By Colin MacGillivray
ROMSEY-LANCEFIELD RSL member Tom Murphy was last week recognised for a lifetime of dedication and service to the community with the RSL’s highest individual award: the Meritorious Service Medal.
The medal is awarded on an extremely selective basis to people with RSL life membership ‘who have given exceptional service over a sustained period of time’ according to the RSL’s selection criteria.
Mr Murphy joined the RSL in 1964 after serving in the Australian Army for six years.
He initially joined the Flemington Kensington sub-branch where he became a welfare officer.
He also commenced work at a youth training institute, assisting wards of the state and helping young offenders reintegrate into the community.
Mr Murphy became the Flemington Kensington sub-branch president in 1978, serving in the role for four years before stepping down to continue as welfare officer, responding to calls from the welfare office at Melbourne’s ANZAC House regarding members from country areas who were hospitalised in the city.
In 1986 he was appointed a justice of the peace and later a bail justice.
In 2001 Mr Murphy was nominated for a federal Centenary Medal for contributions to veterans and the community, and in 2014 he was awarded an Order of Australia for contributions to veterans and youth welfare.
He became a life member of the RSL in 2017.
RSL Victoria vice president Des Callaghan, along with federal Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell and state Member for Macedon Mary-Anne Thomas, were on hand to present Mr Murphy with the award at a ceremony attended by family and sub-branch members at Romsey Mechanics Institute on Friday.
Mr Murphy said he was proud to have been nominated for and received the award.
“You never think about anything like this when you’re starting out. I joined the RSL first off looking for a water hole,” he said.
“When I joined I realised it wasn’t just a water hole, it was a lot more involved. They mentioned welfare and I thought that sounded interesting, so that’s how I became involved.
“You listen to people’s stories and I nominated myself to be on the committee and take the welfare officer position to see what I could do for some of the less fortunate members.”
Mr Callaghan said Mr Murphy represented the best of the RSL.
“He has well and truly earned the Meritorious Service Medal,” Mr Callaghan said.
“You don’t get one of them just because you happen to be a good bloke, you’ve really got to work for them.
“I’m on the awards committee and last year I’d say there might have been four given out in total. This is the first one I’ve done this year, so there’s not a lot.”
Romey-Lancefield RSL president Reinhard Goschiniak said Mr Murphy was an icon of the sub-branch.
“When I became president of the sub-branch Tom had just transferred in from Kensington Flemington and he’s been with us ever since,” he said.
“Tom is one of the old-fashioned gentlemen. He’s a terrific bloke. Nothing is too difficult for him and he’ll help you whenever he can.”
Mr Murphy said he intended to continue serving the RSL as long as he was able.
“Age is catching up with me … so I don’t get around as much as I’d like to, but I still try to get involved,” he said.
“If I hear of somebody who is down and out and I can do anything, I’ll go do what I can do and report it to somebody and hopefully they get the assistance they require.
“It’s been 57 years that I’ve been with the RSL, and I wish I could spend another 57 with them.”