10 June 2024

Humanitarian dentist recognised in King's Birthday Honours

| Ian Bushnell
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Dr Loc Lam and Dr Laura Pham

Dr Loc Lam (right) and Dr Laura Pham from Braddon Dental Surgery. Dr Lam was surprised at the honour. Photo: Braddon Dental Surgery.

“I am just doing what I like doing,” said a slightly embarrassed Dr Loc Lam.

The Canberra dentist, who runs free clinics for people in remote areas of her native Vietnam and Nepal, is among those recognised in today’s King’s Birthday Honours List.

She has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).

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High-profile Canberra figures recognised today include the next Governor-General Sam Mostyn AO, who was made a Companion in the Order of Australia (AC) and ASIO director Mike Burgess, who was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).

Dr Loc, who runs the Braddon Dental Surgery on Lonsdale Street, came to Australia as a refugee, inspiring her to want to give back to the community.

She and her Braddon partner, Dr Laura Pham, conduct charity work with the Children’s Health Aid Team in Vietnam and with the Sanjiwani Clinic based in Ghandruk, a village in the Annapurna region of Nepal.

Dr Lam also works pro-bono for Karinya House for Mothers and Babies in Canberra.

“It’s an honour, and I appreciate that I’ve been recognised, but to be honest, I’m a bit embarrassed because I’m just doing what I do best,” Dr Lam said.

dentist working on a child

Dr Loc Lam working in Nepal where some patients take six hours to walk to her clinic. Photo: Facebook.

She had always wanted to help people who could not afford the dentist because she knew how important it was to their overall health.

Dr Lam has been leading a team to Vietnam for about 15 years, apart from the COVID interruption, and now goes four times a year, treating the disadvantaged and people with disabilities.

She has been going to Nepal for about 10 years but only once every two years due to the cost and logistics.

Patients sometimes walk six hours to the clinic, where they are treated on a bed because there are no dental chairs.

She recalls treating an 80-year-old lady who trekked six hours to see her and, at the end of the session, would not move. “I thought, what have I done?” Dr Loc said.

But she had only fallen asleep. She got up and walked home.

Another time, a teacher brought a 14-year-old girl to her who never smiled because her front teeth were black and full of holes.

The next day at the clinic, she looked across at a girl smiling at her, and it was her young patient from the day before.

“Just heartwarming,” Dr Lam said.

“Young people like that, that’s why I kept going and keep doing it,” she said.

“This award came as a surprise, but I’m just doing what I like doing.”

Psychologist Greg Aldridge has also been awarded an OAM for his work with EveryMan Australia, which helps men deal with their violent and aggressive behaviour and other complex needs such as childhood exposure to domestic violence and sexual abuse, mental health conditions, substance use, intellectual disability and acquired brain injury.

Mr Aldridge has been CEO of EveryMan since 2004 and was also a member of the Domestic Violence Prevention Council from 2006 to 2022.

He said it wasn’t just acknowledgment of the work that he did, it was an acknowledgment of the whole organisation.

“I’m very happy,” Mr Aldridge said.

He said the work EveryMan does was important for the men who come to them because they lack advocates and aren’t valued by the world around them.

“Our job is to help people have more stable lives and that reduces the impact of their behaviour around them,” Mr Aldridge said.

“A lot of our guys are reclaimable.”

He said there were benefits all round if men can learn to change.

“We figure that offering men an opportunity to live violence-free lives is as much in their interests as it is in the interests of the women and children and other people around them,” Mr Aldridge said. “People’s safety always has to come first.”

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He said the service could do much more with more government funding.

“We only get $174,00 a year for our violence prevention services. The only increase in that area has been from indexation,” he said.

“We only had one full-time position in that program for 12 years and we have to fund our partner contact by taking one of our men’s counselling positions away from counselling men and offering that to the partner service, women who are in domestic violence situations.”

Mr Aldridge said domestic violence was not going away soon, so funding for frontline services was absolutely critical.

The ACT recipients are:

Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) in the General Division

Samantha Joy Mostyn AO

For eminent service in the social justice, gender equity, sporting, cultural and business sectors, to reconciliation, and to environmental sustainability.

Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the General Division

Dr John Aspley Davis, Hawker ACT.

For significant service to veterinary science and professional associations.

Emeritus Professor Elivio Bonollo, University of Canberra, ACT.

For significant service to tertiary education, particularly industrial design research and development.

Michael Paul Burgess, ASIO, ACT.

For significant service to public administration, particularly national security and intelligence.

Robyn-Lyn Henderson, O’Connor ACT.

For significant service to public administration, and to social welfare.

Sister Jane Irene Keogh, Downer ACT.

For significant service to the community through social welfare advocacy and to primary education.

Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the General Division

Gregory Lawrence Aldridge, Flynn ACT.

For service to community health.

Barbara Ann Bowen, ACT.

For service to the community of Canberra.

Evelyn Callaghan, ACT.

For service to early childhood education.

Esther Valerie Davies, ACT.

For service to community history and to education.

Margaret Josceline Findlater-Smith, Kambah ACT.

For service to women’s affairs in a range of organisations.

Mrs Yohanni Bey Johns, ACT.

For service to tertiary education.

Dr Chi Wing Lai, O’Malley ACT.

For service to medicine as a general practitioner, and to the community.

Dr Buuloc Lam, ACT.

For service to dentistry, and to humanitarian dental care.

Dr Mark Kevin O’Connor, O’Connor ACT 2602

For service to literature as a poet and educator.

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