Catherine’s niece’s acceptance speech at the UNAA awards evening

Dr Hamlin’s work acknowledged by UNAA

Last week, Dr Catherine Hamlin was awarded the United Nations Association of Australia ‘Lifework Award 2017’. The award was accepted on Catherine’s behalf by her niece and namesake Catherine II, and her nephew Philip.

To mark World Humanitarian Day 2017, the UNAA Peace Program honoured exemplary Australians who have devoted their life’s work to humanitarian causes.

The awards evening was an uplifting event, organised by a group of people who are dedicated to the advancement of peace. Other attendees included fellow ‘Lifework Award’ recipient, Gabi Hollows, the UNAA Ambassador for Art, Reg Mombassa and the UNAA Ambassador for Music, Ambre Hammond. Gabi Hollows spoke very fondly of Drs. Reg and Catherine Hamlin in her acceptance speech.

“My brother and I are extremely honoured to accept this award on behalf of Dr Catherine Hamlin.

Of course to us she is our aunty. She is the one who grew up in Sydney bearing the same name as I do. She is the one who played tricks on our father, when he was a little boy. She is the one who willingly participated in a watermelon pip-spitting contest with us as children, and who always had a kind yet direct word for us. She inspired my youngest sister to study medicine and to work in third world maternal health, and she never failed to encourage us in our faith journey.

When Aunty Catherine and her husband, Dr Reg Hamlin headed to Ethiopia in 1959 I doubt they had any idea what was ahead of them. When they arrived, a fellow gynaecologist said to them, “The fistula patients will break your hearts.” And indeed they did. This horrific and preventable childbirth injury had no effective treatment in Ethiopia and was virtually unheard of in Australia. 

Together they pioneered the surgical technique to repair fistulae, and in 1974 the opened the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital dedicated to treating this injury. Since Uncle Reg’s death in 1993, Aunty Cath has expanded the work of the hospital, committed to working towards eradicating fistula, and to ensuring that all patients can receive free treatment.

Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia today, is a healthcare network of over 550 Ethiopian staff servicing six fistula hospitals, a rehabilitation centre and the Hamlin College of Midwives – deploying midwives into remote areas to prevent the injury in the first place. Over 50,000 women have had their lives restored. 

At 93, Aunty Cath still lives in a small cottage on the grounds of the main hospital in Addis Ababa. Her work is funded entirely by generous supporters around the world. She is especially thankful for the support she receives from Australia for her work. Thank you.

I know that if she was able to be here tonight, she would be a little stunned by this award, and would want to thank the United Nations Association of Australia Peace Program for this incredible ‘Lifework Award’ and to thank Zeny, the Convenor of the UNAA Peace Program. My aunt and uncle’s vision for the women of Ethiopia, is creating a safer and fairer world. 

Aunty Cath loves her patients. Each one is special and each one goes home with a new dress, new hope and a smile. 

Uncle Reg when speaking about the fistula patients used to say, ‘We make new lives for them.’ “

The work of Dr Catherine Hamlin and her team is only made possible thanks to generous donors. Please consider making a tax deductible donation today.

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