Seafarers honour for chaplain Garry

Garry South was awarded the Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year Award at the International Seafarers Welfare Awards in England.
Garry South was awarded the Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year Award at the International Seafarers Welfare Awards in England.

Forbes-born Garry South has received international recognition of his work as a chaplain to those who work at sea.

Garry, with his wife Kathy, is working with the Port Hedland Seafarers Centre on the remote Western Australian coast but the couple recently travelled to London for a very special occasion.

Garry was awarded the Dr Dierk Lindemann Welfare Personality of the Year Award at the International Seafarers Welfare Awards.

The Souths have been in Port Hedland since 2011 and it's a bustling place: about 10 ships come into and leave port every day bearing hundreds of thousands of tonnes of iron ore.

Those ships contain a workforce of thousands from all over the world - and the Souths are part of the team caring for them.

Last year 38,000 seafarers came into the centre, where there are computers and wifi, a gift shop, recreation areas and bar.

But about one third of the workforce can't leave the ship and they love to see "Sir Garry" coming up the gangway.

As he speaks about his work it's clear his heart goes out to the seafarers, most of whom spend nine months at a time away from home.

The chaplain is a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on, a companion to those injured or sick many thousands of kilometres from their families.

Working through the language barriers, he comes alongside those who receive devastating news of war or natural disaster at home, those who have a new baby or miss yet another birthday.

"Technology now has a big part to play but it doesn't have its downsides," Garry says. "People know exactly what's going on but they can't do much about it."

It can be heartbreaking, but his presence is so very appreciated.

"They are hard-working men, trying to earn a living for their family," Garry says.

For Garry, the award was recognition of the value of the work the centre does. It's one of 300 across the world.

"It is a team effort, I cannot do it on my own," he said in his acceptance speech.

Garry grew up in Forbes moving away with his family in 2002 to study and work in full-time Christian ministry.