A love of his community and helping others has led to more than 60 years of volunteer service for Mandurang resident Graeme Pearce.
And now his decades of efforts have been recognised with one of Australia’s most prestigious honours, the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).
“I just enjoy being part of the community and helping out in various positions in the community,” Mr Pearce said.
“It’s a great place to live, here at Mandurang. I’ve lived here all my life.”
Mr Pearce is humble about his contributions to the Mandurang community, but the list is extensive.
He has been a member of the CFA brigade since 1955.
“The local school teacher was the secretary of the local fire brigade… and he registered, from my memory, everyone when they turned 16,” he said. “He made a mistake with me though, he registered me when I was 15.”
He is still an active member and served as captain for 41 years after being appointed to the position in 1971.
His lifetime of service to the organisation has seen him named a life member in 2008, awarded the National Long Service Medal, and the National Emergency Medal for his efforts in the Black Saturday fires.
“There’s a need for the volunteer fire brigades in Victoria,” Mr Pearce said.
“It’s so sparse in some areas, it’d be impossible for a paid fire service to get out into the country.
“We’ve definitely got to have the paid firefighters to look after our cities and big towns, but the volunteers do a great job in the rural areas.”
As a young firefighter, Mr Pearce joined the brigade’s running team and has been involved in fire brigade championships ever since.
He is still coach of the Mandurang brigade’s running team and since 1973 has competed, marshalled at or organised the brig Rural Fire Brigades Championship the brigade hosts each year.
The championships started when the brigade – with the help of Mr Pearce’s parents – made its own running track in memory of Mr Pearce’s brother Colin, who died in a motorcycle crash.
Mr Pearce’s involvement in sport extends beyond the CFA; in the early 1960s, he helped revive the Mandurang Cricket Club and is now a life member. He is also a founding and life member of the Emu Valley Cricket Association.
Mr Pearce was the first president and first coach of the Mandurang Junior Football Club, the forerunner to the Strathfieldsaye club.
“As a younger group of people moved into the area, with families, there was nothing for the kids to do and we formed the Mandurang Junior Football Club,” Mr Pearce said.
The hall that stands at Mandurang’s recreation reserve is also thanks to the work of Mr Pearce and other community members. It began as a small, secondhand weatherboard building, but in 1983 the community upgraded it to the brick building that is on the site today.
“This is how we’ve managed to get these things: everyone pulls together,” Mr Pearce said.
He remains on the reserve’s committee of management and is the current hall keeper.
Mr Pearce was also a former president and committee member of the Golden Square Cricket Club,
When asked what motivated him to do all he had, Mr Pearce said he had a passion for helping young people.
“I think with young people, they get criticised a lot for the behaviour… if you give young people something to do, and make it enjoyable for them, they won’t get involved in some of these other things,” Mr Pearce said.
He said he was lucky he had had the help of his family, especially his wife, Ruth, and their four sons.
Mr Pearce’s contributions to Mandurang look set to continue for some time yet: he loves the area and cannot imagine himself leaving. ”I’m very proud to be an Australian… I’m very proud of living where I am,” he said.
To meet more of central Victoria’s 2018 Australia Day Honours List recipients, click here.