It’s not often Tanunda’s Bob Sloane is lost for words, but when he received the official letter telling him he was to be awarded the Order of Australia Medal in this year’s Australia Day honour’s list, he admits to being a little taken aback.
“I think I felt a bit lost for a minute but I’m really proud that it’s happened,” Bob said of the honour which acknowledges his service to local government and the Barossa Valley community.
“It’s not something I’ve looked for at any stage, it’s just happened and it’s very nice that people have recognised that what I’ve done has been worthwhile.”
Since moving to Tanunda four decades ago from Port Lincoln through his work with an insurance company, Bob has immersed himself in Barossa life and, on reflection, even he is amazed at the long list of leadership roles he’s taken on.
“Looking back now, I just wonder when I had time!” laughed Bob.
“My family supported me, I couldn’t have done any of it without Robyn and the kids backing me.
“It’s a lifestyle thing. You do it and you don’t expect to get anything for it but we’ve made a lot of lifelong friends as a result.
Difficult to pinpoint a specific highlight because “there are so many”, Bob said he was especially proud of being Mayor of The Barossa Council and the merger of the Tanunda and Angaston Hospital.
“I was chairman of the Tanunda Hospital Board when the state government asked whether we would merge the two hospitals and form one…..I drove that from the start because I was elected chairman of the combined board (Barossa Area Health Services Inc.)
“I got out and said this is what I want to do and they all went great, we’ll support
His proven track record led him to more roles in community health, including his appointment as chairman of the Wakefield Regional Health Board and membership of the steering committee for a new Barossa Area Hospital.
“I wasn’t afraid to ask questions of people, not skirting around the issues…I was prepared to make hard decisions and run with them. If I was wrong, then I got the kick in the backside!”
The region soon recognised his leadership talent and it wasn’t long before the community encouraged him to stand for The Barossa Council.
“I thought about it and in 2010 I did,” said Bob who went on to become Mayor from 2014 until 2018.
“Getting on council and representing the whole community is definitely a highlight.”
Beyond the health sector and council chamber, Bob has put his hand up for anything he’s felt passionate about.
He’s been the chairman of the Nuriootpa High School Council, a member of both the Barossa Vintage Festival Management Committee and Olympic Torch Relay Committee as well as a Justice of the Peace since 1973, a marriage celebrant, development director at Faith Lutheran College and business manager at Lincoln College.
“There were some jobs I knew I could do so why not use my skills?” Bob said.
His service club involvement includes being a Rotary Club of Barossa Valley member since 2002 where he received the Paul Harris Fellow in 2013. He was also presented with a Life Member of the Barossa Apex Club, the group he credits for “breaking the ice” and helping he and his family become part of the community.
He’s even been a playing member of the Nuriootpa Town Band after becoming a community representative on the management committee and being convinced to learn an instrument.
“We had a ball!” Bob said.
Sport has always been an important part of Bob’s life and as a past cross country and track runner, it wasn’t long before he became a member of the Barossa and Light Football Umpire’s Association.
“So I ran for money rather than pleasure!” he laughed.
Although busy, Bob has enjoyed the many roles he’s taken on over the
“I’d go to something, I’d put my hand up to ask a question and just end up getting involved….I just can’t keep my mouth shut!”
Nowadays, the 73 year old is enjoying “the freedom” of not having to plan holidays around council meetings.
He and Robyn have just celebrated their golden wedding anniversary and are enjoying time with their nine grandchildren
But Bob is still finding new ways of contributing to his community.
“I’m now playing lawn bowls – wearing the black and white for Tanunda!”