Gavin Karthaus is a great example of getting involved in your community
YOU will probably recognise his voice before you recognise his face.
The voice of Gavin Karthaus floats over the crowd on New Year’s Day at the Merton Cup race meeting.
When you get to see him at those iconic races, you would guess he was a boy from the bush. Far from it - Gavin is a city boy. Apart from his sister’s horses when young, he has had no connection with horses, but he is very connected to the Merton area he loves.
He was born in 1969 in Blackburn South, before suburbia got fully developed.
“The suburb used to be a huge apple orchard, and we still had a 10 acre paddock out the back of our house,” Gavin explained.
“My sisters had horses but I was more into footy, cricket and motorbikes - I saw horses as hard work.
“For someone running the Merton Cup, it is ironic that is the closest I have come to having horses.”
He completed his HSC in 1986 with no idea of what he wanted to do.
“I went to Victoria University and studied Physical Education,” he said.
“However, I realised that I was not going to make a decent living out of sport.”
Gavin took a fill in job as a forklift driver for a food service company.
“From that I fell into sales, first internal, then covering sales people on leave,” he said.
“Over six years I ended up sales manager.
“Then it was on to a media company doing advertising sales for more than 14 years.”
Eventually he started his own media services company covering graphic design and photography.
Prior to the arrival of daughter Elly, Gavin and his wife Carolyn began looking within two hours of Melbourne for a weekender.
“We were familiar with Mt Buller and had Lake Eildon holidays over the years,” he recounted.
“We l ooked elsewhere, but came back to the Merton area and bought the old Merton schoolhouse about 10 years ago.
“The history group has pictures of the students lined up out the front.”
Gavin and Carolyn set about renovating and extending the building - but still no horses.
“Being in a small community is all about participation in that community, being involved, not being a hermit,” Gavin said.
“The basis of a weekender is looking for a different lifestyle.
“Doing things on a weekend that I don’t get to do during the week.”
Gavin joined the local CFA to get involved and then attended his first Merton Cup.
“I loved it, a real picnic race meeting,” he said.
“The year after I got involved with the working bees and then I was on the committee.
“I got an idea of the behind the scenes work of a race club.”
According to Gavin, many race clubs had ignored the romance of picnic racing.
“There was an opportunity here at Merton to make the most of that romance,” he outlined.
“Sitting under the big trees after a hectic New Year’s Eve brings people back year after year.
“There is a great feel about the race day.”
Gavin often has Melbourne people ring up enquiring about a marquee, which Merton has none of.
He tells them to just bring a blanket.
“I looked at bringing a business approach to the club to dovetail with the skill sets already present,” he explained.
“Murray and Joy Hill had been fabulous in developing the club.
“I asked about a succession plan - I became it.”
Gavin is now joint president with Murray Hill.
“New blood and a business approach have been the ideal addition to what was there,” Gavin noted.
“We put together a different way to present and market the race.
“Other racecourses have tried to punch above their weight, become mini Flemingtons.
“Our visitors almost yearn for yesteryear.”
As well as his Melbourne business, Gavin has also set up a local rural fencing supplies company.
The future will be about developing both businesses, according to Gavin.
“The fencing has got me out into the local area which I love,” he said.
“I will always have some connection with this district.
“Life will be about sitting on the deck with a beer in hand, watching the sun set.”