Making where we live a better place has been the motivation for Robert Coffey's decades of service to the Warrnambool community.
It's that drive to make a difference that has earned the former English teacher and abalone diver an order of Australia Medal.
Mr Coffey has served on APEX, Rotary clubs, school councils, the eisteddfod, the WRAD board, as a driver mentor and puts countless hours into organising Warrnambool's annual Community Peace Concert.
It's the heartwarming things that he is involved in with Rotary, such as taking busloads of drought-affected families to the AFL in Melbourne or helping bushfire victims, that explain why he devotes so much of his time to community causes.
"Sometimes it's about just turning something upside down and using the limited resources to have an impact," he said.
Mr Coffey said to help with the current bushfire crisis his Rotary club came up with the idea of spending thousands of dollars to provide free coffee at a shop in Corryong for fire victims, something they have done with the help of the town's local Rotary Club.
"The idea being, grab a mate, share a cup of coffee and have a chat. It's the sort of thing that is trying to regain a sense of normalcy and it keeps that coffee shop going when there's no tourists and the roads are shut," he said.
"We can give to another Rotary club and there's zero dollars involved in terms of service fees."
Mr Coffey's commitment to community causes began in the 1980s when he joined APEX where he served as state president and director of the APEX Foundation of Australia.
His work with APEX ended when he turned 40 - the then cut-off age for membership - and he became involved in school councils at both Warrnambool East Primary School and Brauer College.
He also coached and mentored school debating teams, something he is still involved in with his association with the Warrnambool Eisteddfod where he now serves as president.
Mr Coffey joined the Rotary Club of Warrnambool Central in 2002 and served as president. He also spent three years as assistant governor for Rotary at district level.
He is also still on the board of management for Rotary House which was built opposite Warrnambool's public hospital as emergency accommodation for patients and their families.
Mr Coffey said he was also a passionate supporter of the Western Region Drug and Alcohol Centre's proposed rehabilitation facility, and has served on the WRAD board since 2009.
With less than 600 residential rehab places in the state available for what would be thousands of people with drug or alcohol addictions, he said it was clear to see there was a big need.
"It all comes down to loving the human condition," he said.
He said he was grateful to the people who nominated him for the Australia Day honour which recognised his drive to help others.
"It's almost like a need to contribute to making where we live a better place. That's never ending. There's always something."
It has been Australia's lost summer. Drought, hail, floods and, worst of all, bushfires have ravaged communities all over the nation. But the selfless actions of friends, family, neighbours, strangers, local groups and volunteer organisations have inspired us and strengthened the bonds of community. Please join us in saying thanks to the heroes of the home front by sharing your stories of gratitude. To salute a person or a group, please use the form below.
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