An Award for Me? Really?
Above: Malcolm Wilton's Humanitarian Overseas Service Award
“An award for me? Really?!”
That was my first response. I was not expecting to have my previous work recognised in that way… but the Commonwealth Government thought otherwise. I was awarded the Humanitarian Overseas Service Award!
Working in the not-for-profit sector gave me exposure to a whole new world of development and aid. For some time, my goal was to work in the field. To understand and see firsthand how my work from an office in Australia was translating into help for people abroad.
I next assisted with the major humanitarian disaster that was unfolding in former Yugoslavia - driven by ex-president, Slobodan Milosevic. I coordinated the logistical movements for non-food items such as tarpaulins, plastic sheeting, hygiene kits and cooking kits. We had a major warehouse base in the capital of Pristina, and sent non-food items to three satellite warehouses.
Working in a theatre of war came with its own issues. Dealing with the UN and no local government made it very difficult to get agreement on providing security for staff working in remote locations and for transportation convoys in the areas of most need.
Banda Ache, Indonesia
A few years later, I was asked to be part of the first responders to tsunami devastation in Banda Ache. This was destruction on a scale that I had never seen before. The tsunami wave had swept in over 2km from the shore line. Thousands of people perished and arable land was ruined by salt water lying on the ground for months.
Port-au-Prince in Haiti was almost removed from the map when it was hit by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake – followed by 5.0 and 5.5 aftershocks shortly after.
My assignment was to establish a supply line of non-food items from Miami. The items would clear customs with the help of a broker, and then be transported to key locations within the devastated areas of Port-au-Prince and regional Haiti.
Working in one of the poorest nations on earth, having little to no infrastructure or government, and working through language and translation issues, made this assignment one of the toughest.
This award has acknowledged my service in Kosovo, Banda Ache and Haiti. It has been a humbling and unique experience to be given this national award. I hope my assistance in the international community’s crisis response, has given hope to many who may not have otherwise survived.
Malcolm can only wear his award in the presence of the current Prime Minister or on ANZAC Day!