OAM for volunteer work

WALLAN’S Allan Gray has proved the adage that age is just a number, receiving a Medal of the Order of Australia, OAM, at the age of 86.

Mr Gray was recognised for more than a decade of social welfare work with the St Vincent de Paul Society, volunteering as part of a Fitzroy soup van service aiding homeless people.

The lifelong motor mechanic continues to work four days a week, and has also become the face of the Terrain Tamer 4WD company, presenting YouTube videos and hosting mechanical workshops for children.

Mr Gray said staying active and engaged with the community kept him feeling young and happy.

“I’ve kept fairly busy at work. I’m into motorbikes and cars and quite involved in lots of things. I’m very privileged. I’m content,” he said.

Mr Gray has temporarily stopped participating in the soup van service due to his elevated COVID-19 risk, but said he hoped to return soon. He said helping homeless people changed his perspective on life.

“I love learning from these people. They’re brilliant. It’s an education,” he said.

“I try to encourage people to come out with us so they can see the other side of homelessness. I’ve met some fantastic people on the street who have taught me a lot of things, and I miss them greatly.

“[I have] a different outlook to what I had before I started with Vinnies. I’ve learned to be very satisfied with my lot in life.

“A lot of these people are somebody’s mother or father, and through circumstances outside of their control lost their home, and within a week they were out on the street and mystified as to how they got there and what they were to do. I try to help them find their feet.

“Then there are people who are into drugs, and to see how that takes hold of people and watch them go downhill, or sometimes uphill, teaches you a lot about life which you don’t learn unless you get out amongst it.”

Mr Gray was taken aback when he found out he had been nominated for an OAM, but said he would try to use it to continue spreading a message of positivity.

“I’m not really sure what it means to me because things like this don’t happen very often, but whatever it means, I’ll pay it forward,” he said.

“I’ll use it, not to impress people about what I do, but to say that the past 10 or 15 years of helping other people has made me feel really good as a human being. If that allows me to further what Vinnies are doing, I’ll be rapt.”

Others from the region to receive national honours are Gisborne’s Terry Larkins, who received an OAM for his work across a range of community organisations.

Mr Larkins is a current board member on Macedon Ranges Further Education Centre committee of management and the chair of the Northern Metropolitan Partnership, as well as a director at Doutta Galla Aged Care Service, a former chairman of Western Water, a former board director at Melbourne Water, a foundation board member of Macedon Ranges Health and an honourary Justice of the Peace.

Mr Larkins is also a former chief executive of Gisborne Shire Council in the 1970s and is president of the Macedon Ranges branch of the Australian Labor Party.

Gisborne South’s Marion Rivers was made a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM) for her contributions to eye health care.

Ms Rivers has served as president of the Victorian, New South Wales and Western Australian branches of Orthopics Australia, is chair of Vision 2020’s Prevention and Early Intervention Committee and has been involved with Vision Australia, the Fred Hollows Foundation and the Australian Paralympic Committee.