Kellys Plains resident Chris Hancock has been awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the 2021 Australia Day Honours.
Mr Hancock is one of six New England residents to be recognised in the 2021 Australia Day awards honours list.
The Order of Australia recognises Australians who have demonstrated outstanding service or exceptional achievement.
The accolade recognises Mr Hancock's significant service to education and on-line research networks, and to Australia-USA relations.
The former board member of New England Girls School said he was surprised by the award and thought of others when he received the news.
"I was very surprised - the award was totally unexpected," he said.
"I thought of all the other Aussies, the firefighters and frontline workers, and feel very humbled and honoured to be in their company.
"I'm proud to receive this acknowledgment. The Awards are important because they give the wider community visibility of the amazing work and contribution to society made by many people in Australia from all walks of life.
"It has been a great privilege to work with many of the nation's best and brightest minds to drive the technological developments that empower Australian researchers and educators nationally and globally."
Mr Hancock is the chief executive officer of AARNet, an Australian dedicated high-speed data network, cyber security and collaboration services provider for the research and education sector.
Since moving from the private sector to helm the not-for-profit AARNet in 2004, he has overseen the evolution of the telco from a small entity into one of the most extensive and advanced networks in the world.
AARNet is owned by and interconnects 38 Australian universities and CSIRO.
On Mr Hancock's watch AARNet has extended its reach to connect and further the research and education missions of metropolitan and regional hospitals, medical and other research institutes, vocational training providers, schools, galleries, libraries, archives and museums.
Mr Hancock moved to Armidale 12 years ago to be closer to family and says he has truly loved raising his children in a rural setting.
"My family is my rock," he said.
"They are instrumental in me receiving this award. My wife Trudy and daughters Sarah, Elizabeth and Katie have been very supportive of the demands of my work, which involved extended absences from home due to travel and commitments."
Today, AARNet connects over two million researchers, faculty, staff and students across Australia, supporting education across the life-long learning spectrum and research across a diverse range of disciplines in the sciences and humanities, and enabling unprecedented opportunities for teaching, learning and research.
Mr Hancock's notable achievements also include securing long-term high-capacity connectivity to Asia through investments in the Indigo and Japan-Guam-Australia subsea cable systems and leading initiatives to develop the global network architecture for interconnecting the research and education networks of 117 nations.
Under his guidance, AARNet has become a regular and trusted voice with both state and federal governments, community and society groups and acknowledged as a leader in Australia in the future advancement of the internet, including the development of cutting-edge networking architecture, applications and services.
Mr Hancock's legacy includes contributing to the development of relations between Australia and the United States. As a member of the Board of the Australian American Leadership Dialogue since 2013, he has led the development of the West Coast Leadership Dialogue, developing thought leadership and advancing technology partnerships between the two countries.
"It has been an absolute privilege to lead the West Coast Leadership Dialogue and grow it into a true catalyst for technology leadership between our two great nations at such a critical time in our collective histories," Mr Hancock said.
In addition, Mr Hancock has held positions on the Boards of the Starlight Children's Foundation, Smart Services CRC, Invasive Animals CRC, New England Girls School, and the Internet Industry Association. Hancock is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors Technology and Innovation Panel.
He says throughout his forty-year career he has been dedicated to driving initiatives for the betterment of the research and education community, and always with the future in mind.
"I care very deeply about enabling outcomes that benefit future generations of Australians," Mr Hancock said.
"For me, being Australian means living in a multicultural society, hanging out with family and friends, playing and watching sport, and enjoying our beaches and the great outdoors."
Member for New England Barnaby Joyce congratulated Mr Hancock and all the region's 2021 Australia Day award recipients.
"To have six people from the New England recognised in this capacity demonstrates our tremendous dedication to civic service," Mr Joyce said.
"It goes without saying this is a very distinguished honour to be given so I congratulate all award recipients and thank them for the contributions they have made and continue to make in local communities right around the region."
Other New England Honours List recipients
The Honourable John Alexander (Sandy) MacDonald from Wallabadah also received the Member Of The Order Of Australia (AM) for significant service to the people and Parliament of Australia, and to public administration.
Local recipients of the Medal Of The Order Of Australia (OAM) include Mrs Edwina Sharrock from Tamworth for service to community health; John O'Halloran from Uralla for service to rugby league and Les Parsons from Inverell, for service to the community of Inverell, and to local government.
A Public Service Medal went to Charles MacLachlan from Glen Innes for his outstanding public service to local government in New South Wales, particularly during the emergency response to the 2019 bushfires.
Anyone can nominate any Australian for an award in the Order of Australia. If you know someone worthy, nominate them now at www.gg.gov.au.