‘‘It probably has been an adventure in many ways,’’ Larry Cunninghamm, OAM, said.
The 66-year-old told the News he still ‘‘felt 40’’ thanks to the active life he’d led as Honorary Consul to the Australian government in Phuket, Thailand.
The Kellyville resident was honoured with a Medal of the Order of Australia as part of the 2016 Australia Day Honours.
‘‘It felt wonderful to hear the news — my family is very proud and it’s wonderful recognition,’’ Mr Cunningham said.
His role as Honorary Consul — which earns only a nominal allowance — was chequered with tragedy over nearly 10 years as he worked to assist Australians in what were often times of distress.
Most had found themselves in trouble with the law or had been injured. Some passed away and it was his role to assist their loved ones.
‘‘50 Australians die every year in Phuket — half of them die from misadventure, because of motocycle accidents or falling from buildings.
‘‘It can be very difficult for the family, particularly if it’s a younger person.’’
Mr Cunningham said the gratitude of families he had assisted remained a source of proud since his retirement from the role.
‘‘Most of the people you help they’ll say ‘thanks very much, I’ll never forget you,’’’ he said.
‘‘One young fellow — he’d shoplifted some stuff one night and in Thailand theft at night is much worse than theft during the day.
‘‘His father wrote a letter to the foreign minister to tell him how I’d solved that problem for them and helped them home. That was a nice gesture.’’
It’s an adventure that began when Mr Cunningham witnessed the carnage of the Boxing Day Tsunami.
‘‘The Australian embassy had set up an office at City Hall where we were trying to work out how many Australians had died and I volunteered my services then,’’ he said.
‘‘The next year they decided it would be good to have an Honorary Consul in Phuket.
‘‘I remember one of my first tasks was to help a couple from Sutherland who had been hurt very badly — I remember the lady later raised a huge amount of money back home for the hospital in Phuket.’’
Planning to attend a formal ceremony to receive his award in Canberra later this year, Mr Cunningham said he was thrilled.
‘‘The role was a particularly draining experience in some ways, but I’m a proud Australian and the fact that I could help so many Australians over there made it very worthwhile.’’