Hi All

As some of you will know I headed down to Canberra last week and enjoyed a jam packed week of visits, meetings and catch-ups for Aussie Heroes. 

I had so much on my schedule that I had to have it written out to refer to and some days I had to refer to it to see what I had done on previous days. 

Here is a bit of a wrap up of what I got up to.

I was on the road by just after nine which gave me time to stop at the Post Office and drop off and collect mail.   I made it in time to keep an appointment to visit Old Parliament House to check out Members Dining Rooms 1 and 2, two large rooms that will be combined, to be the venue for our Annual Dinner this year.   

This will be a beautiful setting for our dinner. Entrance will be via this bridge which brings you right up to the doors of the Dining Rooms.  There is parking on the left and right of the building but also at the back of the building to the left and right of the bridge. I should be able to show you a diagram of the area to make it more clear for you.  Those who can’t walk from the car park can be dropped off at the end of the bridge and then they only have a short walk to get to the doors.

This is the interior of the rooms. It does not look much with the piles of chairs and tables but wait til you see it with the tables and chairs all laid out and decorated with quilts and laundry bags on display as well. I think the atmosphere will be lovely. 

The middle pair of doors in the background of this photo lead to the bar where you will be able to purchase your drinks

Adjacent to Members Dining Room 1 is the bar… what a lovely room.

Unlike last year, there should be plenty of room to wait for your drinks without havin to try and squeeze between the tables. 

Monday was a quiet night at home with my husband, preparing and makking sure I had all my ducks in a row for the coming week. 

Most days I left our home in Greenway, south Canberra around 8am or earlier. 

Tuesday saw me at the Royal Military College – Duntroon. I presented this quilt to be hung in the Headquarters Building. Made by Lynn, it was orignally destined to go to Kabul and hang in a combined space over there but, unavoidably, plans changed and the location it had been bund for closed down so RMC was more than happy to receive it.  They were delighted to be able to display some of our work and the corps badges speak to the corps that graduates of RMC will serve in throughout their service. 

After RMC-D I headed to the city and the headquarters of the Department of Veterans Affairs where I had a meeting with Liz Cosson, the Secretary of DVA.  I had not met Liz before but she had heard of Aussie Heroes and was very interested and positive about the impact we are having.  I did not have time to take any photos but I was invited to head back to DVA on Thursday mornng.

Tuesday night, again no photos, my husband David and I joineed CAPT Phill Henry and his family for dinner. Phill was the Captain of HMAS Darwin when they last completed Operation Manitou in the Middle East and right up until she was decommissioned. He has remained a good friend to me and also to Aussie Heroes so as well as some great dinner conversation we spent  a fair bit of time making future plans and thinking about future connections. 

Wednesday morning saw me off to meet Jenny Bowker. I had not met Jenny before, so it was a great pleasure to be able to spend some time talking to her about what is required for her talk at our Quilter’s Gathering on 1 November as well as Aussie Heroes in general and her quilting experiences. 

Wednesday night I attended the Honouring Women United By Defence Dinner at Parliament House.  What an amazing night. 540 people all connected to defence, all in the one room.  People came from all over and I did not take anywhere near enough photos. This is the hall outside the dining room where we spent the evenings. Those pillars are made of the most gorgeous pale green marble and are deisgned (if my memory serves me correctly) to be reminiscent of our gum trees. 
It was wonderful to bump into this gorgeus fellow, Ben Farrinazzo, one of our amazing Invictus Team and my personal laundry bag recipeint. 

I also bumped into one of your recipients Bev F, remember that quilt you made with the sepia print maps of the world on it… It has found a very happy home. 
Here I am with Tamara Sloper-Harding, who I served with and who is now the Vice President of my RSL Sub-Branch, Avalon, where they are doing lots of great things for our contemporary veterans.  Tamara has been great about getting the local community involved.  Also pictured, many of you wil recognise our CPO Cath Harvey.

I managed to catch up with a couple more of the 2018 Invictus Games team, Nicki Bradley and Brigid Baker, and a frirnd of their’s Dani. 

It was an honour to meet the Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC and her aide, Celeste.  Celeste’s partner has received a quilt and laundry bag.
I took the opportunity to tell the Minister what we have achieved and continue to do over the last seven and a half years.  She was interested in hearing more. 

As a gesture of thanks the Mnister gifted me with one of her gorgeous coins. 

