They may be a couple of “blow-ins” but Mr John Little and Mr William ‘Bill’ Biscoe have done the Barossa proud, each being named recipients of Order of Australia medals (OAM) this Australia Day.
The old Barossa joke that you’re not local unless you’ve lived here all your life couldn’t be further from the truth for these two Angaston gentlemen, who have immersed themselves in community life and service in the twenty-odd years they’ve each called the Barossa home.
“It’s a real thrill, something you never expect. I’m just one of hundreds of volunteers,” said 83 year-old John, who’s dedicated at least 60 years of his life to service clubs, including the Rotary Club of Barossa Valley since 1998.
“I think the thing that really hit home with me is that I’ve been in lots of country districts, but the community feeling in the Barossa is so strong that it’s hard not to be swept up in the enthusiasm of it all,” he added.
John spent 50 years of his life as an auctioneer, and while he’s used to being the centre of attention amongst a flurry of bidding, he’s quick to shift the spotlight to others in view of his OAM.
“I was a bit nonplussed when I received the notice that I was being considered, I didn’t think I was worthy of it at all because there are so many other people who do so much,” he said.
“We’re accepting on behalf of all those other volunteers.”
Bill, 81, is equally as unassuming.
“I’m terribly proud of it, but at the same time I do feel, do I really deserve this? There are so many other people who have done fantastic things,” he said.
In accepting the award, Bill follows in the footsteps of his two sisters, Patsy Biscoe, who was named as Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2016, and Gillian Biscoe, who received the same honour in 2017.
Bill views his extensive community work, which includes involvement in the Barossa Vintage Festival Committee and a range of other Barossa arts and culture initiatives, as being a fulfilling way to connect and belong to his adopted community.
“This is the longest I’ve spent anywhere,” he said, having passed much of his earlier life moving around Australia and living abroad, including 15 years as a patrol officer in Papua New Guinea, for which he received a Police Overseas Medal.
“I’m terribly grateful for all this stuff because it got me involved… and all kudos to the Barossa community who welcomed us as well.
“If you put your hand up to do something, they said, beauty mate, thanks very much, you’re now secretary!”
John is proud of contributing positively to the communities he’s been a member of over the years, a trait he attributes to his late wife, Colleen, who was strongly community-minded.
“You can do a few things on your own, but collectively you can achieve a hell of a lot, and that’s what these service clubs do, and we have a lot of fun doing it,” he said.
Asked to reflect on the significance of their service, the octogenarians had words of wisdom worth heeding.
“If there’s something happening as a group, be involved and give of yourself, because you’re always going to get back more than you contribute,” said John.
“I think the importance of a cohesive society does come from your culture,” added Bill.
“I’m not an artist, I wouldn’t know how to paint, draw, or anything like that in the slightest, but I think the culture, or however you want to define it, whether it’s what Rotary Club does or it’s what the local gallery does, it’s all important, it’s all part of being a Barossan and what being part of that is.
“I think we have to emphasise to the young people, don’t isolate yourselves, you are part of a family. You’re part of a community and that means being involved with all of it.”