Joe de Souza OAM: King’s Birthday Honours 2023

Melbourne's Joe de Souza, 93, was recognised with the OAM for his service to the community through a range of roles.

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93-year-old Joe de Souza, who survived the Japanese invasion in Burma in 1941 and relocated to India, before finally moving to Australia nearly six decades ago, has been presented with the OAM in the King’s Birthday honours this year. He was recognised for various services to the community in his adopted country.

Earlier this year, he was also honoured as Greater Dandenong Citizen of the Year for 2023.

Joseph Aloysious de Souza has quite the fascinating life story. He was born in Burma of Anglo-Indian parentage in 1930. He lived in Rangoon till the Japanese invasion in 1941 when he and his family evacuated to India.

“I completed the Senior Cambridge exams in 1945 in Nagpur, Central India,” he recounted to Indian Link. “From 1946 to 1948, I trained on the Indian Mercantile Marine training Ship Dufferin for Merchant Navy Officers, after which I returned to Burma to serve my Marine Engineering Apprenticeship. On completion in 1952, I joined the Burmah Shell Oil Company serving on oil tankers till 1956, rising from 7th Engineer to 3rd Engineer Officer.”

Mr. de Souza left the Merchant Navy and from 1956 till 1966 he was an Assistant Engineer at a Dockyard in Calcutta.

“Deciding that for the future of my children, twin boys and a girl, to have better opportunities for education and employment, it was imperative that we migrate and were fortunate to be accepted by Australia, qualifying for citizenship in 1967,” de Souza said.

The de Souza family lived in Springvale for 5 years and in Keysborough for 52 years.

While Joe threw himself into his work as a marine engineer, he became very passionate about volunteering in the community around him.

“Australia was everything I had hoped for, and my gratitude knew no bounds,” acknowledged de Souza. “So I decided that for giving me a home, a nationality, and a country to call my own, I would do my best to “put back” into Australia, by devoting my time and efforts to serving the community in which I lived – seeking nothing in return except for the satisfaction of serving my community for the past 57 years.”

Over the decades, he went on to serve his community in various roles and positions, starting in 1969.

As part of the Royal Victorian Association of Honorary Justices, he served as coordinator, Springvale Document Signing Centre (since 2007), Life Member (since 2020), Fellow (2016) and Justice of the Peace (since 1977).

He also served in the Urimbirra Adult Activity Unit (now The Bridge Disability Services), as its Secretary (1980-1992), Founding Committee Member (1970s-1997) and Life Governor (1992-2020).

Mr de Souza was also a life member of the Victorian Association of Youth Clubs since 1969.

He was also associated with the Springvale Youth Club, Springvale Leisure and Activities Centre, as its President (1974-1976) and Life Member (since 1974).

Besides his three children, Joe de Souza presently has eight grandchildren ranging in age from 31 to 42, and 8 great-grandchildren ranging in age from 1 ½ to 18 years.

He lost a son aged 50 in 2019 and his wife of 67 years at the age of 91 in 2021.

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