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Perry Cross

Gold Coast leaders recognised with Orders of Australia

Natalie O’Driscoll | June 2020

Several Gold Coast luminaries have been awarded the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday 2020 Honours List.

Among the 933 Australians honoured by the Governor-General on 8 June were eight exceptional Gold Coasters from a diverse range of fields and industries, but all with one thing in common: their outstanding contributions to Australia and their respective communities.

In the Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AO) was Australian cinema pioneer Terry Jackman (78) of Mermaid Beach, one of 50 awarded across the country.

Of the 200 national members in the General Division (AM) awarded, Gold Coast boasted four; Spinal cord injury researcher and motivational speaker Perry Cross, prominent psychiatrist, Professor Philip Morris, famed hairdressing empire owner and philanthropist Stefan Ackerie, and automotive captain and Titans co-owner Rebecca Frizelle.

The Medal in the General Division (OAM) saw 457 notable individuals recognised, including Gold Coast’s three: North Burleigh Surf Club examiner Thomas Holmes, ex-LifeFlight chairman Ralph Hartland and Commonwealth Games head Mark Peters.

Mark Peters

Mr Peters’ successful tenure as CEO of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC) was the culmination of a stellar career in Australian sport, including 10 years as CEO of the Australian Sports Commission and as one of the most significant figures in Australian baseball, a sport he took up at school in Adelaide and has had a lifelong passion for since.

“It’s not unlike soccer used to be, where if you wanted to make a career out of it, you had to go overseas to America, or Japan,” he explains. “Australia has over 100 players in the professional system in any year.”

Career opportunities saw Mark travel all over Australia, before finally landing on the Gold Coast in 2010 to head up the successful bid for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. He reflects on his time as CEO of GOLDOC.

“It’s certainly up there, in terms of the enormity of the job… 40,000 contractors, 15,000 incredible volunteers, 70-odd countries and working with exceptionally large budgets – just being a part of bringing it all together was hard to describe.

“I love getting emails even now from people overseas, remembering how fantastic the Gold Coast was and how much they enjoyed it. It brings back good memories.”

Of course, ten years as CEO of the Australian Sports Commission comes with its fair share of distinguished memories, too.

“That was special,” says Mark. “Working with incredible athletes and getting close to a lot of them and getting their stories and understanding their motivation… they don’t usually make a lot of money, but they just make these incredible sacrifices.

“So I’ve been blessed in the sense I’ve been put into roles that have allowed me to understand the incredible dedication of others and how you can succeed with effort.”

As for the city-hopping days of yore, Mark says that he’s found his forever home in the Gold Coast.

“We’ve got three kids here and eight grandkids, so this is definitely home now,” Mark tells us.

Although using the term “semi-retired”, Mark is still choosing passion projects to get involved with, especially ones that give back to the community in some capacity. Currently he is serving on the board of Major Events Gold Coast and volunteering with charity groups, among other activities.

“My wife says it’s good to see me a bit more, but not as much as she thought she would,” laughs Mark. “But she says it with a twinkle in her eye so I think she’s actually worried about me being home a bit more.” He chuckles.

On a serious note, Mark acknowledges the “massive sacrifices” that his wife and family have had to make over the years in order for him to achieve his career goals and ultimately be recognised by the Queen. Ultimately he finds the award “humbling.”

“Everyone says that, but it’s absolutely true. There’s a bit of joy there too, and you get to reflect on all the people that have been involved in the different stages in your career, and those who have helped and mentored you along the way.”

Perry Cross

Fellow sports-lover Perry Cross was raised on the Gold Coast from the age of 12, where he attended TSS and then worked in his family flooring business, until he was injured playing rugby in 1994.

Just 19 years of age, Perry’s injury left him a C2 ventilated quadriplegic. He didn’t let that stop him though, powering forward with a degree from Bond University and then establishing The Perry Cross Spinal Research Foundation in 2010 to facilitate research to find a cure for paralysis, a field in which he is now a global ambassador, on top of motivational speaking duties.

He describes finding out about his award as “incredible news”.

“I’ve got to say it’s humbling for me, because I just set out to do what I do because it was work that needed to be done,” he says.

“There was no more important work in my life than finding a cure for paralysis, there was nothing happening in that space, and still a lot of work to do. I’m doing what I get out of bed for every day and I’m going to keep doing it no matter what.”

