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Order of Malta Australia

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The New National Executive: A message from our newly elected President


Pictured: Vice President, Consoeur Professor Michelle Campbell, President Confrère the Hon Justice James Douglas and National Hospitaller  Confrère John Murphy

The new National Executive, successor to the Transitional Council of the Australian Association of the Sovereign Order of Malta

The electoral process that commenced with the decree dated 23 May 2019 of His Most Eminent Highness the Prince and Grand Master and the Sovereign Council of the Order has been completed.

We are all deeply indebted to the members of the Transitional Council, particularly the former President, Confrère Dr Ian Marshall, the Pro-Chancellor, Confrère Sean Farrell, the Pro-Treasurer, Confrère Dr Stephen Christie and the National Hospitaller, Confrère Dr Robert Costa, as well as to the regional hospitallers. Dr Marshall in particular, has worked tirelessly for the Order for many years and will be a valuable resource to be consulted to help maintain the Order’s continuity under our new Executive.

The results of the election were released on 31 August 2019. The new National Executive of the Order is:

I, James Douglas, am a Knight of Honour and Devotion of the Order as were my father, Justice James Archibald Douglas, and my older brother, Justice Robert Ramsay Douglas, both deceased. My father was one of the founding members of the Order in Queensland and Australia.

Although not a previous office-holder in the Order, I have been well aware of its history and activities since I was a young man. I have taken opportunities when they have arisen to visit the headquarters of the Order in Rome and its historical buildings in Rhodes and Malta and the Order’s modern hospital in Bethlehem as well as the site of its original hospital in Jerusalem. I have attended several national assemblies and investitures in Australia over the years since I joined the Order in 2004 and also visited local members in Singapore in 2017. I maintain a keen interest in the Order’s activities in Australia and internationally and in its history.

I have been married to Margaret Douglas, née Kennedy, since 1980. We have two adult children. I was educated by the Augustinians at Villanova College, Coorparoo, Brisbane, and took degrees in Arts and Law at the University of Queensland as well as the postgraduate LLB at Cambridge University.

I was appointed to the Queensland Supreme Court in November 2003 and am obliged to retire from that position when I reach the age of 70 on 9 February 2020. I see my imminent retirement as an opportunity to devote my energies to the works of the Order.

Before my appointment to the Supreme Court I spent 27 years in practice as a barrister in Queensland, becoming a Queen’s Counsel in 1989. Before my admission to the bar I had been the associate to Sir Harry Gibbs, a justice, and subsequently Chief Justice, of the High Court of Australia.

I was President of the Bar Association of Queensland from 1999 to 2001 and had been on the Bar Council for many years before that. From 1989 to 1996 I was Chairman of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Advisory Board and Trustee of its Development Fund and from 1990 to 1996 was also Chairman of the Queensland Theatre Company.

I remain interested in music and the performing arts. I am also a member of the International Academy of Comparative Law and of the American Law Institute, reflecting my interest in other legal systems and comparative law. I was also a committee member and president
of the Alliance Française de Brisbane Inc between 2005 and 2010 and am now a life member of that body. I have been a member of the Senate of Australian Catholic University since 2013.

In my manifesto for the election I said:

“Our motto, tuitio fidei et obsequium pauperum (protection of the faith and service to the poor), provides our reasons for existence. In the past in Australia our activities have been focused more on the provision of assistance to the charitable works of other Church organisations in areas such as palliative care. We have also pioneered our own project, ‘Coats for the homeless’, run community care vans in Sydney and Parramatta and helped to establish the Order’s clinic in Dili. Individual members with medical qualifications have long used those skills to help the poor and sick here and offshore as well.

I believe that, with the current numbers and potential influence of our members, we are in a better position than before to establish a more obvious or concrete presence of the Order within Australian society. The Order’s operations in Germany, France and Italy in particular provide a wonderful example of what we could achieve. Such a presence would assist to increase the work we do and should help increase our members’ numbers, morale and enthusiasm for the Order’s work.

One area that has been suggested is an extension of our work in palliative care by sponsoring the construction of several hospices for the sick and dying around the country. It is a proposal that appeals to my sense of our members’ history as Hospitallers. It may also be timely given the current legislative focus in several states on euthanasia as the solution for the sick and dying rather than palliative care. The persuasive presence of proper provision for the sick and dying by palliative care through a chain of hospices run by the Order would also be a powerful example of defence of the faith.

These may sound like ambitious ideas and they are not the only ones that we should be considering. My exposure to other works of the Church, for example through the ACU, has made me aware of how much we, as an organization, should be able to achieve.

