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Paul Walshe receives Order of Australia

By Georgina Connery, Canberra Times journalist. Republished from article first published in the The Canberra Times, 6 January 2017

Paul Walshe, Tigers 100 Club member and new Order of Australia recipient. Photo: Rohan Thomson

By day he manages corporate affairs for ActewAGL, but throughout his life Queanbeyan’s Paul Walshe has devoted himself to supporting others.

He will be awarded an Order of Australia Medal as part of the Australia Day honours for service to the communities of Queanbeyan and Canberra.

In 2000 Mr Walshe joined forces with Cancer Support Group ACT Eden Monaro founder Yvonne Cuschieri.

He joined the inaugural board and contributed 15 years helping to run the charity which offers financial assistance to cancer patients and their families.

His enduring passion to help others in trying times across the community has a lot to do with his upbringing as the eldest of nine siblings, he said.

“We didn’t have a lot but mum and dad worked hard to give us all an education and a roof over our heads,” he said. “It always made me feel privileged to be able to help.”

Wise words from former Actew AGL chairman John Mackay to “make a difference through his work” is advice that has stuck with him.

Working closely with Yvonne Cuschieri, who he calls “the saint”, played a big part too.

“If there is one person that has inspired me it is Yvonne,” he said. “I call her a saint.”

Witnessing the Cuschieri’s struggle to find respite support when their son was ill with a brain tumour lead Mr Walshe to his latest project lobbying the NSW government, with help from Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart, to build a carers respite centre in Queanbeyan.

The remarkable stories of the people helped through his charity work are unforgettable.

But so are the wild fashions Mr Walshe has worn in the name of fundraising.

Paul Walshe and Cam Sullings at the 2013 Cancer Support Group Hawaiian Ball Photo: Lyn Mills

For six years he donned a festive Hawaiian shirt as the organiser of the Cancer Support Group annual fundraising ball, and proudly wore a fuschia suit for the eight years he organised Canberra’s Pink Dinner for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

He advocated for mental health as a Pathways to Recovery board member and since 2009 has been on the Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal board.

It’s a wonder he has time to squeeze in more, but Mr Walshe has been Australian Football-obsessed since he joined the Queanbeyan Tigers as an under eights player.

Now a life member of the club, he looks back fondly on his days on the board and as treasurer between 1992 and 1997.

Paul Walshe and Dorothy Service at the 2015 Global Illumination Pink Dinner at Hyatt Hotel, Canberra Photo: Supplied

For decades he relished the sporting rivalry between Queanbeyan and Canberra but said “the borders come down when it comes to charity work.”

“It’s always about what we can do to help each other,” he said.

There will hardly be time to celebrate with his partner Kellie and family, sons Gerard and James, and step-daughter Nikki on Australia Day as, true to form, Mr Walshe will be out early volunteering.

“I’ll be down at Commonwealth Park from 6.30am cooking sausages for the Great Aussie Breakfast,” he said.

Pink Dinner 2017 at the Hyatt Hotel. Sand artist Brett Bowler with MC Paul Walshe Photo: Lyn Mills

“We might watch the Caps play on Thursday afternoon and maybe head down to Regatta Point for the fireworks and concert. But it is back to work on Friday – no rest for the wicked.”

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