Queen's Birthday Honours: Wimmera residents recognised

MERIT FOR MERVYN: Nhill man Mervyn Schneider has received an Order of Australia Medal for his service to the Nhill community. Picture: SAMANTHA CAMARRI
MERIT FOR MERVYN: Nhill man Mervyn Schneider has received an Order of Australia Medal for his service to the Nhill community. Picture: SAMANTHA CAMARRI

Mervyn Schneider

LIKE most recipients of prestigious awards, Nhill man Mervyn Schneider has never looked for accolades or recognition.

“I just enjoyed doing things,” he said.

Today he joins the ranks of Order of Australia Medal recipients.

Mr Schneider has been honoured for his service to the Nhill community.

He has been involved in no fewer than 18 community groups, committees and initiatives during almost 89 years.

“Somebody has kept track of what I’ve done – I didn’t,” Mr Schneider said.

“I never expected anything in return.”

His service in the Second World War influenced many of his future involvements.

“It was always my ambition to fly,” Mr Schneider said.

He joined an Air Training Corps at age 16.

Two years later, he enlisted as a Royal Australian Air Force radio operator.

He would not become a pilot until after the war.

“I served up in the islands in the south west Pacifi c,” Mr Schneider said.

“In 1946 they sent me home – the war was over.

“I kept fl ying a bit after the war, bringing home prisoners of war and refugees.”

Mr Schneider remained involved in military associations upon his return.

“It seemed a natural path to follow,” he said.

Mr Schneider said he was one of several ‘young blokes’ returned from the war who got the idea they should do something for the community.

They established Nhill Kindergarten, which Mr Schneider was secretary of in 1952 and president of 1956.

He went on to leadership positions at Nhill Aero Club, Nhill RSL, Wimmera Legacy’s north-west branch, Rotary Club of Nhill, Combined Probus Club of Nhill, Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre and Nhill Men’s Shed.

Mr Schneider was also president of Avonlea Home for the Aged and Cooinda Disability Service.

He has been heavily involved in his church, Meals on Wheels, Nhill Water Trust, Little Desert Tours and Little Desert Nature Lodge, Nhill Lake Committee, Nhill Bowling Club and Nhill Golf Club.

In his late 40s, he seized an opportunity to work as a mechanic in Antarctica for 15 months.

“It is beautiful,” he said. “It hasn’t been mucked up, it’s pristine. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of my wife, Shirley.”

The pair met when they were 17 and had two children, Lynette and Stuart.

The Schneiders are now proud grandparents and great-grandparents.

“I have been very fortunate to have had terrific support,” Mr Schneider said.

Margaret Russell

RECOGNITION: Reverend Margaret Russell is among four Wimmera residents being honoured with an Order of Australia Medal today. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

RECOGNITION: Reverend Margaret Russell is among four Wimmera residents being honoured with an Order of Australia Medal today. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

IF REVEREND Margaret Russell had her way, her Medal of the Order of Australia would be shared among many.

The Halls Gap resident has been honoured for her service to the community and to the Uniting Church in Australia.

She was stunned to receive the accolade.

"I was very surprised. I certainly wasn't expecting anything like this," she said.

"Anything you do, you don't do it on your own. You might initiate something, but it's the involvement of so many other people that enables it to happen.

"I just wish I could share this award with those people."

Rev Russell grew up at Willaura and won a scholarship to study physiotherapy in Melbourne.

She worked in Hamilton and Arnhem Land before settling in Ballarat.

Rev Russell was a senior program adviser to the Department of Health and Community Services; had various appointments at the Spastic Society of Victoria; and established a private ante-natal practice in Ballarat in 1981, involving psychologists, occupational and speech therapists and obstetricians.

Despite her achievements, she knew something was missing.

"My father was a minister," Rev Russell said.

"For many years I had this niggling feeling that that was where I was meant to be.

"As I got closer to my 60th birthday, I thought, 'if I don't do it now, I'll never do it'."

Rev Russell, who turns 70 this year, became a lay preacher in 2003 and was ordained in 2008.

"God was calling me," she said.

"Of all that I've done, what stands out for me is the time I spent in Donald."

Rev Russell became minister of Donald's St Andrew's Uniting Church in 2003.

Along with her husband John, a pastor, she also took over responsibility for the Uniting Churches of St Arnaud, Stuart Mill and Navarre.

"I felt like Donald was where I really needed to be at that time," Rev Russell said.

"The people there are magnificent it's a real can-do community."

In Donald, Rev Russell organised a community youth suicide prevention seminar; was instrumental in the employment of a full-time youth services worker in Buloke Shire; was a founding member of the Donald Friends and Neighbours Society and established a toy library, lending library, drop-in centre and food bank.