Those who established the orders that taught us or ran our hospitals often had much less to start with than we have. As an ancient order of the Church constituted mainly by lay people we can be inspired by those who taught us and care for us but also by our own forebears within the Order to take on such works ourselves.

So let us put aside any complaints against others, forgive each other and, as St Paul said to the Colossians, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. With such an approach we can achieve great things.”

Enough of me. Let me tell you something of our other new members.

Dame of Magistral Grace Professor Michelle Campbell joined the Order in 2013, has been Executive Dean and Professor of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Australian Catholic University since 2011. She was awarded a Doctor of Nursing in 2002. She has been employed at ACU for over 30 years, first as a lecturer, then Head of School, then Executive Dean. In that role she oversees Schools in Melbourne, Ballarat, North Sydney, Strathfield, Canberra and Brisbane. Her faculty provides undergraduate and postgraduate courses in 16 health disciplines. The School of Nursing is the largest in Australia.

The Faculty has over 7000 students including over 2200 international students. ACU provides many students with an international experience at its Rome campus and has grown partnerships with other prestigious international Catholic universities. All students now undertake community engagement activities domestically and overseas. A major focus is the Faculty’s work in Timor-Leste. Every year students from nursing, midwifery, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, biomedical sciences and exercise science visit Timor-Leste and give back to the community in a variety of ways.

Professor Campbell is a regular participant in the Order’s activities, attending retreats and the monthly vigil mass in Melbourne. She is also a regular leader in the Coats for the Homeless project with student volunteers and attends the Lourdes Day masses for the sick. She is leading the setup of a Bio Ethics Centre at ACU, in conjunction with Catholic Health partners, which is very relevant to the Order’s concern with the care of the sick and defence of the faith. She has participated for years in conferences related to bioethical issues, as well as teaching Health Care Ethics to ACU students. She too will attend the Order’s 2019 Asia Pacific Conference in Melbourne.

She believes she can make a special contribution, given the Order’s concern for the sick and poor, in advancing initiatives in this area in Australia and through existing and possible new overseas links. She will be especially committed to the Order’s clinic in Timor-Leste.

She also has extensive experience in working with national committees, given ACU’s national presence. Her position is also responsible for overseas members so she is very experienced in working with, communicating, and supporting international colleagues, especially in the Asia Pacific Region. Her Faculty already has a large presence in Timor-Leste, and she has visited the country twice recently. She says that places her in a position to commit herself to give the Clinic high priority.

Scott Samson joined the Order in Adelaide in 2007 as a Knight of Magistral Grace. He is a member of the 2019 Asia Pacific Conference organising committee, Master of Ceremonies of the South Eastern Region and was editor of the Australian Hospitaller from 2011 to 2017 among other significant contributions to the Order’s organisation. He is also on the board of Order of Malta Hospice Home Care (Vic) Inc.

He holds a BA, a BLitt (Hons) and an LLB. His career includes experience as an executive in senior legal, corporate, public sector and not for profit organisations with high level government experience. Currently he is General Manager Public Affairs and Communications for leading Australian mental health and disabilities not-for-profit Wellways Australia.. Scott and his wife Alisia, a recipient of the Order’s order of merit – the Order pro Merito Melitensi, have one child and expecting their second in December.

Since joining the Order, Scott has been Assistant National Master of Ceremonies and more recently the administrator of the Association’s Ordo emails where he has highlighted the feast and memorial days within the Order’s Proper of Saints and Beati. Scott brings to the Executive Council his knowledge of the history, protocol and ceremony of our Order, as well as his corporate governance and administrative legal practices experience which will support the continued development of good governance, robust constitutional arrangements and the effective and efficient administration processes needed of our Executive Council, including regular communication with our membership.

Scott wants to contribute his skills and experience towards the renewal of the National Executive and to further our aspirations to live out our Order’s mission; that of service to the sick and the poor and defence of the faith. He wishes to ensure that our Association’s records are appropriately managed, stored and archived so that the history of our Association is kept and available as both a source of ready information on practices and procedures and as historical documentation for generations of members to come.

James Gurry is a finance professional and chartered accountant educated through University of Melbourne with a commerce degree with honours. He has also studied at Peking University in Beijing and Columbia University in New York. As a Knight of Magistral Grace, James has been an active member of the Order in Victoria, New South Wales and the United Kingdom since 2005. He supported the World Youth Day Organizing Committee in 2008 and was been a supporting member of the Youth Order of Malta. He has travelled to Lourdes on two of the Order’s pilgrimages in 2016 and 2017. He is also a financial member of the Companions of Order of Malta UK and participates in the Coats for the Homeless program in Victoria.

