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Southbankers honoured

09 Feb 2017

Southbankers honoured Image

Both hailing from Queensland and both residents of The Melburnian – Paul Wheelton AM and Anne O’Donovan AO were both acknowledged on Australia Day for a lifetime of contribution to our country.

While Paul and Anne share a few things in common and both reside in the same building, Southbank’s only two 2017 Australia Day honours recipients had never met before catching up with Southbank Local News!

Paul was made a Member (AM) of the General Division of the Order of Australia for his significant philanthropic service, while Anne was acknowledged as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for her distinguished service to the publishing industry.

Paul’s list of local, national and international charitable contributions is seemingly endless having played integral roles with a number of organisations over many years.

Some of his key roles have included chairing the Bali Children Foundation, sitting on the boards of The Marsh Foundation and the PanCare Foundation, and a number of leading roles with Life Education Australia.

As director of the Wheelton Group, which most notably operates 10 Budget Rent a Car franchises, he said his philosophy to business had always been about giving back.

“I’m an old fashioned Christian Anglican so I was brought up going to church and putting money in a plate and being told that this would do some good and basically I made giving back a goal in my life,” he said.

“Our companies and everything we do give 20 per cent away to different causes so that’s been a fundamental that has allowed us to do quite a few things.”

Paul has also been the deputy chairperson of the Victorian branch of the Order of Australia Association since 2010 and is an Australia Day ambassador.

While he was honoured to receive his AM, a principle he has carried all through his life in business and philanthropy is gender equity and he said this year’s awards once again fell short on recognising women.

“One of my major pushes is on the gender imbalance within the awards,” he said.

“In this Australia Day series there was only 32 per cent who are women and while we’ve come from 24 per cent five years ago we still have a major imbalance.”

One woman to be duly recognised was fellow Southbanker Anne O’Donovan, who said she felt honoured to receive an AO.   

“I’m enormously touched and surprised I suppose but it does mean a lot,” she said. ”I think, since these awards have come in, people have really understood the value of them and they’re much sought after.”

Anne has forged a long career in publishing since the 1960s where she began working with Jacaranda Press in Brisbane, before moving to Lansdowne Press in London.

In the 1970s she returned to Australia to take over as managing editor of Penguin Books until launching her own company, Anne O’Donovan Publishing, which she has directed since 1978.

Some of her biggest achievements have included launching The Age Good Food Guide, publishing a series of books for the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria with French Chef Gabriel Gaté and supporting the Lighthouse Foundation for more than 20 years.

“I had a contrarian view of how I wanted to do publishing,” Anne said. “Instead of publishing 80 books a year or something I just wanted to do four or six books a year and sell a lot of copies of those.”

“I published things that interested me. I guess that was the rationale of the whole thing.”

Like Paul, Anne is also passionate about interests concerning women and has published titles relating to women’s health and finance and co-founded a feminist literary book club.

Paul and Anne now both play active mentoring roles to others in their respective areas of interest and continue to give back to the community in a multitude of ways.

And they were both in defiant agreement that their home at The Melburnian was the best place to live in Melbourne.

“The intangible is the feeling of community,” Anne said. “I notice it especially in this building people are very courteous and always keen to connect and much more neighbourly than anywhere else I’ve ever lived.”

“My wife and I absolutely love it,” Paul said. “It’s a great community and probably the best location in Melbourne.”

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