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Youthful enthusiasm earns AOM honours

Josie Crisara and Neville Burrows share a devotion to bringing out the best in young people, and following the announcement of Queens Birthday Honours they also each have an Order or Australia Medal in recognition of their contributions.

Josie, who is principal of the Uniting Church-associated independent school Aitken College, believed the award was primarily in recognition of her nearly 35 years of volunteering to help run the Science Talent Search competition.

“Basically, it’s about getting, young people to do some science and technology based research and get them to communicate their findings in creative ways,” Josie said.

“This is something I am very passionate about, as an educator.”

Science Talent Search is a Victoria-wide competition that is open to primary and secondary students and receives about 2500 entries each year, with prizes given out during an Exhibition and Presentation day that typically has 2000 people attend.

Josie said the competition was an early response to the having young people  go on to study in  the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects beyond secondary school.

“Science Talent Search started in in 1952 as a research investigation based competition to try to get some hands-on interest in science. It has evolved since then,” Josie said.

“Students can enter in a whole range of areas from experimental research, games, photography, computer programs, posters, photography, creative writing, models and inventions and class projects.”

Josie, was very adamant that she did not “want to make a fuss” over the OAM.

“I am really honoured. I feel that it is a collective award as there are lots of volunteers involved and I think they all need to take the credit,” she said.

“If it raises the profile of science and research in particular, that’s a great thing.”

Neville, who lives in Ocean Grove on Victoria’s Surf Coast, was awarded his OAM for “service to the Uniting Church in Australia, and to the community”.

The 93-year-old was a founder of Rowville Uniting Church, worked as a youth leader for Ashburton Methodist Church and has a long history of involvement with the Scouts, where he rose to the rank of Assistant Area Commissioner for east Melbourne.

Neville said when he began working as a project officer on the Rowville Uniting Church in 1982, the congregation was meeting in a tennis pavilion.

“The making of the Rowville Uniting Church was really a highlight for me, just working with people, they were like pioneers of something,” he says.

“It was just wonderful to work with them and that church grew quite rapidly out there. It was passed onto good hands.”

At Ashburton he led a team of 15 in youth ministry, which he said was a tremendous time in his life.

“The thing that I really come back to is my love for youth, young people,” Neville said.

“I have loved church life and all the people I have met, especially the people who have been working behind the scenes. I say that if you’re a leader, you’ve always got to have people behind you that are helping you achieve the goals you want to set.”


Neville Burrows was awarded his OAM for “service to the Uniting Church in Australia, and to the community”.

In his retirement years, Neville and his wife Joyce were invited by the Ocean Grove Uniting Church minister to move to the Surf Coast and he was a member of that church for 20 years, during which time he preached as a lay person on the local circuit.

Neville, who lives alone following his wife’s death from Alzheimer’s disease a decade ago, is still committed to helping others.

“Over the last 10 years I have done quite a bit of mentoring, all ages from business directors to school students, trainee pastors,” Neville said.

“I’ve really enjoyed that, I am still pretty keen even at 93, I am not out to grass at the moment.”

Neville said a persistent neighbour nominated him for the OAM, and he was surprised but very honoured to receive the award.

“I am just grateful for the opportunities I had in the Uniting Church because I learnt a lot in the Uniting Church, how God works and how important it is to be faithful in his service,” he said.

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