ROCHESTER’S Graeme Nelson has given so much of his time to the community but has never looked for recognition or thanks.
So you can imagine his surprise when yesterday Mr Nelson was awarded an Order of Australia medal (OAM).
‘‘You do a lot for the community but you’re not looking for the thanks or the awards,’’ he said.
‘‘But I’m not going to turn it down, it’s a great honour.’’
Mr Nelson, a former truck driver, now owns his own mechanics business in Rochester.
He spent years growing up on his father, Keith Nelson’s, farm near Goornong where he started to see the number of farm accidents increasing, but no-one was doing anything about it.
‘‘No-one wanted to talk about it and when the statistics came out, I knew we had to circulate them and do something about it,’’ he said.
Mr Nelson became a board member on the Elmore District Health Service Board in 2003 where he stayed until 2009.
He also spent many years working with the Rotary Club of Rochester where he was president from 1995-1996 and again from 2004-2006 and 2011-2012.
With the help of the Rotary Club and the Elmore Field Days committee, Mr Nelson was able to develop the Rochester Rotary Driver Education Complex, a program used to help school-aged students learn to drive safely.
‘‘The number of deaths we have on roads today is frightening, particularly this year,’’ he said.
‘‘I don’t believe there’s such a thing as an accident — they are crashes, because there’s always a way they can be avoided.
‘‘With this program, we wanted to teach students that, and teach them to use their eyes properly while driving because when it comes down to it, that’s what’s going to keep them alive or kill them.’’
He was also the former Rochester and Lockington Development Group chair and a former member of the Echuca Moama Tourism board.
Mr Nelson spent a lot of his younger years travelling the country, towing mining equipment and delivering groceries before he settled in Rochester and opened the Mitsubishi shop he still owns and operates today.
In 2011, he and his family saw hardship of their own when his business was one of the many establishments and homes affected by the floods.
‘‘It was hard,’’ he said.
‘‘I was out helping others, using the fire trucks to hose out homes, putting fences back up and trying to help people put their lives back together.
‘‘It was when I got calls from people offering to help me that I felt truly thankful. People from Melbourne and other places came to give me a hand.’’
A highlight of his life includes meeting and shaking hands with Queen Elizabeth II.
‘‘It really was amazing,’’ he said.
‘‘After a letter from the Campaspe Shire and the Department of Human Services, I went down to Melbourne and stood in a line at Government House, waiting for her to come by.
‘‘When she did come, we got to have a bit of a chat and you have this image in the back of your mind of what she will be like, but in reality she’s so different.’’
But even during one of the biggest moments of his life, Mr Nelson was thinking of others.
‘‘There were two school students behind us with paintings ready to give to the Queen. It got to a stage where it didn’t look like they were going to meet her, but as she went past, she noticed them and to the kids it was like Christmas had come early.’’
Mr Nelson has spent most of his life helping others but said he could not have done what he has without his family.
‘‘My family has really been a huge part of all this,’’ he said.
‘‘They would often step up when I was away and they would often help out with a lot of the projects I was doing, so in actual fact they’ve done as much for the community as I have.’’
Even now, Mr Nelson still wants to help people where he can.
‘‘I’d like to slowly take a step back from everything and take some time for myself,’’ he said.
‘‘But in saying that, it will give me a lot more time to give others a hand if they need it ... but more time for fishing with mates is on the cards too.’’
Needless to say, his love of giving to his community will never change.
‘‘I’ve always said Rochester is the best town and I’m always happy to give back to the community I love,’’ Mr Nelson said.