For almost seven decades Brian Collard has been proud to call the Upper Hunter home. While he should be enjoying a well-deserved retirement, Brian is still giving back to the community he loves.
When we asked Brian to be this month’s community champion he was reluctant. As with most people who volunteer, Brian isn’t after accolades, he simply likes to lend a hand when it’s needed.
We convinced Brian that by participating he would be able to bring some attention to the organisations he is involved with, and we will do that. But we also intend to applaud the selfless work Brian has been doing behind the scenes for much of his life.
Many of you reading this may already know Brian. From his 23-year stint working at the Oak Milk Factory, or perhaps from his time in the mining industry where he worked right up until retirement. Though now retired, Brian still works just as hard as ever, only without the pay packet.
Over the years Brian has been involved in many community groups though most notably is the Upper Hunter Show Society. As a young boy, Brian became a member of the Aberdeen Junior Farmers Group and it was through it that his love for all things agricultural bloomed.
In his early 20s he joined the Upper Hunter Show Committee and over the following 58 years took on many roles, from vice president, to running the markets, to show jumping coordinator. It’s no surprise that for his enormous contribution he was awarded a life membership.
As a Uniting Church Elder, Brian’s church has been an integral part of his life and much of his volunteer work has stemmed from it and the connections it has enabled him to make throughout the community. It has also given him a front row seat to see when help is needed.
Around 20 years ago, Brian founded and convened the “Men’s Breakfast,” a not-for-profit monthly group for older men to gather for breakfast and to share kinship and stories. It continues today with around 30 to 35 men at each event. Brian said it was a lot harder back in the early days before email and such when he used to persistently phone each member.
“I’d be calling around 60 people every month to remind them to come along. But I knew it was important because of the relationships that were built when people regularly came along,” said Brian.
Brian also helped to establish the Red Door Community Kitchen after identifying that people in the Upper Hunter who were homeless or doing it tough needed more support. To this day it provides free nutritious meals in a space where everyone is welcomed and treated with respect.
“Our first event was held on Christmas Day in 2013 and now we serve around 70 to 80 meals every week. Not everyone is there because of hunger. They also come along because of the connection it provides,” said Brian.
“Since Covid it takes even more volunteers to run the program, so we are always looking for more people. I urge people to get involved as it’s such a great way to make friends and help out at the same time.”
Brian is the inaugural president and a life member of the Hunter Valley Cutting Horse Club that he helped form in 1988. He has taken part in charity rides to raise funds for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service and has volunteered for rural youth organisations.
Whilst some of Brian’s volunteer work has been recognised, he was named Muswellbrook Citizen of the Year in 2022, so much of what this humble man has done has gone unnoticed. For example, when a friend was sick Brian worked at his farm for two years, accepting no payment and just happy to be able to help a friend when they needed it. Whilst his volunteer work has often been demanding, it’s not something he’s ever thought about stopping.
“My greatest role model was my mum. She always said it was far greater to give than to receive.”
Brian’s mother Ida not only instilled those values in Brian, but also modelled them herself and in 2008 she received an OAM for community service. Brian also credits his wife Lynette as being the champion in the family, not only supporting Brian in all his endeavours, but actively involved in community work herself.
“She’s the real backbone of the family, I take my hat off to her,” said Brian proudly.
Brian and Lynette raised three boys and now have six grandchildren. As Brian once looked up to his mother as a role model, their grandchildren can look up to Brian and Lynette and learn the value of giving. Because while Ida’s saying of it’s far greater to give than to receive is very true, it’s also true that when you give, you receive back.
Brian said he has always found his volunteer work deeply rewarding. Working alongside and helping people from all walks of life has led to much personal growth and happiness for himself. He encourages others to step up and volunteer in their communities as there’s always an organisation that needs a hand. As for Brian, he has no plans to hang up his volunteer hat anytime soon.
“I plan to continue and contribute however I can, for as long as I can.”