Photo : Kathryn Johnston . by John McDonald
When Melvin Gray was invited to Blacktown City Council ’ s annual Australia Day Awards , he knew he was one of four nominees for Environmental Citizen of the Year .
When Melvin was named as the winner , NSW Governor , Margaret Beazley , called out to him - “ Don ’ t get up , I ’ ll come over ” and then presented the award to the seated Gray .
“ She was lovely ,” he said , and for this gentleman it capped a momentous day .
Melvin had earlier been informed that he ’ d received an Order of Australia Medal ( OAM ). “ I was dumbfounded ,” he said . Why had the governor told him he could stay seated and that she would come to him ?
The now-75-year-old Melvin was getting around with a walking stick ; his knees and ankles are shot , there is arthritis , he ’ d just had major spinal surgery and there ’ s another session with the surgeons coming up .
“ Lots of heavy lifting ,” he said of the cause and a working lifetime of hard yakka in factories and warehouses loading , long driving and unloading .
All that was just training for the more than 30 years with Blacktown Rotary and the other forms of hard yakka that led to the double official thank-you that he received at the start of the year .
Not bad for an ex-Pom who retains a trace of an accent and who came here with his family as a 13-year-old from Brighton , England .
He and his family settled in a home at Blacktown where he ’ s called home for more than 60 years .
He has a daughter who went back to live in England and tells her father she “ loves it .”
Gray ? “ I love Australia ,” he said . “ It ’ s the best place in the world . I ’ ve never really wanted to leave .”
The closest he came , was planning to go back for a visit before learning he ’ d have to go to Canberra to apply for a passport , and for him that was too much bureaucratic hard yakka .
Long before the work and community service ahead , the teenage Gray had a romantic start to his new life .
He sang and played guitar with mates .
“ We auditioned before promoter , Con Lianos , and he picked me and the lead guitarist to tour around with Mike Furber and Tony Worsley ,” he said .
Those of a certain vintage
6 ISSUE 28 // JULY 2023 theindependentmagazine . com . au BLACKTOWN CITY INDEPENDENT