Author and advocate Cowra’s Australia Day Ambassador

Author and disability advocate, Cheryl Koenig (OAM) is Cowra's 2017 Australia Day Ambassador.

The NSW Woman of the Year in 2009, Cheryl Koenig has spoken widely and written about her family's experiences and history described in her two books Paper Cranes: A mother's story of hope, courage and determination (2008) and With Just One Suitcase (2015).

Cheryl received the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2014 for services to people with disabilities, their families and carers. Her involvement with disability services arose out of caring and advocacy for her son who was severely injured in a vehicle accident.

At the age of just 12 years old, Cheryl's son Jonathan was involved in a horrific car accident and suffered an extremely severe traumatic brain injury. Jonathan was in a coma for six weeks and given very little chance of survival. Doctors predicted that, if he did survive, he would be unable to ever walk or talk again.

Now, 17 years on Jonathan has completed his HSC and a TAFE course and is currently learning to drive. He can walk well; and can even run; he can snow ski; swim laps; play tennis and astounds many with his piano playing skills. All this as well as working five days a week in four part-time jobs. His story is captured in her book, Paper Cranes.

With Just One Suitcase is Cheryl's homage to her father, Frici, and her father-in-law, Istvan; and her belief in the importance of history to understanding ourselves. This epic book, spanning two continents, recounts the story of three generations of two families whose lives unexpectedly intersect in their adopted country. Beautifully capturing the loss faced when war dislocates families, it also tells of the struggles and challenges of starting anew and adapting to a different way of life.

Cheryl is also Ambassador for 'The Friendship Foundation' — a not-for-profit organisation designed to assist carers and people who are socially disadvantaged due to chronic illness or injury and also for Brain Injury Australia's 'SIDETEMBER' initiative.

Cheryl Koenig Australia Day Questionnaire

What is your favourite thing to eat on Australia Day?

"My favourite thing to eat on Australia Day are lamingtons."

Who is your favourite Australian sing/band and favourite song, and why?

"My favourite Australian singer/band is Jimmy Barnes/Cold Chisel. My favourite song is 'Flame Trees' – because the lyrics are sensitive and pertinent to almost anyone who grew up in Australia."

What's your favourite Australian slang word or phrase?

"My favourite slang word (and one that I use in most of my Australia Day addresses!) is 'Bloody-oath!'."