Archbishop Fisher congratulates Australian of the Year Alan Mackay-Sim, first recipient of archdiocese’ stem cell grant

Australian of the Year for 2017, Prof Emeritus Alan Mackay-Sim. Photo: Giffith University/YouTube

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has congratulated the 2017 Australian of the Year, Professor Alan Mackay-Sim, who was the first researcher to receive a $50,000 adult stem cell grant from the Archdiocese of Sydney.

Prof Mackay-Sim, a biomolecular scientist and the former director of the National Centre for Adult Stem Cell Research at Griffith University, was recognised for work which contributed in 2014 to the successful restoration of mobility in a quadriplegic man – a world first.

It was a landmark event in science which harnessed the professor’s earlier research over the course of more than a decade into the pliability of olfactory stem cells.

In 2003, the archdiocese awarded him a grant of $50,000, which was spent on researching the use of olfactory stem cells in treating Parkinson’s disease.

That research found that olfactory stem cells were capable of being turned into nerve cells, heart cells and brain cells and others.

Prof Mackay-Sim told The Catholic Weekly at the time:

“Even if you disregard the ethical issue with embryonic stem cells, it still means taking a foreign tissue and injecting it into someone, so there’s the issue of possible tissue rejection.

“The main advantage of using a person’s own cells from their nasal lining is that each person has an easily accessible source. Provided you can get the stem cells from them you are avoiding all sorts of technical and ethical problems.”

Archbishop Fisher, in his comments of yesterday, offered a “bravo” to Prof Mackay-Sim for all he had achieved for others.

“His ground-breaking research on nasal adult stem-cells has proven that wonderful medicine is possible without unethical experiments on embryos,” Archbishop Fisher said.

“Bravo Dr Mackay-Sim, we are very proud of you!”

The archbishop also congratulated Senior Australian of the Year, Sr Anne Gardiner, a daughter of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, and Order of Australia recipient Professor Greg Craven, vice chancellor of the Australian Catholic University.

Sr Gardiner has spent more than six decades working among the Tiwi people of Bathurst Island, teaching generations of children and helping people to preserve their language, customs and rituals through the establishment of a cultural museum.

Prof Greg Craven was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to tertiary education, to the Catholic Church, and to constitutional law.

The archbishop also pointed to his having received a papal knighthood last year for the same contributions.

“Congratulations and thank you, Greg. The Catholic community is very proud of you.”

The 2017 Australia Day Honours List contained the names of 958 awardees, recognising contributions across numerous fields, including professional endeavours, community work, Australia’s Defence Force and Emergency Services.

Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove, the representative of Australia’s Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II, offered to the awardees the congratulations and admiration of all Australians.

“(They) now join the company of almost 50,000 women and men whose meritorious and brave actions have enriched our community and our lives. Their qualities – compassion, dedication, generosity, selflessness, tolerance, and energetic ambition – inspire and motivate us.

“For over 40 years these honours have helped to define, encourage and reinforce our national aspirations and ideals by acknowledging exceptional Australians. Today, we add a new group of names to those we should all admire.

“On behalf of all Australians, I thank them for their contributions. We are a stronger, safer and more caring nation because of them.”

Catholic awardees from NSW were as follows:

Officers (AO) of the Order of Australia

Professor Gregory Joseph Craven

For distinguished service to tertiary education through leadership and representational roles with a range of institutions, to the Catholic Church in Australia, and to constitutional law.

Prominent roles:
Consultor, Catholic Congregation for Education, Rome, Italy.
Member, National Catholic Education Commission, current.

Member (AM) of the Order of Australia

Professor Fadia Bou Dagher Ghossayn, Punchbowl

For significant service to Australia-Lebanon relations through academic collaboration, cultural and student exchange programs, and to the community.

