Penrith residents John Farragher and Chris Holden awarded OAMs

"A BIT EMBARRASSED": John Farragher, OAM, in the foyer of Panthers, where he has greeted thousands of people over the last 25 years.
"A BIT EMBARRASSED": John Farragher, OAM, in the foyer of Panthers, where he has greeted thousands of people over the last 25 years.

Two well known local residents have received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAMs) in this year's Australia Day Honours list.

Long-time Panthers personality John Farragher and Rotarian Chris Holden were named as OAM recipients in the nation’s most prestigious honours on January 26.

Both said they were very humbled by the nominations, as well as a little embarrassed.

“It’s very, very humbling,” Mr Farragher told the Gazette.  “We all go through the journey of our life and do things in our life and we don’t expect any accolades.

“We just want to be happy and make other people happy.”

When asked how he felt about receiving the honour, Mr Holden replied, “embarrassed, to be honest”.

“I don’t put it down as something to look at lightly,” he told the Gazette. 

“You do things not for recognition, you do them because you get pleasure from doing things for other people.”

Service to rugby league

Mr Farragher was awarded his OAM for service to rugby league and to the community of Penrith.

Born and raised in Gilgandra in the NSW central west, Mr Farragher came to Penrith in 1978 to play first grade rugby league but a scrum collapse in his first year left him a quadriplegic.

But proving unstoppable in the community, Mr Farragher has since been Panthers public relations officer, concierge, coach of the junior league team in the 1990s, on the selection panel for the Panthers Team of Legends, and a recipient of the Panthers Service Award.

He has also been active as a member of the Penrith Council Access Committee and the Penrith Stadium upgrade, and was named Citizen of the Year in 2007.

“The club has been there for me since 1978,” Mr Farragher said.“It’s been a massive part of my life, I have had wonderful support.

“I have been on the door 25 years to meet and greet everyone, and I am very passionate about the Pathers football team. I try to convert everyone and if I don’t, as long as Panthers is their second side it’s ok.”

Losing his brother Ian to cancer almost three years ago was “the worst thing about my life”, but Mr Farragher responded by helping his hometown with a fundraiser for the Gilgandra Cancer Council featuring key speakers Phil Gould and Royce Simmons, and 30 ex-Panthers players that generated $75,000 for the cause.

"A GREAT HONOUR": Rotarian and community volunteer Chris Holden, OAM, of South Penrith in his garden.

"A GREAT HONOUR": Rotarian and community volunteer Chris Holden, OAM, of South Penrith in his garden.

“This award is not only my award, it’s for my family and those people close to me,” Mr Farragher said. “I feel like I should share the award with those people.

“I know a lot of other people in the area that would be worthy recipients themselves.”

Service to Penrith

Mr Holden is well known to generations of people throughout Penrith, the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury districts as a tennis coach, and received his OAM for service to the community of Penrith.

Despite being a qualified cabinetmaker specialising in reproduction antique furniture, Mr Holden and his wife Pat moved to Penrith in 1973 to start The Holden School of Tennis.

Starting out with eight pupils, Mr Holden had more than 500 when he retired in 2002.

“I just loved the kids, they weren’t like customers they were more like family,” he said. “I can’t go anywhere without someone saying they know me.”

Mr Holden first joined Rotary in Bexley, then Penrith and then Nepean to promote his business, but it ended up becoming a big part of his life.

He has served 47 continuous years, been on the boards of all three clubs, and has been awarded four Avenues of Service citations from Rotary International, and a Paul Harris Fellowship.

He was involved in the establishment of Hope Cottage at Nepean Hospital, and through Rotary became involved with other organisations including Nepean Riverlands Probus Club, Sailability Penrith and Penrith Meals on Wheels.

“We’d have guest speakers in Rotary, and I heard all about other things like Sailability,” he said. “It’s a door opening to a lot of pleasure and self-satisfaction.

“I think until you get involved in community activities, you don’t tend to think of anything outside your family environment. It’s not until you’re in a community service organisation that you see there are people worse off than you and that you can make a difference.”

AM Honour

Dr Jay Chandra, an eye specialist based in Penrith, has also been honoured with a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to medicine in the field of ophthalmology as a clinician, and to the international community through eye care programs.

Dr Chandra has been Head of Vitreoretinal Surgery at Westmead Hospital since 1985, and has completed work both in Australia and overseas.