In his manifesto James said:

“To the role of Treasurer I will devote my time and professional skills to enable the Order, throughout Australia, to concentrate on our core aims of helping the poor and the sick and to defend the Faith. I wish to represent the national interest and since joining the Order in 2005, I’ve lived and been active in the Victorian (3 years) and NSW (4 years) branches, and internationally with the Order during my years in London. I’m somewhat familiar with the role, responsibility and structure of the Order’s finances at the National level having been in communication with the current Treasurer since returning to Australia in 2018.

As Treasurer I will to bring to bear my skills as a qualified accountant and finance professional, to further the work of modernising the Orders’ finances and equip the Members to best carry out our mission. This will enable a strong platform to support the Australia wide, international and necessary administrative endeavours of our Order in Australia.
Through my time in the Order, particularly at World Youth Day in NSW, my multiple pilgrimages to Lourdes and my involvement in the week to week charitable works in Victoria, this has given me a sense of what the Order can achieve and thrive through activity adequately supported from a financial standpoint. Examples such as the activities of the Companions of the Order in England standout to me as worthwhile aspirations for us to consider in our next phase.”

John Murphy, a Knight of Magistral Grace, is our new National Hospitaller. In 2018, John took on the role of publisher of our excellent Australian Hospitaller magazine and members will have recently received the publication full of news of the Order and coverage ofour activities in the Australian Association,as well as those of the Order worldwide. Since his attendance at the Asia Pacific conference in 2018, John has become the organiser of the Order of Malta’s9th Asia Pacific Conference to be held in Victoria later this year. John and his wife Tanya, a Dame of Magistral Grace, are active participants in the South Eastern Region’s Coats for the Homeless program as well as organising the Region’s monthly vigil masses and participating in the retreats conducted in that region.

His professional publishing skills as the CEO of Prime Creative Media Pty Ltd, a significant multi-platform media organisation, have also been put to use in the production of a prayer book for the Australian Subpriory of the Immaculate Conception. John sees a major role for the Order in rebuilding the community’s goodwill for and faith in the Church by our example of serving those in need both locally and internationally.

Danny Higgins is the new North-Eastern Hospitaller. An engineer by training, he ran a successful business before his retirement in 2010. He is married to Loretta, a Dame of Magistral Grace, and has been a Knight of Magistral Grace since 2007. He is very actively involved in his Region. Danny hopes, among other things, that we can enrich the spiritual lives of individual members and volunteers, engage in practical assistance to the sick and the poor, provide Catholic formation and fellowship for members and volunteers and to play an active role in developing Australian and international projects of the Order.

Stephen Quain is an orthopaedic surgeon who has worked at both St Vincent’s general hospital and St Vincent’s Private hospital in Sydney. During his career he has held various roles including Head of Department and Chairman of the Medical Board Executive.

Within the Orthopaedic Association he has been involved in outreach where he taught and operated in the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa and acted as an Examiner for the Indonesian College of Orthopaedic Surgeons. His résumé also includes service as an Examiner for the College of Surgeons in Orthopaedic Surgery, a consultant surgeon for the Royal Australian Navy and a Navy Reserve surgeon.

While Stephen ceased operating at the end of January 2019, he continues to consult at St Vincent’s Clinic as well as doing medico-legal opinion work and assisting younger colleagues in surgery.

Received into the Order in June 2013 as a Knight of Magistral Grace, Stephen has been an active participant in the Central Eastern Region . For the last two years he has been the Master of Ceremonies, is a regular volunteer for the Community Care Vans, has been a member of the Region’s Executive and the organising committee for the recent Biennial National Assembly. He is also an active member of St Joseph’s Parish Edgecliff, where he sits on the Finance Committee and is a mass reader.

Stephen intends to maintain the region’s principal focus on the charitable works and continuing to expand the services for the homeless by way of the Community Care Vans. Growing the Region’s membership and volunteers is another area of focus high on Stephen’s agenda, with a particular emphasis on engaging a younger demographic.

Newly elected Hospitaller for the South Eastern Region, David Blackwell, is a retired Accountant and National Serviceman, finishing with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. David converted to Catholicism before marrying his late wife Terry and is father to twin daughters and grandfather to seven grandchildren.

Before joining the Order, he was heavily involved in Parish life at Our Lady of Good Counsel where in the 1980’s he was asked to develop the Parish’s first RCIA program. He was involved in an early catechism program and served as a member of the Parish Leadership Team from 2007 to 2011 – the last two years as Chair. He and his wife were participants in the Ministries of Leader and Reader and Eucharistic Minister. Today, he is a regular Lector and Eucharistic Minister at the Basilica of Our Lady of Victories.

