By Andrew Humphries
Uniting Vic.Tas CEO Bronwyn Pike’s outstanding contribution to the community in a number of fields has been recognised with Australia Day honours.
Bronwyn was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in this year’s honours list for her “significant service to social welfare and not-for-profit organisations, and to the Parliament of Victoria”.
She has been Uniting Vic.Tas CEO since 2019 and was board chairperson from 2016-19, board chairperson of UnitingCare Australia from 2017-19 and of UnitingCare NSW/ACT from 2015-19, and Director of Justice and Social Responsibility within the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania from 1991-97.
Bronwyn said she was humbled to be one of the thousands of Australians recognised in this year’s honours list.
“It’s a surprise, but a huge honour to be recognised in this way,” she said.
“There are many incredible people on this year’s list, people who have devoted their lives to others and to their communities, so it’s humbling to be named alongside them.”
Former Synod Moderator, Dr Jill Tabart, was also recognised for her outstanding contribution to the Uniting Church over many years, with a Medal of the Order of Australia.
Jill was Moderator from 1983-84, a member of the standing committee, chairperson of the advisory committee on ministerial placements and chairperson of the board of the Centre for Theology and Ministry.
She was also the Church’s first female National President, from 1994-1997, and member of the standing committee from 1982-2000, and is currently secretary of the Church of All Nations in Carlton.
Jill said the Australia Day award recognised not just her, but the many people who had made the Church such an outstanding organisation.
“I think back to when I was elected the first female President of the Uniting Church and I recognised that there had been decades of outstanding women ahead of me whose fearless leadership had paved the way for me, and I just happened to be there at the time, I suppose,” she said.
“I recognise that I was carried on their shoulders and, for the Uniting Church itself, it was significant recognition that we had moved to a particular stage in our understanding around everybody being gifted for Ministry.”
Jill said she was proud of the fact that in her role as National President she guided the change to consensus decision-making.
“That stands out for me very strongly because it was a momentous step in the life of the Church and something that I have continued to be engaged with,” she said.
“It was recognition that adversarial debate is not a healing process and I see consensus decision-making as a healing aspect of the way we work as a Church.
“We do it because we are committed to finding a way forward and seeking God’s guidance to find that way forward.”
Jill said she was also proud of being part of the move towards recognising the impact dispossession had had on our First Nations people.
“It was during my time as National President that we reached a position of offering an apology to the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and it was the challenging and gracious response from the Congress that enabled us to work together through a Covenant of Commitment,” she said.
“That big and intentional healing step is something that we continue to this day in finding ways to walk together.”
Jill said the Uniting Church had given her just as much as she had given it over many years.
“I’m particularly glad and grateful for being part of a Church that is so insistent that every member is gifted and respected and encouraged to find ways that their capacities can be expressed,” she said.
“I was able to be involved in various leadership roles because people were able to say to me, ‘why not give it a go?’.
“So to do that and be supported along the way has been a liberating experience.”
Medals of the Oder of Australia were also awarded to the following Uniting Church members:
John Coppock, from Kew, who has been a council member at St Michael’s Uniting Church since 2006, was honoured for his service to the pharmacy profession.
The late Margaret Hall from Emerald was honoured for her service to the community, including the Uniting Church, where she was a choir member, monthly bulletin writer, organiser and author of A Church of their Own – 25 Years of the Uniting Church in Emerald.
Peter and Dorothy Heard were honoured for service to the community of Numurkah and their contribution to the Numurkah Uniting Church.
Ruth Hosking from Golden Square was honoured for her contribution to the Forest Street Uniting Church, where she has been on the church council, chairperson of the elders committee and member of the social justice group.
Ruth has also made a substantial contribution to UnitingCare Bendigo as secretary and a member of the steering committee when it was formed.
Kingswood College principal Elisabeth Lenders and Ballarat Clarendon College principal David Shepherd also received Medals of the Order of Australia for services to education.