Australia Day will no doubt be a memorable one for Robert Lindsay in 2019.
The Gymea Bay resident is not only the recipient of a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM), he also celebrates his daughter’s 30th birthday this year.
Mr Lindsay has received the accolade for service to the community through social welfare organisations.
He says the whole honour is a “bit of a surprise”, but it should come as no shock to those who know his work.
Mr Lindsay has supported many young migrants from Africa, the Middle East, Myanmar and other countries, in their educational and social needs.
At Gymea Community Aid and Information Service, he co-founded and is the volunteer co-ordinator for the ‘Drivetime’ program, which he helped design and deliver for the NRMA.
His current role as a volunteer for Settlement Services is a most rewarding one.
Education is a clear passion, and the goal of optimising health and learning is never far from his sight, especially when it comes to assisting Indigenous youth with positive pathways.
The director of Aboriginal Children's Advancement Society has taught at Engadine and Menai high schools, where he finished his work in the classroom in 2014.
Since then he has chaired 2Connect, Youth and Community (formerly known as St George Youth Services), and has helped many new refugees who seek a safe home in Sutherland Shire, find a stable base, as part of his responsibilites as director of Southern Sydney Refugee Support Group.
The secretary of St George Accommodation for Youth says the health and learning program has been most successful.
“It’s been very effective, and a team effort,” Mr Lindsay said. “It started in 2011 and after we won a grant, then a state award.
“As part of the program, nurses do health checks at schools with significant refugee populations.
“The results have been staggering. We found up about 90 per cent of students from refugee backgrounds had at least one health issue that was impacting on their learning – mostly hearing and sight. They were going undetected because a lot of these kids didn’t realise it was an issue for them.”
After Mr Lindsay retired from teaching, he started lobbying for the program to be extended. In 2016, the NSW government saw the potential, and a multi-million dollar program was rolled out.
“Now every refugee child in NSW gets a comprehensive health check at school to make sure they’re prepared,” Mr Lindsay said.
“Everything I’m involved in, revolves around inclusivity. My late father use to say, there’s not one single advantage of having an enemy, and that’s stuck with me. My view is that an inclusive society creates a harmonious society, and everyone benefits from that.”