This Monday saw the first King’s Birthday honours handed out and although there were no folks who currently call the Silver City home, there were two ex-Broken Hill people awarded Order of Australia medals.
We sat down with Ms Joan Roper, and Mr Laurence Wallace to chat about their life and the honour they’ve received.
Joan Roper OAM
Ms Roper was a dedicated member of many Broken Hill organisations for more than 50 years before declining health meant she relocated to Brisbane to be closer to family.
During her time in the Silver City, she was the president of the Broken Hill Eisteddfod Society, a society she helped form, and the keyboard section co-ordinator. She was also a piano and organ teacher, a job she continued until the ripe old age of 84, and was also secretary of the Broken Hill Veteran and Vintage Car Club. Ms Roper was a keen tennis player as well.
Ms Roper also played tennis until she turned 81. A game she loved. She decided to give the game away after she injured herself.
“I was running to hit a left-handed shot and over I went,” Ms Roper said of the injury that ended her playing career.
Now she no longer wields the racket, she enjoys spending her time watching test cricket, going to concerts with her daughter, though that’s when she is not performing herself.
She celebrated her OAM with her favourite drink, iced coffee. Her daughter suggested a bottle of Moscato to which Ms Roper replied, “I think I’d prefer the iced coffee.”
“I thought people were just having me on,” Ms Roper told the Truth about the moment she found out she was receiving the Order of Australia Medal.
Ms Ropers passion for the piano and organ endures and she still enjoys performing at the Regis Ferny Grove in Queensland that she now calls home.
“I wake people up every morning,” Ms Roper laughs.
“Sometimes the staff come in and tell mum there is a concert on today, and she says who’s performing and they say it’s you,” daughter Caroline Morrisey tells us.
Often, Ms Roper is drawing a crowd even when she is not performing in an impromptu concert, when she is playing the piano in her room.
“Quite often residents will gather in the living room to listen to mum playing the piano in her room,” Ms Morrissey says.
Another passion that still excites Ms Roper to this day is the time she spent with husband, Bruce Roper, as part of the Broken Hill Veteran and Vintage Car Club.
“I loved talking with all the blokes about the engines and how much miles to the gallon they would get, much more than talking to the other women. They were just so boring. Except for my best friend Beth Garland, she’s still a part of the club now,” Ms Roper reminisced.
Ms Joan Roper will receive her award this coming October at Government House by Queensland Governor, Dr Jeannette Young AC PSM.
Laurence Wallace OAM
Born in Broken Hill in 1926, Laurence Wallace, has received his OAM at the age of 97 for a multitude of services to community, including being a founding member of the Morsecodians Fraternity of South Australia/Northern Territory, a fraternity which commemorates the Overland Telegraph every June and which allows the public to see how communications were done in the 1800s.
“I formed the South Australian Northern Territory Morsecodian Fraternity. Our key project each year was to fire up the telegraph at Adelaide, Alice Springs and Darwin and to signal over that line so that the young people could see how we communicated back in the 1800s,” Mr Wallace told the Truth.
Despite his years, Mr Wallace has as much passion for the Overland Telegraph as he did when he first started working on the historical monument.
As far as the moment he received notice of his award, Mr Wallace says it was very humbling, and he was quick to point out the award wasn’t just for him.
“Well, I was very humbled by it. Humbled and proud that communications had been recognised. And whilst I got the medal, I have to give credit to those dedicated old telegraphists of yesteryear who committed themselves over the last 30-odd years to celebrating for 10 days each year the history of the Overland Telegraph because it brought publicity not only across Australia, but across the world,” Mr Wallace told us.
“I share this with my colleagues who were contributing to our annual event because without them there would not have had an annual celebration of the Overland Telegraph.”
Mr Wallace said he celebrated with a coffee and a bit of cake when he found out the news yesterday.
Bronte Martin AM
Ms Bronte Martin received an AM yesterday for a decorated career that continues to this day for significant service to trauma and emergency response nursing in a range of roles. Growing up in Broken Hill, she attended Alma Public School, before getting her high school education at Willyama High School. Ms Martin left the Silver City to attend UniSA when she was 17.
Ms Martin has had an impressive career which includes working with the World Health Organisation, NATO, and the UN and she is in Geneva at the moment, and was unavailable for interview, but we will speak with her when she returns to Australian shores next week.
Ms Martin is also on the Covid-19 Honour Roll.