A former Parkes man is really making a huge difference to young people and has been recognised for his passion with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).
Ken Mulligan lives in Townsville and is Managing Director of YWAM (Youth With A Mission).
He received his OAM in Brisbane from the Queensland Governor for services to the city, the community at large and to youth.
It is one of many honours he has received for his work, including Townsville’s Citizen of the Year in 2008.
His amazing achievements were brought to the attention of the Champion Post by local resident, Rhonda Brain.
Ken is the son of Jack and Helen Mulligan who still live here in Parkes.
He was born and raised on the family farm at Alectown, went to school at Parkes East and then Parkes High School.
He worked on the farm after completing school in 1976.
A terrible farm accident claimed his girlfriend in 1979 and Ken says that everyone involved suffered terribly after the tragedy.
“It was a horrendous part of my life, very difficult, but my parents were amazing and helped me through this,” Ken said.
On the recommendation of Rev John Mason of Peak Hill, Ken decided to do some training with YWAM and flew to Hawaii for six months.
“It was quite an adventure for a young man who had always lived on a farm, I’d never really travelled and then to go Hawaii,” he added.
He returned to the farm and met a Trewilga girl, Robyn Gallienne who also went to Hawaii for training with the organisation.
It was meant to be and they married in 1984, now having two children, Nathan (21) a freelance graphic artist in Melbourne, and Carla (20) studying to be a cellist in Brisbane.
Ken and Robyn underwent more training in Switzerland in 1986, and then made the final step to leave the farm in 1987 and moved to Brisbane to work for YWAM.
They remained there until moving to Townsville in 1992 where they are now very much a vital part of the city’s lifestyle.
Ken is now Managing Director of YWAM and is responsible for a huge number of volunteers carrying out valuable work in the city and overseas in Papua New Guinea.
YWAM is a highly regarded organisation with strong links to government, local government, business and community.
And all operating on a purely volunteer basis.
Ken said YWAM is a registered training provider and develops training programmes to assist with their youth and medical work.
YWAM Townsville partners with the North Queensland Cowboys to run seminars in schools to help kids with such things as peer management, social media, relationships, in schools and throughout the region.
“YWAM also operate a medical training ship which we introduced in 2010.
It sails from Townsville for six to seven months, operating as a service provider for the Papua New Guinea government,” Ken said.
The ship has 50 people on board, professional volunteers from all over the world to help out with eye surgery, primary health and dental care.
YWAM works with the highest levels of government to the village leaders.
Ken said some 600 villages are serviced but YWAM is looking to expand further.
Townsville is actually a sister city with Port Morseby so the service is very widely accepted and their ship is adopted by the city.
Ken said YWAM has just acquired a large property in the heart of Townsville which it hoped to develop as youth accommodation.
“There are plenty of challenges ahead,’ Ken said.
YWAM works entirely on volunteers and there are some 120 staff.
“Many people come and go, others stay for longer and some have been here up to 15 years,” he explained.
“We are very grateful for the relationships we have with the city council, the business community and of course our friends and family.
“When people know what we do, we receive a lot of support and goodwill.
“It’s all challenging and hard work, but it is definitely most worthwhile.”
As for Rhonda Brain, Ken said he would love to get her to Townsville so she could Paint The Town REaD (Rhonda’s Birth to Kindergarten reading project).
“We get a few visitors from Parkes from time to time, which is great,” he said.
As for the OAM: “You never do this type of work for recognition, but it is great that the work of so many volunteers is acknowledged through this honour.”
“I’m really grateful for my family, my Mum and Dad and the ongoing support of so many wonderful friends.”
Ken and Robyn call
Since the early 1990s, Ken and Robyn have been investing into the Townsville community as full-time volunteers, raising their own financial needs outside of YWAM.
They are the directors of YWAM Townsville, a not-for-profit charitable Christian organisation that has grown to 100+ staff from around the world.
YWAM Townsville has been recognised in a number of areas:
* 2003 - Australia Day Community Event Award
* 2007 - Australia Day Achievement Award
* 2008 - Ken Mulligan - Townsvilleí’s Citizen of the Year
*2008 - Ms Fiona Saxby - Queensland Young Volunteer Award
* 2010 - Mrs Rebekah Hoover - Finalist for Young Business Person of the Year
* 2011 - Queensland Disaster Heroes Award
* 2012 - Robyn - Finalist in the Management Excellence Awards,
* Not-for-Profit Manager of the Year
* 2013 - Mr Ken Mulligan - Order of Australia Medal