Happy New Year… Farewell 2016, Welcome 2017

Written by AHQ

31 December 2016

As last hours of 2016 tick past I want to take a few minutes to wrap up the year.

What an amazing year it has been.   Receiving the OAM in January remains one of the most humbling and cherished memories of my life.  I try every day in what I do for Aussie Heroes and in my personal life to remain worthy of such an honour.

February saw Aussie Heroes at the Casula Powerhouse for a Defence Family Welfare Day and we will be at another Defence Family Welfare Day this February but this time at the Concord RSL.

In March I visited Canberra and caught up with the newly returned Commander of the Joint Task Force, Rear Admiral Jones, the now Warrant Officer of the Navy, WO Gary Wight, and a great group of quilters.  I also visited RAAF Richmond to present a quilt for the great achievement of 10000 airbourne to a loadmaster.

I also attended the Stitches and Craft Show and that started us on the track of buying the Simply 16 quilting machine which has hugely increased our productivity.

We started work on the chapel quilts we made for Kabul and also our beautiful ANZAC Themed quilt that was sent to the ANZAC Hospital in Iraq.

In April  we started the month off with a bang with an invitation to attend morning tea at RAAF Glenbrook courtesy of the Air Commander Australia and his wife.  A fabulous time was had by all.  Of course we observed ANZAC Day.  I personally was privileged to attend the deeply moving service with 2 Commando Regiment.

We also started sending laundry bags to Cairns for all their sea-going sailors on patrol boats and the like.

At the end of April I took part in a music video for the Australian band, Simply Bushed at they recorded their awesome tribute song, “Raise Your Glass”.  What an amazing experience and what a class act these guys are…. happily and most excitingly their video has been nominated for Best Music Video in the Golden Guitar Awards, coming up at the end of January this month… good luck guys! You deserve to win!

In May we continued on with our laundry bags for Cairns and started on our sea-going sailors and soldiers in Darwin.   I made another trip to Canberra and caught up with recipients and friends and intiated discussions about our dinner at the end of the year.

June…. well we all know what happened in June…  at 1am on the 12th of June my home was destroyed by fire.   What a surreal experience. Still seems amazing that it happened.  Still seems unreal. I think the fact that my home was at the end of a short battleaxe block helped me in a funny way as once to left the house and cleared my car from the driveway to allow access for the firemen, I could not see the house and did not actually watch it go up in flames so I do not have that vision in my memory banks.

Thank goodness we were insured.  I have said it before and I hope you are not sick of hearing it but thank goodness for all of you. People go through horrible experiences like this all the time but I doubt that there are many people who have received the most wonderful outpouring of love and support that my family and I received and continue to receive.  People will tell you that six weeks after an event like this people move on and think you have moved on as well.. well not so in my case. I continue to get emails and messages whenever someone has the need to contact me and so often there is a quick enquiry as to how we are going and has the rebuild started yet. More on that later…..

Thanks largely to the massive support of the wonderful local ladies and gents involved with Aussie Heroes, so many of you unsung heroes but I could not have come back without you!.

We managed to go ahead with our display at Government House over June/July for two weeks and also managed to concurrently attend the Stitches and Craft Show.  Again, so much support and love. Attending both these displays/shows at the same time was a huge undertaking for us at any time, let alone after losing just about all our resources but we pulled together and we made it… rose like a Phoenix, stronger than ever….  Huge thanks to Blessington who immediately offered me a great price to replace the Simply 16 and to Bernina who gave great deals on replacement sewing machines and to Selina who replaced on of them as a gift.   Unbelievable generosity and support.

Around 4-6 weeks after the fire we were up and running again, never really stopped I guess, but felt more on track by then anyway.

July saw our Chapel quilts arrive in Kabul. I still can’t believe that these quilts made it after being loaded into my car the night before the fire! They were meant to be!

I started to get out and about a bit after the fire… attending the joyous welcome home for HMAS Darwin… a ship that had risen to the challenge of supporting us marvelously, raising over $8000 for us to purchase a new Simply 16 having lost the first one in the fire just three weeks after we bought it.  I also attended a March Out at Kapooka, always a special experience.

August saw me still working hard, with much assistance, to get Aussie Heroes out from behind the eight ball. I still don’t think we have caught up but we are still ticking along, working hard and kicking goals.

September saw HMAS Watson invite a few of us to attend a clear lower deck parade so they could present me with vouchers as another gesture of the amazing support I have received since the fire.

