On September 10, we said farewell to local historian Brian John Andrews OAM. Although his time has passed, his legacy will long live on.
I first met Brian at the Sir Edgeworth David Memorial Museum in Kurri Kurri when I interviewed him about the Coalfields Heritage Group of which he was Secretary/Treasurer. Here among the countless books, photos and memorabilia that tell the story of the Hunter’s history was where Brian truly belonged.
So it was with sadness that I returned to the Museum to sit down with Brian’s niece Jennifer Collier and Coalfields Heritage Group Secretary, Lexie Matthews, to learn the history of the man who was dedicated to preserving history.
Brian’s biography is not a simple nor short one, this selfless and hardworking man led an extremely active life, achieving many awards and accolades. Brian died at the age of 76 after spending over four decades contributing to, and conserving the history of the Hunter.
Born in 1943 in Moree, Brian left school at 15 as his parents could not afford to continue his education fees. He started as a Technician in Training with the Postmaster’s General Department and went on to have a very successful career. At the age of 49 he took a redundancy along with thousands of others in the industry and because of many year’s hard work and smart investment he was able to retire and settle in Kurri Kurri.
Although his writing career began in 1984 when he recorded the history of the Hunter’s Mulbring Valley, it was on retirement that Brian began to dedicate himself completely to recording and preserving the Hunter’s history
“He was always looking for a new venture to sink his teeth into,” says Lexie. “He never stopped and was always looking to fill in the gaps of the Hunter’s history and more than anything he loved sharing that history with other people. He would always say to us, you have to talk to people. There’s always more to learn.”
Jenny shared some insights into the man himself. “From an early age Brian was always inquisitive, asking questions and seeking answers. He always wanted to know more. His passion for history really began when he started researching his own family history. That passion for knowledge grew and grew.”
“But there was so much more to him,” Jenny fondly recalls. “Even though he was a single man for his whole life, he was very family orientated. Most people only saw the serious side of him, but us kids got to see the other side. He was also very generous, and not just with his money, but with his time.”
Brian’s generosity extended beyond just his family. The Museum is largely funded due to Brian. For the 19 years he was Treasurer, he personally raised over $90,000. Then when Coal Services commissioned him to research and write a book detailing every colliery to ever exist in the NSW, he declined payment and instead Coal Services paid $50,000 to the Museum.
“This is what keeps us operating,” says Lexie. “These selfless acts are who he was. We have been proud to be able to tell people there is no charge to come into the Museum. That’s thanks to Brian’s generosity.”
An active member of the Catholic Church, Brian served on his local Pastoral Council and was a scripture teacher and local area Coordinator for more than 10 years, enriching the lives of thousands of children. He was a Member of the Kurri Kurri Probus Club for over 20 years and served as their President in 2001. All of the volunteer work Brian did for churches and schools and community organisations, everything from guest speaking to radio talks to heritage tours, was all done entirely gratis.
Brian received the Inaugural State Heritage Volunteers Award in 2003, has sat numerous times on the Cessnock City Council’s Cultural Heritage Committee and was awarded the Order of Australia in 2009 for his community work. In his last days Brian became the first person to be awarded a Lifetime Member of the Coalfields Heritage Group.
“It wasn’t a major award like those he has received, rather, it was a service award from his team. The people who really understood just how significant a contribution he has made. On the night before he passed, he was seen sleeping holding tightly to his trophy, so I like to think this last award meant the most to him,” says Lexie.
Over the years Brian produced numerous journals, over 180 books and countless newspaper features. He personally researched and produced over 1 million pages on various aspects of the Hunter’s history as well as being acknowledged in the work of many others. What an incredible contribution to the Hunter and what an amazing legacy he leaves behind.
Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service is seeking leader to join Advisory Committee
The Westpac Rescue Helicopter is calling for Expressions of Interest from local business and community leaders to join our Hunter Advisory Committee. The Committee represents the region comprising Newcastle and the Hunter, Central Coast, Central West and Mid North Coast. Its purpose is to advise and assist the Board and Senior Management Team on matters relevant to the local region while providing governance and oversight on decision making.
The Committee currently has 7 members, including its Chair. Nominations are open for one new member and this appointment will be through a merit based process that considers skills, experience and qualifications.
Expressions of interest close on Friday 16 October.
Position advert and Position Description:
This is an unpaid voluntary position and the Service would like to thank our Community for your continued support as we operate 24-7 for all people in our community.
Students Have A Yarn
St James’ Muswellbrook welcomes a newly constructed yarning circle thanks to the generosity of Malabar Resources.
Fully funded by Malabar, the Yarning Circle will give students and teachers at St James’ Primary School in Muswellbrook the opportunity to sit together and enhance their understanding of Indigenous culture.
A Yarning Circle is an important part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and a harmonious and collaborative way of communicating. It promotes respectful relationships and provides an open environment to share cultural knowledge.
In August Malabar designed and installed the Yarning Circle which involved the placement of more than 5000kg of sandstone blocks.
Malabar’s Manager of Health, Safety, Environment and Community, Donna McLaughlin said, “We are delighted to continue building our relationship with St James’ and other schools in the region by providing resources that help their specific needs.”
