WHEN Karrinyup resident Wendy Dowling was diagnosed with coeliac disease 27 years ago, there was no dedicated section for gluten free food at supermarkets or menu items marked at restaurants.
“Nobody was aware of what it was, it was very, very difficult to get information and very difficult to get food,” she said.
Awareness of coeliac disease has come a long way since then and as part of the annual Queen’s Birthday Honours, Mrs Dowling has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for her contribution to that.
She has been involved with Coeliac WA for 25 years, serving as president for 10 years, and been vice-president and a board member of Coeliac Australia.
“I just learnt a lot and I enjoyed being able to help people,” Mrs Dowling said.
“It is a serious disease but because we look pretty well a lot of people don’t take it seriously enough, especially in the food service area.
“It’s about educating food preparation staff, and doctors to think about it early and rule it out (of a diagnosis).”
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the lining of the small intestine is damaged due to sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in foods including wheat, oats, barley and rye.
Mrs Dowling said when she was diagnosed, it was estimated about one in 3000 people had the disorder but it is now one in 70, though about 80 per cent of these were undiagnosed.
She said despite the increased awareness, the associations were still relevant to people with the disease as they provided current research and information, and offered support.
Marine ecologist Raymond Masini, of North Beach, was also honoured, receiving a public service medal recognising his outstanding public service to marine ecology and environmental protection in WA.
He started his career at the Environmental Protection Authority in 1989 (now the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation), is an adjunct professor at Edith Cowan University’s Centre for Ecosystem Management and has been involved in many expert groups and State-based committees.
Dr Masini’s work has been used nationally and internationally and he was described as fundamentally changing how the marine environment is managed in WA.
Another recipient was Osborne Park RSL sub-branch president Norman Tattershall, who was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to veterans and their families, and to military history.