Archived News Item

Presentation of Order of Australia Medal

Gemma Burke and Marie Bashir

Sister Mary Gemma Burke, a member of the Sisters of Mercy, Gunnedah, was presented with her Order of Australia Medal by the Governor of New South Wales, Her Excellency Marie Bashir, at Government House Sydney on 5th May, 2011. All who know her agree that it is a very well deserved award!

Sister Gemma has been involved in Education within the Diocese of Armidale for more than fifty years. She has taught at various Schools within the Diocese, where she proved to be an instigator, able to create new paths which others could then take as a basis for on-going development.

Gemma has a passion for trying to build up the strengths of our rural areas in the face of a steady decline in population and dubious economic sustainability. She has always ministered in rural areas, but in addition she works at the level of advocacy on behalf of rural people. She remains proactive in writing letters to Institutions and Members of Parliament, and has met on many occasions with the latter to lobby for justice for rural people. Gemma has conducted Rural Poverty Workshops and has spoken at a number of gatherings of people, both city and rural, on the situation in rural areas, and has been interviewed by media on her perception of injustice to rural people.

For ten years, Sister Gemma was the Administrator of the Diocesan Pastoral and Spirituality Centre, Emmanuel, and in this role was the driving force behind the establishment of the Christian Formation for Discipleship three-year Course. Through Gemma’s guidance, this Course, from which more than 100 participants from across the Diocese have graduated, was able to access quality lecturers from the Diocese and beyond to present topics on Human Development, Scripture, Spirituality, Communication, Prayer, Leadership Skills and Christian Living.

For more than ten years, Sister Gemma was a Presenter in Pre-Marriage courses in the Armidale Diocese through Centacare Sydney. Subsequently, she was instrumental in training a team of people in the Gunnedah Parish to continue to present this Course. Approximately 300 couples have participated in this course, and continue to evaluate it very positively.

Today, Sister Gemma continues to be involved in a caring and supportive role in her Congregation, in the Church and the Civic Community.

Sister Mary Gemma Burke goes beyond the call of duty in so many ways, and retains an enthusiasm for doing her very best to meet a need or to right a wrong. It would be extremely difficult to list all her areas of involvement. Gemma doesn’t know the meaning of “retirement"! Congratulations, Sister Mary Gemma Burke OAM.