News stories on TV and in magazines were aired and published.   I guess the fire was one way to raise the profile of Aussie Heroes, but certainly not a method I would recommend.

I think it was in October that we started sending laundry bags to our submariners.  One more lot and they will all be catered for.  

October also saw us attend an afternoon tea on HMAS Darwin in order to be among the organisations that they recognised with donations from funds raised whilst they were on deployment…. a crew of around 200 raised over $40000 ………… amazing work but true unsung Aussie Heroes!

Preparations continued a plenty for our end of year dinner. Time passed in a blur as so many things were happening in order to get ready for an amazing end to the year.

At the beginning of November 140 of us celebrated our year at HMAS Harman with a wonderful dinner hosted by the Commanding Officer and attended by many recipients and quilters.  I would not change a minute of the night, nothing went amiss, all the plans went smoothly and the only thing I wished was that I could have slowed the night down… time just went too fast but what a wonderful night it was.  

About fifty of us met for breakfast at Poppy’s Cafe at the War Memorial the next morning.. another huge success and also an event to be repeated every year.

Now we have to think about where in Canberra we can hold the dinner for 2017.  A hard act to follow..

I no sooner returned home from Canberra and it was time to head off to welcome home HMAS Perth, as their guest, on board with them as they came alongside at the end of their deployment on Remembrance Day of all days.  What a wonderful experience…. one I will never forget and a wonderful way to honour Aussie Heroes.  Thank you!

Back from Perth and just about straight down to Wagga to attend the Wagga Christian College Defence Force Day.    I drove home on my birthday and then a week later when celebrating my birthday with friends, I was presented with a gift I will always hold among my most treasured possessions, my new Aussie Hero Quilt… replacing one I had been given in 2013 which had been lost in the fire.   I did not see that one coming at all.

December started with a trip to Melbourne to attend an Aussie Hero Lunch for Victorians.  A great day was had by all. I expect this will also become an annual event though I am not sure I will be able to afford to attend it every year.  

A last sewing day in Penrith on the 17th and then it was Christmas and then here we are… New Year’s Eve.

Because so many of you ask… a brief update on our home.   Plans were finally submitted to council in November.   In early December they were knocked back by council for various reasons (none of our doing though) so we have had to go back to the start again and are now waiting for amended documents to be submitted.   No idea when that will happen, hopefully before January is out. We have been told to expect about a 2 month turn around and then, once approved it will take around 8-9 months to turn our plans into a house…. that means it will be sometime AFTER Christmas 2017 before we are back in our own home.

That is a lot longer that we expected but there is not much we can do to speed things up but you can bet your bottom dollar that I will not be doing anything that might cause delays!   We have to deal with it as best we can… I remind myself that there are people much worse off than us. We have a roof over our heads, I have enough room to run Aussie Heroes and are so blessed with the friends who support us when we need it.

Whilst there are sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen who are struggling with PTSD and other injuries, as well as those who deal with homelessness and worse I refuse to sit here and feel sorry for myself.

So, my plans for January are to keep things as quiet and peaceful as I can as I will largely be at home on my own for most of it and this is the only time of the year that is remotely quiet for me.

Aussie Heroes swings back into action straight after Australia Day… my first speaking engagement sees me fly to South Australia as the guest of the South Australian Quilter’s Guild to speak on 2 Feb. I have another speaking engagement on Feb 13th and then there is the Family Welfare Day in Concord at the end of the month. I already have two speaking dates in March and one if July.

Loads to do and loads to look forward to..

This year we managed to send over 1300 quilts and nearly 3000 laundry bags.  We have achieved well over 6600 quilts and over 13000 laundry bags in the last five years.   Amazing. 

Here is to aiming bigger and better next year. 

I am sorry I did not go back and find photos to illustrate all of this but that would have taken ages and I don’t have time today. I have sewing to do… and some scones to make for afternoon tea with a good friend, not to mention a pavlova to decorate for tonight’s desert.

Before I go though, once again, a heartfelt thank you to all of you, for all you have done to support Aussie Heroes and myself!   I constantly marvel at how blessed I have been to be able to do what I do and the wonderful people I get to do it with and for!   

Thank you, thank you, thank you! 

Wishing you ALL a very Happy, peaceful, safe and productive New Year.


Much love, Jan-Maree  xx

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  1. Jo


  2. Sue Niven

    Lots of love to you and all the people we support and all the fellow sewers and supporters. I will be sewing up a storm in 2017.

  3. Robyn Hanstock

    Happy New Year to you and your family, Jan-Maree, and God bless you.


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