“We look forward to seeing the Yarning Circle develop as native plants and artwork are added to the space, which will further facilitate cultural learning and understanding.”
The new space was enthusiastically received by students. “Thank you for this amazing and respectful area where we can teach others about our customs and traditions,” said year 6 student Tushawn.
St James’ Aboriginal Education Teacher, Tania Thompson expressed how thankful they are to have a designated place for our CREST Crew to meet and yarn.
“When we meet as a whole group from K-6 around the Yarning Circle, it gives students the opportunity to bond, form strong ties, and unite as one mob,” she said.
“Communicating, sharing and problem solving as a team are some of the extremely important life skills that we refine when meeting for Yarning Circle.”
“We learn to listen to one another and to respect the ideas and opinions of others regardless of their age, as we all have wisdom to share.”
St James’ will use the Yarning Circle as an extension of their classrooms and teaching practice to foster knowledge of Indigenous culture by engaging both indigenous and non-indigenous students and teachers.
Have You Checked On Your Mates?
This year has been an absolute shocker and it’s no secret that it has certainly taken a toll on all of our mental health in some way. R U OK? Day this year was more important than ever, and our mining companies and leaders went above and beyond to encourage employees to have meaningful conversations and connect with those around them. Let’s remember to take care and reach out to our mates every day of the year.
This year with COVID-19 restrictions in place the McLanahan team’s participation in R U OK? Day was a little different compared with previous years when they have hosted an R U OK? Day ambassador at their Newcastle premises.
Still wanting to make a difference, McLanahan donated over $2,000 to Craig Clarkes in his Coals to Newcastle Ocean Swim to raise money for Beyond Blue.
“Wow what an amazing generous donation from the McLanahan team. Hugely appreciate your kind praise and lifting the fundraising campaign over the $30,000 mark. Thanks heaps. I will be in touch.”
All staff members received an R U OK? lanyard and a yellow iced cupcake with the R U OK? flag.
DK Heavy Plant Services
RU OK? – that is what everyone was asking in the DK Heavy Plant Services (DKHPS) Workshop on September 10.
Too often people struggle in silence, do not know what resources are available, or even where to start when talking about their mental health.
Sue Milton, General Manager of Upper Hunter Community Services, was able to share with the DKHPS workforce simple advice and resources on these issues and whilst together enjoyed a great afternoon tea and conversation.
To start the conversation, Banlaw grabbed some delish donuts for the team to enjoy, whilst taking time out to ask work mates R U OK?
“As you can see from our cheeky photo’s, the donuts were a hit and a way for all areas of the business to mingle and remind staff the importance of prioritising their mental health and looking out for those around them,” said Internal Sales Coordinator, Lauren Tonks.
With the combined efforts of their Newcastle and Perth offices, Banlaw successfully raised $216 for suicide prevention.
The team at Northwest Mining started the day bright and early with a mental health toolbox talk for R U OK? Day and encouraged the guys to participate by wearing their TradeMutt shirts – a workwear brand, with the mission to make the invisible issue of mental health impossible to ignore. 5% of TradeMutt’s profits go towards ‘This is a Conversation Starter Foundation’.
This led into a BBQ lunch for everyone, cooked by the company owner Shayne Clark. “We discussed some statistics on mental health and chatted about how to start conversations if you’re concerned about someone’s mental health,” said Shayne.
“Everyone was keen to be involved and engaged in the conversations, it was a great day.”
The Bengalla Team celebrated R U OK? Day this year, focusing on teaching people that there is more to say after the initial R U OK? It is important to keep the conversation going and check in on your work mates.
To support the initiative employees enjoyed a coffee and a Kit Kat before and after shift to start the conversation with their work mates. The four important steps include:
– Ask R U OK?
– Listen without judgement
– Encourage action
– Check in
It was an opportunity for team mates to check in on each other and it was well supported from all of site.
R U OK Day saw Tom, Chloe and Matt take the opportunity to catch up over coffee and acknowledge that a conversation could change a life.
There was discussion around keeping an eye on your mates, actually asking R U OK? and what’s next after you’ve asked the question. The team remembered there’s more to say after R U OK? such as;
– How are you travelling?
– You don’t seem yourself – I am here if you want to talk about anything.
– Have you been feeling this way for a while?
– Have you thought about talking to your doctor or a health professional?
– Just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing.
The PERSAS team enjoyed each other’s company during a BBQ and discussed the benefits of R U OK? Day, while social distancing of course.
One thing that was emphasised on the day was not waiting until the next R U OK? day to have open discussions regarding each other’s wellbeing, instead keeping it as an open page where employees can talk to each other at any time.
The R U OK day message is important to Morgan Engineering, but not only just one day a year. Mental Health is important to the Morgan Engineering workforce all year round. This year R U OK? Day coincided with the company’s fortnightly Toolbox talk, and Business Development Manager Graham Sutton said that everyone got involved with the conversation.
“It was a great opportunity to discuss what mental health means to our company,” said Graham.
“With many of employees on shift work and having to spend a lot of time away from their family and friends, it’s important for the whole Morgan Engineering team to be there for each other and check on their mates.”
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