Geraldine Cox

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Geraldine Cox AM
Born Geraldine Dorothea Cox
1945 (age 71–72)
Adelaide, Australia
Citizenship Cambodian, Australian
Occupation Founder and President Sunrise Cambodia
Years active 21
Website sunrisecambodia.org.au

Geraldine Dorothea Cox AM (born 1945) is the founder of Sunrise Cambodia, a charity that was originally established as an orphanage in the province of Kandal, in Cambodia and now extends its services to sustainable development and family support in several provinces of the country. She has been granted Cambodian citizenship by a royal decree from King Norodom Sihanouk in 1999.

Today Geraldine remains the figure-head of Sunrise Cambodia, making public and media appearances in Australia to assist with fundraising appeals. She lives full-time in Cambodia, acting a mentor to the child recipients of the organization as well as meeting with the sponsors and donors who come to visit. At the age of 71 she prides herself on keeping abreast with current Cambodian and international politics.

Early Life and Family[edit]

Born in the foothills of Adelaide, Geraldine Cox had two older sisters, Sandra and Marlene, and described herself the "problem child" of the family.[1] Her Father, Norm Cox, was a hard working milkman and her mother Dorothy Cox was a housewife.[2] Instead of finishing her High School Certificate Geraldine left school at age 15 and worked in multiple secretarial jobs in Adelaide between the years of 1965 and 1969. In 1964 Geraldine at the age of 19 had a year abroad in Europe where she worked as a secretary in a London office. This was her first taste of travel, which ignited a lifelong passion for overseas adventure.

Career and Humanitarian Work[edit]

After moving to Coober Pedy to work as a miner in 1969,.[1] Cox began her career at the age of 25 working for The Department of Foreign Affairs in 1970. Her first overseas posting was to Phnom Penh in 1971.[1] The country was in turmoil at the time, with the Vietnam war at the border and American B52s dropping bombs.[3] Geraldine refers to this first posting as an experience that significantly shaped who she is today. Her following overseas postings included working for Australian Embassies in Manila (1973-1978), Bangkok (1978-1981), Tehran and Washington D.C. After resigning from the Government in 1987 Cox worked for eight years at the Chase Manhattan Bank in Sydney.[4] Geraldine's original experiences in Cambodia never left her and while in Australia in 1993, Cox helped found the Australia Cambodia Foundation, which operates Sunrise Cambodia today. She moved to Cambodia permanently in 1995 where she worked as an Executive Assistant for the Cabinet Director in the Cabinet of the then First Prime Minister of Cambodia, HRH Prince Norodom Ranariddh. In her spare time Geraldine assisted Princess Marie, the wife of Prince Norodom, in operating and supporting a residential education centre for orphaned children.[5] When a military coup occurred in July/August 1997 Geraldine realised her position of responsibility in looking after the children of the orphanage, as Princess Marie and her political associates had fled the country to save themselves. Within the orphanage she become widely known to the children as "M’Day Thom" (meaning Big Mum) [5] Geraldine's unwavering support for the orphanage during the tumultuous political period of the military Coup led her to be recognised as a prominent humanitarian figure.

Austcare contacted Geraldine to be the keynote speaker at their October 1997 Refugee Week in Australia.[6] After delivering this speech at the National Press Club in Canberra Geraldine’s media profile gained much more public exposure and she began appearing in radio and TV segments to talk about her cause.

Cox is the author of the book Home is Where the Heart Is, an account of her life and the lives of some of the children she has cared for that was published by Pan Macmillian in 2000.[7] Fifteen thousand copies have been printed and sold, and they are no longer available in book shops, only online on her website.[8] Cox is also the subject of the documentary My Khmer Heart, made by Australian filmmakers Janine Hosking and Leonie Lowe.[9] This documentary won the [Hollywood Film Festival] Documentary of the Year Award in 2000 and has since been screened by [HBO] and Discovery Channels.

