Penrith’s Neville Barnier was shocked and honoured to discover he was the recipient of an Order of Australia Medal this Australia Day.
With decades of hard work with the Australian Foundation for Disability (Afford), the Penrith RSL Club and the Homes for Heroes Western Region as a just few of his achievements, Mr Barnier has dedicated his life to serving people with disability, ex-servicemen and the community of Penrith.
Originally from Grafton, he credits his father’s influence to push him to become involved in the community.
“My father used to take me to Progress Association meetings and get me to sign up to help out,” he recalled.
When he was conscripted to serve in the 1960s, Mr Barnier met and became engaged to his wife in Rockhampton.
“When I moved to Penrith back in 1970, I had just got married and come out of the army and I kept moving west to find a house that I could afford,” he said.
“When we moved here there was about 35,000 people. I’ve seen Penrith go from a really small country town to what it is today.”
Coming from a commercial background, Mr Barnier was crucial to the continued success of the Penrith RSL, helping it re-brand to focus more on being a family club.
“When I was first getting involved in the club it was going through a very bad time with the new gambling tax and the smoking bans came in around the same time,” he said.
“At lot of clubs were suffering at the time, we had to bring back a commercial experience into the club.
“I’m pretty proud that we did that, because Penrith RSL was struggling, and we’ve brought it back to being profitable.”
After 34 years at Afford, Mr Barnier resigned his position as Chairman that he held since 2014 just prior to Christmas.
“I decided I had to give some time to my family,” he said.
“But it’s in good hands now. It’s being run by very capable people.”
Mr Barnier said he was honoured to be nominated for an OAM.
“Last Friday I only found out who nominated me,” he said.
“My wife knew about it and she was being very coy about the whole thing
“She was pretty chuffed about the whole thing.”
The pair have recently bought themselves a caravan and are looking forward to exploring Australia and visiting family members in the future.
Emily Newton is the Weekender’s police and political reporter. Emily is also the Weekender’s Senior Journalist.