Southern Cross University Japan Liaison Officer Tazuko McLaren has been awarded a prestigious Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her fantastic contribution to education and to Australia-Japan relations.
The Japanese-born Ballina resident was attending the Hiroshima Japan Australia Society dinner for Australia Day celebrations in Japan when her award was announced.
It will be presented when she returns to Australia from an engineering tour of Japan. Mrs McLaren is visiting Mazda and Hiroshima University, Kure Ishikawa Haruna Shipping Dock, Fuji TV station in Tokyo and meeting with the Consulate General of Australia.
“It’s a wonderful honour and surprise, and one I am humbled by,” Mrs McLaren said.
“There are countless people who have helped in founding and fundraising for the Father Glynn Japan Australia Centre at the University. I also want to thank my family and the Isabella a cappella group who continue to tour Japan and support the fundraising.”
Southern Cross University Vice Chancellor Professor Adam Shoemaker congratulated Mrs McLaren, a former lecturer in Japanese who now works as Southern Cross University’s Japan Liaison Officer.
“Tazuko McLaren is a fantastic colleague and a genuinely generous person who taught in our language program for many years. Many of her former students applied their knowledge of Japanese globally, at Qantas, AUSTRADE, DFAT and a variety of other private companies,” Professor Shoemaker said.
“Taz has set up, managed and hosted Japanese exchanges too numerous to mention and liaised with the City of Lismore in relation to the highly-valued sister city relationship with Yamato Takada.
“Most recently, she was instrumental in arranging a series of very successful international engineering internships in collaboration with the Dean of Engineering, with companies including Mitsubishi and Mitsui under the New Colombo Plan. She has curated the University’s Japanese museum collection with volunteers for many years and has arranged many tours to Japan of the much-loved Isabella a cappella vocal group.
“These are all selfless, significant and wonderful contributions, making it difficult to imagine a more deserving recipient of an OAM.”
Mrs McLaren married the late Terry McLaren, a trawlerman and member of the McLaren boat-building family, in the 1970s.
She said she was inspired to create the Japan Australia Centre to strengthen local ties with Japan after she heard the story of Australian missionary priest Father Tony Glynn in post-war Japan and learned about the shocking wartime experiences Australian soldiers endured, which she knew little about before moving to Australia in 1972.
Mrs McLaren met Father Tony Glynn’s brother, Father Paul Glynn, at a church service for Japanese people at a Lismore cathedral in the late 1990s, where she heard of Father Tony Glynn’s work for post-war reconciliation, which earned him honours from both countries.
Mrs McLaren said she was also deeply moved when she met Southern Cross University Adjunct Professor and former Dean of Tourism Dick Braithwaite, who wrote a book about his father – one of the six survivors of the Sandakan death marches – fighting in the jungle against the Japanese in World War II.
“When Professor Braithwaite came to Southern Cross University about 20 years ago we worked on a project together, and travelled back to Japan to meet the people and see the places where his father fought,” she said.
“Professor Braithwaite wanted to give me the book before it was even published so I could read it and understand – it was a very moving story. After travelling to Japan he also wrote the memoir of a Japanese soldier stationed in Borneo.”
In her role as Japanese Liaison Officer at Southern Cross University, Mrs McLaren said she ensures young Japanese people are made aware of Australia and Japan’s shared wartime history.
“It gives me great joy in seeing people of these two countries connecting,” she said.
Lismore Chief Executive Officer at Summerland Credit Union, and Director at Australian Settlement Ltd Dr Margot Sweeny was also awarded an OAM by the Governor General on Saturday for service to the credit union sector, and to the community. She was awarded a Southern Cross University Honorary Doctorate in 2017 in recognition of her 12 years on the University Council and her wider relationship with the University spanning 33 years as a student, staff member and alumna.
Mr Geoffrey Hannah was also awarded an OAM on Saturday for his service to the visual arts through the production of furniture and marquetry. Among his many achievements, Mr Hannah was awarded an Honorary Fellowship in 2009 from Southern Cross University. He is the designer and maker of the University’s ceremonial mace – used in all Southern Cross University graduation ceremonies.
Photo: SuppliedMedia contact: Jessica Nelson 0417288794