At an Award Luncheon in Melbourne, hosted by the Herald-Sun newspaper on Tuesday 23 August 2011, Mr. Ashley Trethowan, Camp Ministry Director for the Don Bosco Camp at Safety Beach Dromana, a seaside area less than an hour’s drive from Melbourne city, has been awarded the Pride of Australia ‘Inspiration’ medal. The Inspiration medal is one of ten such awards presented to Australia’s ‘unsung heroes’ by the Herald-Sun, after a lengthy process of selection from amongst other likely candidates. Other Award titles include ‘Courage’, ‘Young Leader’, ‘Outstanding Bravery, and even ‘Child of courage’, this year won by a 10 year old.
Ashley, who with his wife Andree and one of their three daughters is currently returning from WYD in Madrid (with many of the leaders whose preparation is cited as motivation for the Award), was unable to attend the Luncheon and Award-giving ceremony. Another daughter, Jessica, ‘stood in’ for him.
Newspapers rarely get the facts completely right, but that in no way detracts from the significance of this Award. The correct elements are that Ashley (who considers that he ‘represents’ so many in receiving the Award, first amongst them his wife, Andree) has spent twenty years as the overall onsite person responsible for the development of the Don Bosco Camp, which has a history going back more than 50 years. It is correct, too, that with his wife, the Salesians, and other close collaborators (the Camp is under the direction of the Provincial House Community) Ashley has built up the camp as a form of Salesian ministry par excellence, at the same time offering an “affordable school holiday camp” and much more besides, especially developing a leadership programme which includes “giving youth at risk a chance to better their community”, as the citation puts it. The Award would seem to suggest that the camp’s activities are entirely boys only and ‘at risk’ ones at that. This is not correct. It is but one aspect. The camp has been developed to adequately cater for both genders. The leadership programme in particular has developed fine young Catholic leaders of both genders and from all walks of life, many of whom have contributed more widely than their own community. The programme has become the backbone of the developing SYM in the Australia- Pacific Province and of the Cagliero lay missionary project, assigning numerous candidates as lay missionaries to posts especially in South East Asia and the Pacific region.
What the Award does not mention is the depth of commitment to and understanding of the Salesian mission shown by this couple (Ashley and Andree) from the outset of their marriage, when they sought to create a genuine mission-minded and active lay community around them. This they have achieved perhaps in ways they could not have imagined at the time – not only have they constantly had other like-minded couples involved over the twenty years, but many of the leaders they have trained have themselves demonstrated similar motivation, occasionally forming ad hoc small Christian communities for a time. Ashley and for that matter Andree too, have been involved at other levels in the Province. Before they met they were, separately, printer and journalist, and that formidable ‘team’ as it became, associated directly with the Salesian Bulletin under Fr Frank Freeman’s leadership, has played no small part in the quality of that magazine. Ashley is also a Salesian Past Pupil of Salesian College, Sunbury.