of an individual involved in the Irish community whose contribution deserves to be recognised.
There are many, many Irish immigrants to Australia who would merit recognition.
The volunteer spirit of Irish people is evident throughout Australia both within the expat community and beyond.
Whether its helping out at your kids’ school or donating your time to coach or manage an underage sports team, Irish expat parents are conspicuously evident. This extends further into the areas of welfare and philanthropy where time and money are often given without quibble by Irish immigrants, eager to help.
The deadline for nominations is approaching.
If you are interested in nominating someone for this award then you have until May 24 to do so. Perhaps consult with your friends and put in a joint nomination.
We are told that nominees must be habitually resident outside the island of Ireland and must have been actively engaged in their Irish communities abroad for a period of no less than five years.
A panel based in Ireland will consider all nominations received and make recommendations to the government in respect of no more than ten individuals in any one-year.
This is not an honours system and it will not confer any legal entitlements to benefits or titles upon the recipients.
The first awards will be presented in November.
Nominations for the award should be forwarded to the Embassy of Ireland by email (email@example.com) or by post to the following address: Embassy of Ireland, 20 Arkana St, ACT 2600.