Perry hopes the award may assist the foundation with its public profile.

“From my perspective [the award] maybe gives us credibility with people. In terms of what we’re trying to achieve that’s important, like when you’re trying to fundraise, it’s always important that people support credible organisations so it will help in that respect.”

Along with the hard-working team that supports him, Perry believes that living in Australia is a major contributor to his continued successes.

“If a person with the sort of obstacles and challenges that I’ve faced in my life can go and live a fruitful life, I think it says a lot about the country and the system that we live in. Our system enables us to do things.”

One of the biggest breakthroughs in the Foundation’s research has been in the area of nerve regrowth, something that has changed lives of people in the community. Perry hopes to trial the new technology in spinal cords within the next 12 to 24 months. He believes it can be done.

“We have the facilities on the Gold Coast, and we have the know-how. We fund the research of [2017 Australian of the Year] Dr Alan McKay-Sim, he’s the genius behind the work we support, and there’s no better work to support than local work, so we might as well stay focused on that.”

Focus is crucial to achieving anything, Perry believes.

“Life will throw you challenges, and you can jump as down as much as you like, and spit the dummy and get angry and that won’t change,” he muses. “But if you stay focused on what you CAN do and where you’re going in life, you can achieve great things.”

Professor Phillip Morris

Another Gold Coast resident to achieve great things is prominent Australian psychiatrist Professor Philip Morris, a renowned leader in the field who has worked and taught all over Australia and the US.

In 1994, while working in Melbourne, Prof. Morris founded the National Centre for War-related Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“I noticed there wasn’t much in the way of psychiatric rehabilitation going on for war veterans,” he tells us. “I thought that establishing a national program of rehabilitation was a major opportunity to do something very positive for the mental health of the veterans.”

Prof. Morris worked there until 1997 and then moved to the Gold Coast where, as Director of Mental Health for the Gold Coast District Health Service, he helped establish a psychiatric service out of the old Gold Coast hospital, and became an advocate for the establishment of medical schools at Griffith University and Bond University, where he is currently a Professor at the Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine.

He reflects on the changes he has seen on the Gold Coast since his arrival.

“The medical scene up here on the Gold Coast has gone from strength to strength. We’ve got three major hospitals and seven major private hospitals. When we first came here people were being sent up to Brisbane for oncology – you don’t hear of anyone driving up to Brisbane to have their cancer treatment these days. The last twenty years has seen such growth.”

As President of the Gold Coast Medical Association from 2009 to 2011, and again currently in his second tenure, Prof. Morris has been well positioned to both oversee and help facilitate that growth.

“I try my best in all my activity to enhance the medical profession as an organisation,” he says.

And it’s this attitude and the impact it has had on the growth of psychiatry in Australia that has seen him recognised by the Queen, an honour he shares amongst those who surround him.

“First and foremost, the Good Lord has given me many blessings. Australia’s a great place for getting the opportunity to be able to get ahead and develop a skill, and the award is a reflection of that,” he states.

“My mother, my wife and the rest of the family, when you look at my career it’s all teamwork. You’ve just got to thank all your colleagues for being so good and all the other people who’ve put in the hard yards as well.”

And he’s not done with his career yet.

“There are so many interesting things going on that one doesn’t want to not be a part of it, so I keep very much a clinical activity and my private memory disorder practice. I think it’s important that while I can do it, I’ll do it.”

The eight Gold Coast residents recognised this year included:

  • Rebecca Frizelle – MEDAL (OAM) IN THE GENERAL DIVISION
  • Ralph David Hartland – MEDAL (OAM) IN THE GENERAL DIVISION
  • Mark Peters – MEDAL (OAM) IN THE GENERAL DIVISION
  • Thomas Herbert Holmes – MEDAL (OAM) IN THE GENERAL DIVISION
  • Perry Cross – MEMBER (AM) IN THE GENERAL DIVISION OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA
  • Professor Philip Leo Patrick Morris – MEMBER (AM) IN THE GENERAL DIVISION OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA
  • Stefan Ackerie – MEMBER (AM) IN THE GENERAL DIVISION OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA
  • Terry Jackman – OFFICER (AO) IN THE GENERAL DIVISION OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA

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