Skipton’s John Kavanagh (pictured) is Corangamite Shire’s 2021 Citizen of the Year.
The Community Event of the Year award goes to the Terang RSL Sub-Branch tram restoration launch committee.
Mr Kavanagh’s life of service to the community started 64 years ago when he joined the CFA as a 14 year old.
“The CFA is a good thing to get involved in,” he said.
“It’s very important. The knowledge you get is important for bad days, it’ll save you and other people.
“I held just about every position in the CFA: fire manager, deputy group officer, strike team, leader sector commander. My first job was radio and I’ve been doing radio ever since on and off.”
The former Mannibadar farmer moved to Skipton “10 or 15 years ago,” and became a timber cutter, carting loads as far as Camperdown, Colac and Alvie.
In Skipton he kept up his lifelong association with the CFA and became involved in numerous other groups as well, including helping set up the Skipton Branch of the Friends of the RSL.
“It was one of the first friends of the RSL in Victoria. We hold two functions a year. Anzac Day and one in November. It gives an opportunity for people to remember those who passed on years ago.”
Mr Kavanagh joked that “you get no complaints,” in his role as president of the Skipton Cemetery Trust.
“We put up a new fence and gates a few years ago. We’ve upgraded the cemetery a bit.
“Then I was involved in the hall committee. It’s a fairly well maintained hall. I’m in the photography club which is fairly successful. We have an annual photographic show which gets 700-800 entries each year.”
Mr Kavanagh also has a long-time association with the Skipton Progress Association including 10 years as president.
“Progress is reasonably successful. We’ve had our ups and downs but we’re going strong. The progress association sees to things around town. It’s a good yard stick for the town. Councillors come to our meetings and they get a good idea of what the town wants.”
He lists building entrances on the four different roads into town as a major success.
Mr Kavanagh was active with the St Vincent de Paul Society for more than 25 years and also played a major part in the clean-up after the 2011 floods.
“I was in charge of personnel who turned up for the clean-up. I can recall having so many phone calls and so many people offering to work. Most of them came from down south: Camperdown, Geelong and Melbourne.”
Mr Kavanagh said his motivation to serve the community came down to “Things need to be done”.
“You feel like you can contribute in a way. You get ideas and put them forward. They don’t always come to fruition but people eventually come around.
“If you feel things should be done, get involved. Do it yourself. Surround yourself with like-minded people. There’s no sense sitting at home complaining. You’ve got to get involved.”
His wife of 52 years, Cath, has been by his side every step of the way.
“She’s worked with me every day of our married life. If anything needs doing, she’s out there with me.”
The Community Event Award went to the Terang RSL Sub-Branch Tram Restoration Launch. The Tram Restoration Team gave much of their spare time over 18 months to restore Tram W871 and convert it into an interactive multimedia education centre and museum.
The RSL acquired the retired W-Class tram in 2018 when VicTrack offered 137 trams to community groups via expressions of interest. It is now on permanent display outside the RSL Hall, where it is used as an educational resource for local schools, tourist attraction, and meeting place for the community.
Largely funded by community donations, local tradespeople and volunteers poured a concrete foundation and built a roof for the tram, painted it in its original colours, and fitted out the interior.
Corangamite Shire Mayor Ruth Gstrein congratulated the winners and 10 recipients of Australia Day achievement awards.
“We are very fortunate to have such proactive and community-minded people in the Shire,” Cr Gstrein said.
“They have all given generously of their time and effort to their local and wider communities. Today we formally acknowledge their contribution and also recognise hundreds more in our communities who work tirelessly to help make our Shire a great place to live. We also owe them our congratulations and thanks.”
- Elizabeth Bowden – Terang
- Margaret Clark – Skipton
- Peter Conheady – Camperdown
- Kate Daffy – Cobden
- Malcolm Fletcher – Skipton
- Ron (Ronnie) Holmes – Terang
- Peter McSween – Noorat
- John Maher – Camperdown
- Enid O’Connor – Timboon
- Craig Walker – Skipton