Three veterinarians receive Australia Day 2023 Honours

03 Feb 2023
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Image (L - R): Dr John Craven AO, Dr Elaine Ong AM and Dr Philip Holmes OAM


Three veterinarians have been awarded Australia Day Honours this year. Dr John Craven was recognised as an Officer (AO) in the General Division of the Order of Australia for his “distinguished service to food biosecurity and environmental safety, to veterinary science research, and to the dairy industry.” Dr Elaine Ong was recognised as a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia for “significant service to veterinary medicine, and to animal welfare and rescue.” Finally, Dr Philip Holmes was awarded a Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia in the General Division for “service to the livestock industry.”

Not only do these three individuals exemplify the dedication, commitment and value of veterinarians in their chosen areas, they have also each contributed to a number of different fields. This perfectly demonstrates the wide and far-reaching effects veterinarians have on the Australian community.

The AVA commends Dr Craven, Dr Ong and Dr Holmes for their outstanding achievements, and extends our warm and hearty congratulations to them all. Read on to find out more about these veterinarians and the incredible work that they do.


Dr John Craven AO

Dr Craven AO is based in Victoria and is a Life Member of the AVA. He has performed various roles in the Australian Agricultural and Food Standards industries throughout his career, the most recent stint being a Director of the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority from 2011 to 2016. He was Chair of the Veterinary Schools Accreditation Advisory Committee at the Australasian Veterinary Boards Council for its first six years and subsequently chaired the Animal Ethics Committee at Swinburne University of Technology. In 2005, he authored the Craven Review of Veterinary Science Education and Registration Requirements, and earlier in his career worked for the Victorian Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs and as an Academic Associate of the Veterinary Faculty at the University of Melbourne. A key career highlight was the opportunity to work with the dairy industry to help frame an investment program in R&D targeting improved dairy farm productivity. Reflecting on his career, Dr Craven says, “I am struck by my good fortune to have lived through an era when there were huge veterinary initiatives such as the Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Eradication Campaign, and investment in veterinary laboratories.”  

Dr Craven considers his Australia Day Honour a chance to “reflect on the changes that have occurred over the past 60+ years of AVA membership” and the “huge, vibrant and diverse veterinary community” that has grown over the years. The veterinary community, he says, “is working miracles in optimising the health of our animals.” He considers himself fortunate to have been given “the gift of working with very talented colleagues on projects that we believed would benefit the community.”


Dr Elaine Ong AM  

Dr Elaine Ong AM was the Principal Surgeon and Owner of Balwyn Central Veterinary Hospital (1995 to 2021) but still always found the time to dedicate herself to extensive volunteer work in the animal welfare and rescue space. In 2016, she founded Vets For Compassion (VFC), a charity organisation that operates in Victoria and has volunteers from New South Wales, Queensland and New Zealand.    

VFC’s predominant role is as a volunteer Emergency Response team, working “hand in hand with … other ethical agencies,” according to Dr Ong. They provide a critical animal welfare service to the Australian community by dispatching volunteers to humanely capture, rescue and treat any and all animal species affected by natural disasters in Victoria and NSW. Dr Ong headed the Team for the Mallacoota fires and Lismore floods. Additionally, they operate in Melbourne on a daily basis, helping to humanely capture injured and displaced animals including macropods, cattle, horses, deer and goats.    

Dr Ong’s other related volunteer activities include being part of the Emergency Response Team during the 2004 Sri Lankan Tsunami, having a Train the Trainer project in China since 2009, as well as being involved in the Bali Street Dogs team.   

Dr Ong says she is “truly humbled by this award” but emphasises that her Australia Day Honour is the result of a team effort, thanking “the team at Balwyn Central Vet Hospital who take care of [the] patients, clients and clinic while [she goes] away to do welfare work.” She also highlights the incredible work of VFC volunteers: the veterinarians, veterinary nurses, wildlife rescuers and drone pilots who give up their precious time to help animals during both natural- and man-made emergencies. Dr Ong acknowledges the long legacy of unpaid wildlife work in the veterinary industry, saying that “most vets and clinics in Victoria have long done unpaid work for wildlife, and other animal welfare work … without expecting financial reward.” This makes her “proud to be part of this caring profession,” and says VFC is “about building sustainability, not about building an empire."     

Finally, she thanks the AVA, for being “instrumental in the disaster response during Black Saturday by forming a Task force which Dr Ong was a key part of, and during the Mallacoota fires with the AVA providing supplies, moral and logistical support.  

Image: the core team of VFC volunteers in front of their triage van during the Lismore floods. From L - R: Dr Adam Williams from Wangaratta Veterinary Clinic, veterinary nurse Natalie Iskov from Wangaratta Veterinary Clinic, Dr Chris Barton from Eltham Central Veterinary Hospital, VFC founder Dr Elaine Ong AM, Dr Katie Whittle from Peninsula Vet Care, rescuer and ambulance driver Jacob Watt and VFC photographer Melanie Dove.


Dr Philip Holmes OAM

Dr Philip Holmes OAM has had a long and illustrious career contributing to the livestock industry. In 2017, he co-authored the Australian Beef Report, a comprehensive analysis detailing the productive and financial performance of the Australian beef industry. He was also the Consulting Editor for Beef Improvement News at The Land newspaper for five years, was Lead Researcher for the North Australian Beef Industry Situation Analysis in 2009 and 2013, developed the Business EDGE Training Package for Meat and Livestock Australia in 2014 and has founded and worked in various other companies in the agricultural sector.

On the academic side, Dr Holmes has been an Adjunct Professor at the University of New England’s School of Environmental and Rural Science since 2018 and was previously an Honorary Fellow at the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Agriculture.

Like his fellow honourees, Dr Holmes acknowledges the teamwork and support network that contributed to his achievements, stating “I would not be where I am today without them.” For those in earlier stages of their careers, Dr Holmes says that a veterinary degree “can launch you into an infinite number of fields of interest, arguably its major strength” and hopes “the attraction of rural pursuits increases over time with new graduates, as there are so many opportunities.”