By Kath Gannaway
George Miller is very much at home in a shed … whether it’s his own, or a shed shared with others.
Co-founder and president of the Yarra Glen & District Men’s Shed, Mr Miller’s contribution to the Yarra Glen community has been recognised with a Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
His forte is recognising a need … and getting it sorted.
It’s a ‘trait’ that started when his children were young – pony club for daughter Wendy and scouts for son Dean.
“The kids in Yarra Glen had ponies but nowhere to ride and nobody to teach them,” Mr Miller explained.
He knew of the concept of pony clubs and decided that’s exactly what Yarra Glen needed.
He started with a bit of lobbying of Healesville Council along the lines of “we want to start a pony club – what about letting us have that bit of land at the Yarra Glen showgrounds?”
The council agreed and a public meeting followed that saw Mr Miller elected president of the new Yarra Glen & District Pony Club.
Fourteen kids turned up to the first rally and with an offer of an instructor for 12 months free of charge, the club flourished.
Forty years later, having up-sized to grounds in Yarra View Road, it continues to thrive.
Yarra Glen Scouts had been making do in a rundown hut near the railway station when Dean decided he wanted to be a scout.
Mr Miller got involved and when the scout leader, also the local bank manager, was transferred and the unit was looking at folding, he stepped up and was there for 16 years.
A three-acre piece of land in Steels Creek Road that had been the town tip was looking good for a new scout hall, and some more lobbying of local councillors secured a 25 year lease and a labour force as part of a work-for-the-dole arrangement with Healesville Council.
“We pulled down the old scout hall and scabbed, stole, borrowed and generally acquired all we needed to build the new scout hall,” Mr Miller recalled.
With a wealth of experience, he went from scout leader at Yarra Glen to training other scout leaders at Gillwell Park.
Then it was his turn!
Forced retirement in 2007 due to a stroke meant the family left their rural property and settled in the towhship.
“I was getting bored with retirement when I heard about the concept of men’s sheds – I thought it would be great for Yarra Glen.
“The more older people I saw walking around Yarra Glen, bored like me got me going.
“I spoke to then Cr Jeanette McRae, who was very supportive and got council involved.”
Some land was allocated and with a grant from the bushfire fund the Yarra Glen & District Men’s Shed was up and running.
“We have about 60-odd members now, and we’ve never looked back,” Mr Miller said.
Of his involvement in community groups over the years, he said he had taken an idea and taken it on as a challenge.
“I like getting involved in the community and like working with people, but an idea doesn’t always work unless you get people behind and I’ve always been fortunate to have good, reliable people working alongside me, including my wife Lorraine, who has been a great support.”
Of the award … he is pleased with the honour and will celebrate with his family. “I don’t know whether I deserve all this, but I guess some people do and that’s great.”