Tronson du Coudray work 'Undercurrents'
In recent years I have noted a number of Australia’s civilian honours and sadly, (history is replete with military honours) which are similarly ‘posthumous’ - or after the event of death. There has been a push for some years now to see one or more of our soldiers killed in Afghanistan to be awarded “posthumously”.
More often or not an artist’s fame was only gained after he or she has been dead for a lengthy period of time. I have personal experience of a ‘an after death’ gong. The late Denise Smith was a remarkable woman. Denise was an inspiration in the way she gave of her expertise to those less fortunate, and was enthusiastic about being involved in new ideas in my ministries.
Denise Smith lectured at the University of Newcastle (NSW) in Special Education, and her ‘leisure’ life revolved around sports. Denise managed to combine both these passions by teaching swimming to those with various disabilities. She was also a committed Christian and was interested in combining academic theology with practical ministry.
Delma my wife and my first encounter with Denise Smith was when she first visited our sports respite facility in the summer of 1997, when we lived at Moruya on the New South Wales south coast. Denise came to attend a week-long Sports Ministry school, which was ‘just the ticket’ to combine her many and varied community and professional interests.
Our entire family grew to love Denise, who became a wonderfully positive influence in every new adventure of faith associated with my ministry. Denise was amazingly competent and become a supervisor for some of our more academic theological projects.
On one occasion when the children were at high school we visited Denise and her adult children in her Newcastle home when on a family holiday. We had been informed of her diagnosis of an aggressive form of cancer and her time was limited.
Denise lived for another twelve months, in that time we enjoyed and benefited from her wisdom and input, and heaven became greatly enhanced when she passed on.
Tronson du Coudray work 'Prescient'
After death award
It was only a short time after Denise Smith's death that I received a letter from the Governor General's Australian Awards requesting my comments as to a posthumous OAM (Order of Australia Medal) for her, highlighting her contribution to swimming and her community work.
Although, at first, this seemed like it may have been an empty 'gong' to her family and true friends who realised this should have been awarded well before her death, I realised that the process of nomination and checking of references for these awards takes many months, and I hoped that Denise Smith knew, months before her death, that her community was nominating her for this award.
That is the only thing that gave me a modicum of cheer. I was aware from the many conversations we had that there had been a lot of drama associated with the administrators where she volunteered. This is a welcome to “community association Australia” - as this is nothing new or surprising - right across the nation. There are thousands upon thousands of “legends in their own lifetime” types in such community groups. Someone, as it were, puts a spoke in the wheel.
The reality is that these Australian Community Awards are just that: they go to ordinary people who do the most extraordinary things without song or dance. It is usually 'assumed' that the person - himself or herself - privately and humbly acknowledge their respective community group’s love and support.
However, life is ephemeral, and in the unfortunate circumstance where death comes prematurely, or the community did not ‘think’ to make a nomination earlier, or that forces were at play that prevented such an honour, for the esteemed person’s life, then a ‘posthumous’ award is at least of some comfort to the family and friends.
I was sad that Denise did not live to see her award (or maybe she did know about it); and I’m grateful that in this case, a wonderful person such as Denise Smith was honoured, even if it must be ‘after death’.
Tronson du Coudray work 'Germinate'
Then we have the horrible situation where on Australia Day the late Betty Cuthbert was awarded posthomously the AC Australia's highest honour. How disgraceful. When Betty was alive was when this honour should have acknowledged her contribution to the nation.
Each time I read of a person receiving an after death (posthomous) award I get a strange sense that the honoured person was somehow cheated. Consider the military awards where a military persons gives their all, their life, and I get a sense of mounting righteous anger – perhaps frustration – that some pen pusher military person gave the nomination ‘a tick’. Where were they when the bullets were flying?
Similarly, civilian 'after death' honours. My first question is to ask, what held back such an award to wait for so long and what were the circumstances or the people involved who delayed such a nomination. Call it frustration, call it what you will, but it’s a disgrace and it might not be such a bad idea for the Government to set up a running Commission to look into it. At least this one might do some good.
Moreover, what of those fabulous Australians in Christian Mission engaged in their sacrificial ministries over a life time, (many of whom I’ve written of), achieving the most astonishing outcomes, and never acknowledged by the nation, saying thankyou. Yes, I’m aware there is a higher crown awaiting, but the Scriptures also acknowledge achievement – just one example, Lydia was known far and wide for her professionalism and expertise in purple,
Yet, we never think of the idea of Christ on the Cross in this way, as He rose from the dead and is living today. Now that is good news in the midst of such earthly and worldly frustrations.
Tronson du Coudray work 'Bureaucracy'
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at