While he is pleased to have been recognised in this week’s Australia Day honours, Bairnsdale Uniting Church member John Butler is keen to stress that many people made the award possible.
John, 80, was awarded an Order of Australia (AM) on Tuesday for service to the Bairnsdale community through his tireless efforts with the church.
He served as Church Council chairperson for 14 years and still sits on the council as a member, was a former secretary of the church’s Pastoral Relations Committee, and convenor of the Friendship Shed and Opportunity Shop, where he still works today.
And it’s that work with the Friendship Shed and Opportunity Shop that John is most proud of, as they have been bringing the community together since 2008.
“We’re very proud of what we have been able to create because when we put the idea up initially, we said it must be a Friendship Shed first,” he said.
“So when people walk in they can have tea and coffee and, while they may not be church members, they are members of the community and they can come in and have a chat (and feel welcome).”
And, like the Friendship Shed, the Op Shop has a way of bringing both church and community together.
“It gives an opportunity for everyone to contribute to what has become a very important part of the community,” John said.
“More than half of the people who work in the Op Shop for free are people who have come in themselves (as customers) and loved it so much they have offered their services.”
In that sense, says John, it brings people together in a wonderful way.
John admits to feeling “quite chuffed” about his Australia Day honour, but rejects the notion he has been a one-man band.
“The reason the award has happened is because of the people I have worked with,” he said.
“On a Tuesday when we get the shop ready there are 14 to 16 people here doing different jobs and it’s a real case of people working together as one.
“My award is definitely one that everyone can feel they have played a part in and it really feels like a joint award for me.”
Also honoured with an Order of Australia (AM) this week was Black Rock resident Peter Barry Wicking, for service to education and youth mental health.
Peter founded the Deep Spring Counselling Centre at St Martin’s Uniting Church in Beaumaris in 1996 and was its manager until 2001.
Bairnsdale Uniting Church member Enid Anne Macarthur, who is already an Order of Australia (AM) recipient, was honoured again on Tuesday.
Enid was named an Officer of the Order in the General Division for significant service to the community through the Australian Red Cross.