Jack Dickenson was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in the general division for service to the community of Eden on Australia Day.
The Magnet caught up with Jack on Sunday morning, Eden Service and Social Club Inc (Essci) apron on, ready to barbecue up a storm at the Owen Allan Trophy cricket match.
Jack Dickenson was “uplifted” rather than humbled by the news he was being awarded the Order of Australia Medal for service to the Eden community on Australia Day.
“It’s quite an honour,” Jack said.
“I hear a lot of people say its humbling but I think it’s more uplifting.
I never look for gongs; I get a lot of satisfaction out of doing it or I wouldn’t be doing it.”
While Jack has lived in Eden now for 42 years, he is quick to point out that his heart belongs to Bombala and Eden in equal measure and that the south east of the NSW has been his lifesaver.
“This south east community have been very good to me and I like to keep my ledger of life in some sort of balance.”
Tragic circumstances brought the then-widower from Sydney to Bombala in 1957, with a “babe in arms” as Jack describes it.
“My sister lived in Bombala and she helped me. It wasn’t easy. There was no single parents benefit. I had to fight to get the child endowment. But the community of Bombala – they’re just lovely,” he said.
Back on his feet again and looking for opportunities 15 years after moving to Bombala, Jack came to Eden in 1972.
“When I decided to come down here, the chip mill had recently been established and I thought there might be better opportunities for us.
But there’s a part of my heart still in Bombala and always will be,” Jack said.
Jack became best mates with Jim Rogers through APEX and they bought the dry cleaning business, “put in a bit of retail” as Jack describes it, and encouraged the Rural Bank (later to become the State Bank) to come to town.
But it’s Jacks community service that brings him most satisfaction now.
“I can look around the town with a lot of satisfaction now. Of course there’s the Eden Killer Whale Museum (EKWM). I’ve put a lot of my time and treasure into it. To see it grow and become unique and self-supporting…Of course we’ve got some great staff, they’re dedicated. And on the management committee, between us we have over 200 years of experience there,” Jack said.
Jack Dickenson was president of the museum for 18 years, and has held a range of executive positions including treasurer for 14 years, secretary for three and has been a member since 1977.
He organised the Back to Eden celebrations to mark the museum’s 50th anniversary in 1981.
“I was the prime mover to get Nullica Lodge started. That was a bit of self-interest really. My dad was in a nursing home in Pambula and he could be demanding,” Jack laughs.
Local MP Jim Snow steered Jack in the direction of bidding for what was then a planned, dedicated hospital site.
“The Greiner government were elected and they were ready to flog everything off they could get their hands on,” Jack said.
“Because my dad was up there (at Pambula) and I was trying to raise my family and keep him happy, I said to the Area Committee, ‘if we don’t get something done with it, we’ll lose it. How about we try for a nursing home?’ So the Area Committee said ‘Let’s go for it’. Jim Snow said ‘You won’t get a nursing home, why don’t you try for a hostel? You would probably get it easily’. We started a fund raising campaign and raised around half of the $800,000 we needed.
“No one person does anything like that on their own. I joke at the time I was looking after my own future there!”
Jack’s list of service to the community is extensive and impressive.
It includes: Founding president of the Eden Lions Club (1980-1992; president and executive position holder of the Eden Chamber of Commerce in the 80s and 90s; president of the Eden Area Committee (1989) and Nullica Lodge Aged Care Advisory; vice-president for four years of the Eden Service and Social Club and member for 20 years; president of Eden APEX Club (1972 and life member 1977); president of the Eden Singers(2010–2013); Meals on Wheels volunteer for 15 years; Justice of the Peace for 40 years, and on it goes.
Whether it’s getting the Eden Flag mast up and erected at the Imlay Street roundabout, or establishing the Eden Men’s Shed, Jack has a smile and a willingness to do all in his power for the communities, and country he loves.
“I think we should kiss the ground we live on every day we get out of bed. I’ve never been overseas but I’m well aware of how lucky we are from world news and events. I’m so lucky that fate made be born here, and that circumstances put me in the south east,” he said.
“I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”