For Paul Tuckerman, giving back to his community is both a duty and a fundamental part of his life.
The Thirroul resident, who has lived all but five of his 80 years in the Illawarra's north, has given his time, energy and skills to varied aspects of public life for decades.
"If we can make a contribution for good, we have a responsibility to act on whatever capacity we have," Mr Tuckerman said.
Mr Tuckerman was among a record number of people who were nominated for this year's Australian of the Year Awards.
About 130 people out of the more than 5500 nominations have been selected as state and territory finalists, but the National Australia Day Council is celebrating the everyday heroes whose contributions are also worthy of acknowledgement.
In the 1980s and 1990s, while working in public affairs for what was then called NSW Railways, Mr Tuckerman worked with the Commuter Council and the community to provide better disabled access to public transport, by way of lifts, continuous handrails, hearing loops and the like.
"I just believed it was an injustice to people with disabilities, not being able to access things people without disabilities took for granted," he said.
While president of the Thirroul branch of the Labor Party in the 1970s, Mr Tuckerman worked to save the Thirroul Railway Institute Hall from demolition, wanting to preserve its function as a social and education space for future generations.
Until the COVID-19 pandemic, the building was used just about every day of the week, Mr Tuckerman said, and marked its centenary last year.
He was also a member of the Bulli Pass Reserve Trust when it purchased freeholds on the Illawarra Escarpment to protect the land. It has since become part of the state conservation area.
"That was a marvellous part of my life, and we were pretty proud of that achievement," Mr Tuckerman said.
He continues to serve as president of the Thirroul Village Committee, which was formed to maintain the pleasant presentation of the suburb but has expanded its scope to preserving the village atmosphere of Thirroul.
The group fought for and won a height limitation for high-rise developments.
Mr Tuckerman has numerous other contributions to his name, including work with the Illawarra Cancer Appeal-a-thon to raise money for linear accelerators, 40 years of pastoral visits to those in hospital and aged care, volunteer work with the Catholic Church, and executive membership of the local Labor Party branch for 40 years.
He hopes that by sharing his story, he can encourage young people to contribute to their communities, too.
ACM, publisher of this masthead, is media partner of the 2021 Australian of the Year Awards, which are announced on ABC TV from 7.30pm on Monday, January 25.
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