Berrigan Shire home to two new OAM recipients

Two Berrigan Shire residents are today honoured with the Order of Australia Medal.

They include Robert ‘Bob’ Brown of Tocumwal, and Marjorie Maxwell of Finley.

Both much-deserving recipients have been selected for their decades of consistent service to the community.

Mr Brown was presented with the award for his ‘‘service to the community through history preservation organisations’’.

Mrs Maxwell was honoured for her ‘‘service to the community of Finley’’.

The Order of Australia acknowledges both achievement and meritorious service.

Mr Brown’s contributions are well known in Tocumwal.

Since moving from Melbourne to Tocumwal in 1989, the 92 year-old has spent his retirement documenting the history of the iconic Tocumwal Aerodrome, and the lives of those that served it.

He has since personally interviewed hundreds of veterans, and preserved thousands of documents.

The paper salesman turned amateur historian has been passionate about Australia’s aviation history since high school.

‘‘I’ve had a lifelong interest in aviation,’’ he said.

‘‘I think what triggered it was when I was still in high school during the 1940s when a Lancaster (plane) came from Europe during the war to advertise victory bonds.

‘‘They did circuits over the school — as you can imagine that had a huge impact on a young student like myself.’’

After moving to Tocumwal with his wife Gina Brown — who knew of the area through her association with the golf club — Mr Brown soon discovered the history of the humble airstrip neighbouring their property.

After extensive documentation of the former RAAF airbase (then known as McIntyre airfield) Mr Brown established the Tocumwal Historic Aerodrome Museum.

The site, Mr Brown would soon discover, was in fact home to the largest freestanding wooden structure in the southern hemisphere.

First established in 1942 following the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese, the base was a joint effort between Australia and America.

‘‘The first plane touched down just five weeks after construction on what was once farmland,’’ Mr Brown said.

‘‘In a way the construction and history of the aerodrome was a story in itself.’’

Mr Brown served as president and volunteer of the museum from its establishment in 1995 until just last year when he handed the baton to Matt and Sue Henderson who have since modernised the museum.

‘‘I recognise the devotion of the Hendersons to the new aviation museum; it’s a giant leap forward and I’m extremely fortunate to have found two young people to take it on and carry it forward,’’ Mr Brown said.

Mr Brown thanked Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Gower, who nominated him for the Order of Australia, along with her husband Dick Gower.

‘‘The standard answer is to say my wife, which is quite an appropriate answer in this case, that she has been a driving force in all of this.’’

Finley’s Mrs Maxwell is something of a career-volunteer having served on dozens of committees, groups and auxiliaries.

Chief among these is the Finley Regional Care Auxiliary where she has served as president for 33 of the organisation’s 36 year history.

Mrs Maxwell’s first experience with volunteering was during the latter half of World War II.

‘‘It all started in high school when I helped organise the concert fund for soldiers with the Red Cross,’’ she said.

‘‘Since then I’ve spent my life volunteering, and I’m quite happy to have done so.

‘‘I have no idea how I got this award, or who nominated me, but it truly is an honour and a thrill.’’

Mrs Maxwell’s contributions to Finley Regional Care include the introduction of the charity garden weekends, which have raised about $100,000 for the community-run health organisation.

She has also volunteered with the Finley Show Society, the Finley Pony Club, the Soroptimist Club Finley, and the Retreat Hall Committee, to name just a few.

‘‘To keep a community going you have to have organisations and people who are willing to give back to the community,’’ she said.

‘‘And it is my hope that over time more people stand up and begin volunteering; there are many people who want to help others, and there are even more organisations that aim to do just that.’’

Mrs Maxwell wishes to thank ‘‘whoever thought I was worthy of such a prestigious award’’.

‘‘I don’t look for thanks, I just do this to be involved with the community, and I hope that people carry on keeping this lovely town and community going — I’m just happy to have done what I’ve done, it’s an honour.’’