She was also heavily involved in Donald's Johnson Goodwin Village, which offers residential and independent care for the elderly.

Rev Russell retired to Halls Gap at the start of this year.

"It's a lovely little community," she said.

"At the moment I'm catching up on all the things I've put on the backburner over the years.

"We will retire to the coast, but for now we're enjoying our gap year in Halls Gap."

Retirement will also allow Rev Russell more time to spend with her family.

She said her Queen's Birthday honour would probably come as a shock to them.

"I have two daughters both living in Ballarat a son living in Hong Kong and four grandchildren," she said.

"I think they will be surprised and happy for me."

Viv Thomson

HONOURED: Best’s Great Western’s Viv Thomson will be given an Order of Australia Medal as part of this year’s Queen’s Birthday honours. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

HONOURED: Best’s Great Western’s Viv Thomson will be given an Order of Australia Medal as part of this year’s Queen’s Birthday honours. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

ICONIC winemaker and director of Best's Great Western winery Viv Thomson has been recognised in this year's Queen's Birthday honours.

Mr Thomson said he was surprised to learn he would receive the Order of Australia Medal for his services to winemaking.

"It's very flattering," he said.

"It's one of those things that you don't expect and you wonder whether you've deserved an award like this."

He paid tribute to his family, in particular his wife Christine.

"I just that think while I'm very honoured to receive the award, my wife and long-suffering family have been great contributors," Mr Thomson said.

"Behind every strong man there's a strong woman so I'm very grateful to my wife and family for putting up with me."

Best's started in 1866 and Mr Thomson's family bought it in 1920.

He has been involved in the company his entire life.

"I guess to be in the wine business and to grow grapes and make wine you've got to have a lot of passion," Mr Thomson said.

"It's a great industry to be in.

"It's like farming, a year-to-year challenge and every year is different.

"It is certainly never boring."

Mr Thomson said the introduction of basic technology such as power, water supply and communications had radically changed the industry throughout the years.

He said it was impossible to select a favourite vintage or style from his life in the wine industry.

"It's a bit like children you can't afford to have favourites," he said.

David Eltringham

HONOUR: David Eltringham. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

HONOUR: David Eltringham. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

HIS distinguished career spanned 47 years and seven municipalities, but David Eltringham never dreamed it would land him on an Australian honours list.

The former long-serving Horsham Rural City technical services manager will receive an Order of Australia Medal for his

service to engineering in the field of infrastructure and planning, and to the community.

Mr Eltringham said the accolade came as a shock.

“I’m quite overcome,” he said.

“It’s a great honour and a privilege to receive an Order of Australia Medal.

“It is far beyond any of my expectations for my career.”

Mr Eltringham paid tribute to the people he had shared his career with and said he was particularly fond of his past 20 years in Horsham.

“I’d like to thank the city commissioners and subsequent councillors for all the opportunities made available to me,” he said.

Mr Eltringham said he had endeavoured to provide the municipality with community infrastructure that led to improved lifestyle and amenity.

“That has been the major achievement and success I really look back on,” he said.

“I also really enjoyed my time with Engineers Australia in the latter years of my career.”

Mr Eltringham was crowned the Public Works Engineer of the Year for the Victorian division of the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia in 2013.

He started his career with the Country Roads Board before joining the Shire of Sherbrooke in the Dandenong Ranges, gaining experience in roads, emergency management, roadworks and drainage – all areas which have proved useful to him throughout his career.

He went on to work for the Shire of Wentworth in NSW, was deputy city engineer in Wangaratta and spent 20 years in Mildura before arriving in Horsham to oversee the technical services department in 1995.

Mr Eltringham retired from Horsham council in 2012.

“I’m semi-retired, I still do a bit of work for the City of Greater Bendigo,” he said.

Semi-retirement also allows him to spend more time with the Horsham Returned and Services League, where he serves as the chairman of the commemorative sub-committee.

Mr Eltringham is also a longtime member of the Country Fire Authority, chalking up 50 years of service in 2012. 

“I’ve been a member of the CFA since I was 13,” he said.

“My father and grandfather were both part of the Belgrave Fire Brigade.

“I lost my father at an early age and I was basically brought up by the men of the Belgrave brigade.

“The CFA continued to be part of my life in various areas.”

Mr Eltringham will spend the Queen’s Birthday holiday in New Zealand, but is looking forward to returning to Horsham this week.

He said his two daughters, Sophie and Emma, would ensure he did not miss out on celebrating his award.

“I just feel it is a great honour to be part of the Australian Honours System,” he said.

“There are so many people who deserve this honour more than me and I hope they are recognised in the future.”


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