Ovens & Murray Advertiser

Hans has built strong bonds

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HANS Van Aken was born in 1942 in a small town called Voorschote­n in Holland where he attended primary school followed by technical school in the nearby town of Leiden. In 1956 Hans migrated to Australia with his Mum, Dad and five siblings arriving in August and travelled by train from Melbourne to Bonegilla Migrant Camp. His father undertook a bricklayin­g job in Melbourne with his brother also a bricklayer, and after six weeks the family joined him in their new home in the Melbourne suburb of Syndal. Hans studied at Jordanvill­e Technical College, became apprentice­d to his father during his course, and won ‘Outstandin­g Apprentice of the Year in 1963’. Three years later he married his wife Ria and in 1976 the couple moved to a 40 acre property just out of Beechworth raising a family of five boys. Selling the property in 2003, the pair built a new home in town.

What’s your job?

I retired as a bricklayer in 2006 and then started voluntary work.

Why did you become a bricklayer?

As my father was a bricklayer it was all I ever wanted to do from a very early age.

What did you love about your job?

Bricklayin­g is a very versatile trade - it can be as simple as building a front fence or a cellar to constructi­ng a circular house and everything in between. You also meet lots of interestin­g people.

What do you do in the community?

Shortly after we arrived in Beechworth I helped set up the Beechworth Squash Club and was president for four years. I have played the part of Sinter Klaas (St. Nicholas) at the Albury-Wodonga Dutch Australia Club for several years as well as Father Christmas at Myers in Albury for a number of years. Funnily enough my four-year-old grandson sat on my knee without recognisin­g my voice. Since retiring I have been a ‘Walking School Bus’ member from when it started 10 years ago, I love being a volunteer driver for Beechworth Health but the Beechworth Men’s Shed is my real passion, and I have been part of it since it started.

What’s the most important current community issue for you?

The amount of plastic waste. We absolutely abhor the amount of advertisin­g especially for drinking water in plastic bottles.

What would you do to solve, change or improve that situation?

We use as little plastic as possible and encourage our family to do the same. We recycle as much as possible. I believe that our drinking water is as good or better than plastic bottled water. I would like to reduce the use of them as much as possible.

What’s the most important current world issue for you?

Climate change.

If the person you’d most like to meet came to Indigo, or was already here, who would that be and what would you show them?

It would be my father because he was my mentor. I would proudly show him our new home, some of the other interestin­g and unusual brickwork I have done over the years, and hope he would be proud of the things he sees. I would drive him around our beautiful countrysid­e and then show him the Men’s Shed.

Why would you show him that?

Because we love it here.

What book are you reading?

‘Fool Me Once’ by Harlan Coban. It has an interestin­g plot within the realms of possibilit­y.

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 ??  ?? COMMUNITY PASSION: Beechworth’s Hans Van Aken loves his volunteer work and living in the town with its scenic surrounds.
COMMUNITY PASSION: Beechworth’s Hans Van Aken loves his volunteer work and living in the town with its scenic surrounds.
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