Koroit's Alistair McCosh says he's always wanted the best for his community and he believed he had a duty to get involved.
"I'm not one to sit back and wait for things to happen," he told The Standard. "I've always wanted to get the most out of my local community and you only get out what you put in."
The head of Deakin University's Warrnambool campus has a 30-year catalogue of contribution to his community, from leading the Koroit Football Netball Club to serving as deputy chair of Moyne Health Services and Food and Fibre Great South Coast, directing Beyond the Bell and setting up community events like the Tower Hill Challenge endurance event.
His record was recognised on Australia Day when he became Moyne Shire Council's 2023 Citizen of the Year, with mayor Karen Foster honouring a "quiet and modest behind-the-scenes achiever and a highly respected member of the Koroit and wider south-west communities."
Mr McCosh said his motivations were simple - making your community a better place was a win-win.
"I was born in Mailors Flat, married a girl from Rosebrook and have lived in Koroit most of my life, so I'm a Moyne resident through and through," he said.
"My wife and I brought our kids up here and wanted the best for them and by extension the community, and without volunteering and putting in our community wouldn't be the great place that it is."
He said in a country town sporting clubs were an essential part of the social fabric.
"I think it creates a place for people to come, not everyone has families so its a social connection for people as well as a sporting organisation," he said.
"We talk about mental health - everyone wants connection in their lives. That's why i've always been involved in sporting organisations, because they're such a touchstone for people and provide a link into the community."
Mr McCosh said raising children in a small community only deepened his appreciation for local sporting clubs.
"I want my children being active in the community, getting the health benefits of sport, but also being part of a team," he said.
"I think seeing the friendships that develop when you're volunteering, whether that's at a footy club or a sports board, is incredible."
A teacher by trade, Mr McCosh's major contribution in recent years has been through Deakin University, where he's risen through the ranks to become head of the Warrnambool campus.
"I started out as a secondary teacher in Hawkesdale, then moved to Brauer and from there went into the vocational sector before ending up at Deakin after a short stint as a careers advisor at the Australian Industry Group," he said.
"Deakin is so important, not just for Warrnambool, but for the whole region. Our graduates are in schools and hospitals throughout the south-west."
Mr McCosh has played a key role expanding the size and reach of the campus, a process he said was full-steam ahead.
"We're building a new program in social work and another couple we are looking to announce in the next couple of months," he said.
"I jump out of bed each morning really excited at what we can achieve at Deakin, knowing that the region is going so well economically, socially and environmentally."
As director of Beyond the Bell, Mr McCosh has also helped support young people in the south-west to stay in school and thrive.
"Beyond the Bell has a vital role to lift attainment levels throughout the region," he said.
"In regional areas we are below-average in attainment, particularly for year 12, so putting your hand up, getting involved and building aspiration for our kids is so important."
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