David was received into the Order in 2013 as a Knight of Magistral Grace and is a member of the Subpriory of the Immaculate Conception, taking the Promise of Obedience in 2018. He is also active in the Region’s charitable activities, including coordinator for the Lourdes Masses at aged care homes and the annual Lourdes Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral. He is also a team leader for volunteers distributing the Order’s Coats for the Homeless and a board member of ‘The Order of Malta Hospice Home Care (VIC) Inc, while also developing a program to provide assistance to our indigenous communities.

As Hospitaller for the South Eastern Region, David intends to devote his time and skills to work with members to create ‘hands on’ opportunities and programs within their localities. These programs will continue to reach out and develop partnerships to further the work for the sick and poor.

Sean Parnell is the new Hospitaller for the Northern Central Region. He is a Northern Territory police officer, a graduate of Duntroon and holds a master’s degree in theology. He is also a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and of the Australian Institute of Police Management. He has been actively involved in several organisations in the Church including being on the board of Caritas Australia since 2015. He participates in very many of the Order’s activities in the Territory and is currently undertaking his year of preparation to take the Promise of Obedience. His wife Kiim was received into the Order this year as a Dame of Magistral Grace.

Sean said in his manifesto that he believed it was important to ensure that the spiritual needs of the Order’s small group in the Territory are nourished and not lost in the larger national scheme. He believes it is important that the Order grow in the Territory particularly in relation to service to the poor in spirit and those experiencing poverty in their living conditions. He continued with these words: “… the first Australians of this land are those most in need in the Territory and it is to this aim that we must set our sights on helping to alleviate their poverty and affirm our faith. In this context it is important not to forget our nearest neighbours in Timor-Leste and to offer what assistance we can within our resources here”.

Noel Mifsud is the new Hospitaller for the Southern Region which encompasses both South Australia and Western Australia. Professionally Noel is an educator and his experience includes as former Principal at the Christian Brothers College in South Australia and Xavier Community Education Centre in the Northern Territory. He was the former Station Leader of Casey Station Antarctica and was a Captain in the Australian Army Reserves. Currently Noel is a Senior Education consultant.

As Hospitaller for the Southern Region, Noel seeks to humbly yet actively serve the Church and the Order. In his manifesto, Noel identified his aim was to “seek new and contemporary responses to the call of the sick and poor”. He intends to improve communication within the Southern Region and beyond and to seek new ways to grow in membership and youth volunteers.

Dr Greg Coyle is the new Hospitaller from New Zealand. He is the Principal Advisor for the national social programs of The Salvation Army, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga and Samoa. He is also a member of the New Zealand Parole Board and of several other significant boards, including on the board of the New Zealand Institute of Directors. Greg is a longstanding member of St Mary of the Angels Parish, in Wellington.

He wishes to establish a nationally unified body in New Zealand and to grow the Order’s membership there. He plans for the New Zealand members of the Order to hold a national retreat from 5 to 7 June 2020 at the Home of Compassion in Island Bay, Wellington. Australian members will be invited to attend the retreat. The New Zealand members hope to make it a bi-annual event on the New Zealand – Australia Order calendar. He also wants to develop and implement effective programs to care for Our Lords the Sick and Our Lords the Poor, to bolster the Order’s finances and to report more effectively to the Australian Association and to the New Zealand Catholic community.

I am excited by the prospect of working with the new National Executive to set a program of action for the Order to increase the number and significance of our works for the poor and in defence of the faith. I expect to increase the level of national cooperation among our branches. I also hope that the spiritual lives of our members will intensify with their greater involvement in the Order’s activities.

I propose to visit Rome and Hong Kong in October to help prepare for the Asia Pacific Conference in Victoria from 21 to 24 November 2019. I also wish to visit the different regions in Australia and New Zealand in the near future to meet as many of our members as possible. There is also the prospect of attending a communications conference in Rome at the end of March and the Lourdes pilgrimage at the beginning of May 2019.

The variety of talents in these new members of the National Executive will make us well equipped to take on the challenges of realising the aims of the Order in this region. With the help of your prayers and best wishes we shall do our best.

Confraternally yours,

James Douglas KHD

The Australian Association

The Australian Association, formed in 1974, currently has in excess of 300 members and aspirant members across every State and Territory of Australia. We also have ongoing and strong links with the Order’s National Associations throughout the Asia Pacific Region including in Singapore and the Philippines and with members of the Order in New Zealand, Hong Kong SAR, Thailand and Korea. The Order of Malta is committed to serving Our Lords the Poor and Sick worldwide and has done so for over 900 years. This website shares with you the history, mission and current activities of the Order of Malta in Australia, and provides links to the work of the Order world-wide.