Personal life[edit]

Geraldine has endured ongoing suffering in her private life due to her inability to have children[3]. Her infertility led her to adopt a baby daughter (Lisa Devi Cox) from a Cambodian orphanage in 1971. Unfortunately, she learned early on that Lisa was profoundly mentally and physically ill, suffering from deafness, epilepsy and diabetes. Geraldine cared for the child throughout her infancy and early childhood however gave her up after 7 challenging years to a full-time care centre in Adelaide. Lisa is now 45.[10]

Notable romantic relationships in Geraldine’s life include Theo Palaxides who was her boyfriend and long-time partner in Adelaide. Although they ended their relationship long ago Geraldine still keeps in touch with Theo and his wife today. Major On Kon, a Cambodian fighter pilot became Geraldine’s prominent romantic partner during her posting in Phnom Penh in 1972.[11] In 1984 Geraldine married Shi’ite Mahmoud Rastegar, an Iranian national who worked as an IBM project manager. Mahmoud relocated with Geraldine on her posting to Washington D.C. in 1984, however they ended their marriage in 1990.[12]

Awards[edit]

In January 2001 Cox has made a Member of the Order of Australia "For service to the welfare of children through the establishment, financing and administration of an orphanage in Cambodia."[13] She has also received the Centenary Medal, "For service to the welfare of children in Cambodia".[14]

Other awards and accomplishments include:

  • Granted Cambodian citizenship by a royal decree from King Norodom Sihanouk (1999).
  • Member of the Humanitarian Affairs Advisory Board, 2014-2016
  • Member of the board of Oasis Africa Australia (2013–present).
  • Ernst & Young South Australian Entrepreneur of the Year Award, 2012
  • Prime Minister of Cambodia Hun Sen awarded Geraldine the Royal Order of Sahametrei Medal, which is the most significant award given to foreigners.
  • Recipient of the Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop AsiaLink Medal in 2011.
  • Australia Network (the international cable channel run by the ABC) invited Geraldine to become an Ambassador for the promotion of the channel and its programs.
  • The Rotary Foundation named her a Paul Harris fellow in 2006
  • Circle of Courage Award recipient in 2000 from Australian charity, Youth Off the Streets.[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Talking Heads with Peter Thompson: Geraldine Cox". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 5 May 2008. Archived from the original on 11 October 2008. 
  2. ^ Cox, Geraldine (August 2000). Home Is Where The Heart Is. Pan MacMillan. ISBN 9 780 7329 1034 1. 
  3. ^ "'Big Mum'". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 13 August 2015. Archived from the original on 5 November 2015. 
  4. ^ Halliday, Claire (9 November 2003). "Mamma Khmer". The Age. Fairfax Media. Archived from the original on 10 February 2008. 
  5. ^ a b Geraldine's orphanage, Yahoo!7 Australia & NZ Pty Ltd, 27 February 2008, archived from the original on 18 July 2011 
  6. ^ NPCA, NPCA. "National Press Club of Australia Speakers List 1990s" (PDF). 
  7. ^ Cox, Geraldine (August 2000). Home Is Where The Heart Is. Pan MacMillan. ISBN 9 780 7329 1034 1. 
  8. ^ http://sunrisecambodia.org.au/shop/ shop page
  9. ^ My Khmer Heart, Special Broadcasting Service, archived from the original on 6 October 2009 
  10. ^ Cox, Geraldine (August 2000). Home Is Where The Heart Is. Pan MacMillan. ISBN 9 780 7329 1034 1. 
  11. ^ Cox, Geraldine (August 2000). Home Is Where The Heart Is. Pan MacMillan. ISBN 9 780 7329 1034 1. 
  12. ^ Cox, Geraldine (August 2000). Home Is Where The Heart Is. Pan MacMillan. ISBN 9 780 7329 1034 1. 
  13. ^ "Search Australian Honours - Simple Search, Name: COX, Geraldine Dorothea, Award: Member of the Order of Australia", itsanhonour.gov.au, Australian Government, archived from the original on 2 February 2014 
  14. ^ "Search Australian Honours - Simple Search, Name: COX, Geraldine Dorothea, Award: Centenary Medal", itsanhonour.gov.au, Australian Government, archived from the original on 2 February 2014 
  15. ^ Cox, Geraldine (August 2000). Home Is Where The Heart Is. Pan MacMillan. ISBN 9 780 7329 1034 1. 

External links[edit]