OAM hon­our for three lo­cals

Southern Riverina news - - FRONT PAGE -

Three lo­cal leg­ends were recog­nised for their ser­vice to the South­ern Rive­rina, with Fin­ley’s John Hand, Ba­rooga’s John Bruce and for­mer Tocumwal res­i­dent Greg Thompson an­nounced as re­cip­i­ents of an Or­der of Aus­tralia Medal on Aus­tralia Day.

Both Mr Hand and Mr Bruce were ac­knowl­edged for their achieve­ments at the Ber­ri­gan Shire Aus­tralia Day awards, while Mr Thompson was cel­e­brated at an award cer­e­mony in Queens­land, where he now re­sides.

Mr Hand be­came just the fourth Fin­ley res­i­dent to re­ceive the hon­our.

If you drive around Fin­ley and spot in­fras­truc­ture cre­ated and funded by the com­mu­nity, there’s a chance Mr Hand has played a part in help­ing to achieve it.

The 71 year-old has done a tonne of ser­vice for the town and joins other Fin­ley re­cip­i­ents Len An­der­son, John Bolitho and Henry Mathe­son as an OAM.

The for­mer Fin­ley NSW Fire & Res­cue cap­tain has helped raise funds for Fin­ley preschool (now Bi­ralee), the re­cre­ation re­serve light­ing project and Ber­riquin Nurs­ing Home (now Fin­ley Re­gional Care).

De­spite his ded­i­ca­tion to his beloved town, in­clud­ing 40 years with the fire brigade — 30 were as cap­tain — Mr Hand de­scribe re­ceiv­ing his OAM as both hum­bling and em­bar­rass­ing.

‘‘I ad­mire the three oth­ers in town who have re­ceived an OAM,’’ he said.

‘‘I had many years along­side Henry Mathe­son in the fire brigade, we both did around 40 years and Henry was about 20 years be­fore me.

‘‘I’m em­bar­rassed to the ex­tent I see some peo­ple around that I know have done so much for the com­mu­nity; there are so many ladies I can think of.

‘‘It is pleas­ing to see what has been done in town, and with a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude.’’

Mr Hand has been part of the par­ent coun­cils of the Fin­ley Preschool, Fin­ley Pub­lic School and Fin­ley High School.

He was mem­ber of Fin­ley Apex for 20 years, sat on the Mur­ray Foot­ball League tri­bunal and was last year’s Ber­ri­gan Shire Cit­i­zen of the Year.

Mr Hand played a mi­nor role in help­ing to build the preschool and nurs­ing home, how­ever he ded­i­cates all of the ef­forts to the team he was work­ing with.

‘‘I love the gen­eros­ity and sup­port of the com­mu­nity. Just be­ing part of team is what I’ve en­joyed the most,’’ he said.

‘‘I was with Apex and as a group — with sup­port from oth­ers — we raised the funds and built the bulk of the preschool as a team ef­fort in 1971.

‘‘In 1978 I was part of the com­mit­tee which helped put on the huge cel­e­bra­tion for Fin­ley’s set­tle­ment.

‘‘What I’ve been very for­tu­nate to be a part of is see­ing things that you’ve done. There are so many won­der­ful peo­ple in Fin­ley.

‘‘There were three teams to raise funds for the nurs­ing home; I was a co­or­di­na­tor. We had to raise $600,000 from the com­mu­nity and the rest would come from gov­ern­ment.

‘‘At the time it was called the Ber­riquin Nurs­ing Home and it was the first non-pri­vately owned nurs­ing home in NSW to have in­di­vid­ual rooms.

‘‘To go down there and see the bricks and mor­tar as one small mem­ber of a big team and what it has grown into is spe­cial.

‘‘I was asked to help raise funds for the re­cre­ation re­serve lights. When they were built they were the best in the Rive­rina.

‘‘None of those things were pos­si­ble without the gen­eros­ity of lo­cal peo­ple.’’

Mr Hand says he’s a proud hus­band to wife Val and the fa­ther of two to Clare and Michael, plus a de­vout Colling­wood sup­porter.

Al­though he’s a re­tired fire­fighter he still over­sees the Fin­ley crew for the Fire Cham­pi­onships As­so­ci­a­tion.

Fin­ley has been a four time state cham­pion dur­ing Mr Hand’s time with the team.

‘‘Every­thing that is done in com­pe­ti­tion is re­lated to be­ing more ef­fi­cient on the fire ground.’’

As cap­tain of the Fin­ley Fire & Res­cue team, Mr Hand would deal with town fires and in­ci­dents, as well as high­way in­ci­dents and haz­ardous clear­ing.

‘‘It was a great team to work with and to be in­volved with, all with the com­mon goal of life and pro­tec­tion of prop­erty.

‘‘My re­spon­si­bil­ity was to help look af­ter the crew and one in­ci­dent I can re­mem­ber that was par­tic­u­larly dan­ger­ous was when the Al­bion Ho­tel caught fire in 1990.

‘‘In my 41 years we never lost any­one in a house fire, but un­for­tu­nately there were high­way ac­ci­dents.

‘‘You didn’t know what you were go­ing to find in­side (a build­ing). But like all in­ci­dents you had to have your fin­gers crossed a roof wouldn’t fall on top of you or your crew.’’

As time went on Mr Hand saw im­prove­ments which helped his fire crew.

‘‘When I started there wasn’t any breath­ing ap­pa­ra­tus, and as time went on they in­tro­duced a ter­mi­nal imag­ing cam­era that would de­tect the hot spots in a house.

‘‘The fire brigade be­came more proac­tive in lit­tle things such as mak­ing sure all houses had a work­ing smoke de­tec­tor.

‘‘We also went to lo­cal schools for demon­stra­tions with sim­u­lated kitchen fires, though I didn’t do a lot of that.’’

Mr Hand says his mo­ti­va­tion to work for the com­mu­nity came from his fa­ther and ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther.

Fin­ley’s John Hand was awarded an OAM for his com­mit­ment to the Fin­ley com­mu­nity.

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