The Australian Altruism Foundation dinner and presentation of the 2006 Turtle and Humanitarian awards was held in Melbourne on Thursday May 3. The awards recognise and honour those who "stick out their necks", not for themselves, but for the greater good. Acknowledgment is given to those people in every walk of life who demonstrate the best attributes of leadership.
Shane Holst, the President of the Altruism Foundation, said that "is imperative for the word 'leadership' to be understood, to stand for something wise, decent, and honest if humanity is to reach its greatest and most brilliant potential."
When the turtle "sticks out his neck" he is vulnerable. And so it is for recipients of the Turtle Award, one of whom was Jane Dai, who was an award recipient in the Spiritual category.
Ms Dai is Australia's ambassador for the Petals of Peace project.
"This initiative assists in raising public awareness of the needless suffering of innocent children in China," said Mr Holst, "and encouraging children to actively participate in contributing towards a more peaceful and tolerant world."
Petals of Peace visited schools and also established a website "so children could learn more about the folding of an origami lotus flower as an expression of hope for other suffering children", said Mr Holst.
Ms Dai's husband is believed to have been murdered by Chinese security officials in 2001 because he practised Falun Gong, a meditation discipline that the Communist regime has brutally persecuted since 1999.
Since that time, Ms Dai has embarked on a journey to raise awareness of the brutality of the persecution, which has taken her to the UN human rights commission in Geneva and many countries throughout the world.
On the night of the Turtle awards she accepted the honour with her young daughter Fadu by her side.
"This award is not only for me, but for Falun Gong," said Ms Dai. "For Falun Gong teaches me for what I am...to always think of other people first and all the practitioners around the world, because they helped me.
"On the table, everyone got the lotus flowers under a little bookmark saying Falun Dafa is Good, Truth Compassion Tolerance ... it is beautiful," she said.
The recipient of the Australian Humanitarian Award in the Charity Category was Philip Wollen, who gives away over 90 per cent of his income. Mr Wollen does not fund-raise. The only money he gives away is his own. He supports 250 plus groups in over 30 countries. He provides them with money, advice and facilities. When he spots a need in the community he finds a way to fill it. Mr Wollen says: "Governments can't do everything and it is 'un-Australian' to expect it. Individuals, on the other hand, can do anything."
Christa and David Bidgood were recipients of the Turtle Award in the category of Altruism. They are the founders of the Australian Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. The couple "stick their necks out for the common good" on a daily basis.
"Our society is often dictated by alcohol and drugs. There is a disease," said Ms Bidgood, "called alcohol and addiction which causes fragmentation of our society and culture, and our families as well, and what we endeavour to do is assist to rebuild and restore their lives and rebuild their families…the very foundation of our society."
The night's guest speaker, Bev Brock, told the 200 guests at the dinner: "I really think what we are seeing here tonight are ... people who are committed to help in the wider community, who give freely of themselves."
"And I am very sure that every one of these people has self-worth, because a community is only as good as the individuals in it."