Prominent roles:
Australian Lebanese Foundation, the University of Sydney: Founding President, since 2002.
Founder, Young Australian Lebanese Association.
President, The Maronite Foundation Australia and New Zealand, current.
Chair, Maronite Academy, current.
Founding Member, Australian Maronite Professionals Council.
Advisory Board Member, Saint Merkorious Charity, ongoing.
Founding Member and Fundraiser, Saint Merkorious Charity, since 2013.

Philip Patrick Glendenning, Brooklyn

For significant service to the community through social welfare organisations, as an advocate for human rights, and to education.

Prominent roles:
Education and Information Officer, Australian Catholic Relief, (now known as Caritas Australia) 1990-1996.
Secondary Teacher, St Brigid’s College, Marrickville, 1980-83 and Gilroy College Castle Hill, 1988-1990.
Teacher, Christian Brothers Homeless Youth Refuge and After-Care Project, Mt Druitt, 1985-1986 and Coordinator 1987.

Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia

Dr Michael Edward Armstrong, Manly

For service to medicine, and to the community.

Prominent roles:
St Augustine’s College, Sydney: Inaugural Chairman, College Foundation Committee, 2012-2015.
Past Member, College Finance Committee, 2005-2011.
Chairman, College Board, 2005-2011. Board Member/Councillor, 1999-2016.
Chair, College Building Committee, 2013-2015 and 2008-2009. Chair, Building Appeal, 2002-2003.
Affiliated Member, Order of St Augustine, since 2006. (St Augustine’s College – Sydney A Catholic College for boys in Years 5 to 12 teaching the Augustinian values of Truth, Love & Community)

Dr John Terence (Terry) Flynn, Moss Vale

For service to medicine, and to medical administration.

Prominent roles:
Member, Moss Vale Catholic Parish Council.
Mrs Margaret Therese O’Neill, Goulburn
For service to local government, and to the community of the Goulburn region.
Life Member, St Patrick’s College Parents and Citizens Committee.
Life Member, St Joseph’s Parents and Citizens Committee.

Patricia Mary Reynolds

For service to the Catholic Church in Australia.

Prominent roles:
St Paul’s Catholic Church Albion Park: Member, Liturgy Committee and Minute-Taker, current.
Reader at Mass and Eucharistic Minister, current.
Adult Altar Server, since 2009.
Church cleaner, current.
Church Housekeeper, 1971-2009.
Secular Member, Order of the Discalced Carmelites of the Australia-Oceania Region, since circa 1970.
Catechist/Scripture Teacher, since 1974.

Awards and recognition includes:
Recipient, Senior Parishioner of the Year, St Paul’s Catholic Parish Albion Park, 2014.
Recipient, Papal Blessing, ‘for 20 years scripture teaching in state schools’, 1994.
Recipient, Bishop’s Citation ‘for 25 years as a Catechist’, 2005.
Life Membership Award, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, ‘for more than 30 years’ scripture teaching’, 2011.

Sister Rosemary Ellen Terry, Wagga Wagga

For service to the Catholic Church in Australia, and to the community.

Prominent roles:
Chief Chaplain, Kairos Prison Ministry, 2003-2015.
Chaplain, Junee Correctional Centre, 1993-2015.
Part-Time Chaplain, (three days per week), since 2015.
Member, Society of Presentation Sisters, more than 55 years.

Barry Collier, Gymea

Barry Collier, a parishioner of St Catherine’s parish in Gymea, OAM for service as a Labor MP to the NSW Parliament as the member for the seat of Miranda for three terms from 1999-2011. After retiring from parliament he returned in 2013, serving until 2015. Also for Service to the law, having served as a criminal lawyer for 10 years and as a solicitor for Legal Aid and the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions. Also for service to education. Mr Collier taught at secondary level for 17 years, was a State curriculum consultant for Economics, Legal Studies, Business Studies and Commerce. He was Chair of the NSW HSC Examination Committee for three years and Chief Examiner in Economics. He has written five Economics text books for use in schools and assisted over many years in the development of the NSW secondary Economics syllabus.