Wednesday night was a late one but that did not stop me starting early on Thursday morning.   Traffic was slow but I made it to the Headquarter of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.  First I did an interview for DVA’s Media and publications and then I was asked to join the Female Veterans and Family Forum that was in place at the time.  I knew a number of those attending and was delighted to meet a couple of recipients I had not met before. I had a number of friends attending so it was lovely to see them as well. 

After morning tea, Liz asked me to speak to the assembled and tell them about Aussie Heroes. Before I spoke one lady in the front row leant forward and thanked me for the quilt she had received on deployment.  There were a number of questions from the audience and then Mr Craig Orme, DSC AM CSC, in attendance for the Forum, said a few words. Craig was the second Commander of the Joint Task Force to benefit from a relationship with Aussie Heroes and the first to have us in place for his whole deployment.  Craig spoke of his experience receiving his quilt and laundry bag, made by yours truly, and of the reactions he witnessed when other servicemen and women received their quilts and bags.  Even as I was leaving the room I was stopped by people who told me their personal connection to what we do. Be proud, those of you who sew for us or support us in a tangible way, have absolutely no doubt that we are making a difference in a very positive and memorable way. 

Liz was kind enough to walk me out, along with her staff, so I was able to remember to get a photo this time.  

I went straight from DVA to the new home of Rhonda and Leo Davies.  For those who do not know, Leo was the Chief of Air Force until 3 July this year and we had arranged that he would receive his quilt, made by myself, when I was next in Canberra.   I have seen people of all ranks and services receive their quilt and givig Leo his was proof that it does not matter the rank, or the service, a personalised quilt is a special and much appreciated gift. A number of times Leo looked at his quilt and commented, “its my life in a quilt”.  After much deliberation Leo has decided that his quilt will sit on his chair and he will frame a picture of it.  Quilts are meant to be used he said. 

From Leo and Rhonda’s home I raced back to Greenway and had literally two minutes at home. I needed to change for dinner as I did not know if I would make it back before dinner and I needed to be wearing something warmer. 

Two minutes at home for a brief changed and I was back in the car bound for HMAS Harman where I was met by the Command Warrant Officer, newly in the job after having served on HMAS Success til she decomissioned.   I had some things to deliver to her and then she took me to the Bonshaw Mess so I could reconnect with someone from my past.  Believe it or not the Commander who was in charge of my postings when I was last in the Navy is still serving and had recently been deployed. It was lovely to put a face to the name and catch up again. With any luck we will see him at our dinner in November. 

Dinner that night was with the team who are giving invaluable assistance organising our dinner this year. 

Friday morning was a beautiful sunny day. I had to meet someone at the Cafe at RMC so that I could deliver another quilt. No photos of this one as the quilt is yet to be presented. 

From there I moved on to a meeting  with the WO-N Gary Wight, another of my personal recipients and a firm friend of Aussie Heroes.  I had a quilt to pass to Gary which I can show you as the recipient does not know he is receiving it and is unlikely to read the blog anyway.

I also entrusted Gary with our hand made invitations for the VIPs invited to our dinner. Gary ensure they were hand delivered so that we did not have to worry about any of them being lost in the mail.
These are all shoe bag sized laundry bags and the feedback so far has been very, very positive. 

Don’t they look fabulous.  A huge WELL DONE to Ruth S who put them all together for us. 

The front of the bag sports the relevant service crest, their appointments and the recipient’s initials.  T

he back features our invitation, printed on fabric and pieced into the bag.  Unfortunately these were printed before we got our new letterhead and logo but that can’t be helped. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. 

On Friday night my husband and I joined recipient, Donna, and her family for a delicious dinner. Donna has been kind enough to donate a three night stay at their gorgeous Air BnB house on the NSW south coast as a prize for our dinner.  It was lovely to meet her and her family in person. 

 Monday found me getting up early enough to be in the car by 0730 and on the road home.  I walked in the door at 11am and by 1150 I had ANZACs cooling on racks so that I would have some to offer Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Mike Noonan, AO when he dropped in on his way north on leave. I have already told you about his visit but include it here to round off my trip. 

Huge thanks to Gail for looking after Aussie Heroes when I was in Canberra. Most days I had about 15 -30 minutes at home from 8am til after ten so I am not sure when I would have answered emails. 

Now I am trying to catch up on the “to do” list I brought back with me. It is huge so I am hoping to have it knocked over before the weekend is here.   Wish me luck!

Till next time… keep spreading the word and happy stitching!

Jan-Maree xx