IT’S been six months since the man they call Mr Kamarooka was named Bendigo’s Citizen of the Year – but for Kevin Cail, it’s been business as usual.
He’s still mowing the lawns, collecting the firewood, and doing the maintenance at the town’s local recreation reserve – his second home, spending a couple of days a week keeping things in shape.
“The award has been very worthwhile and active, I’ve done speeches at different functions in Kamarooka and around the district, and I think they all appreciate what has been going on since I’ve been citizen,” Mr Cail said.
His role as reserve caretaker follows 33 years as the secretary and treasurer, as well as being a local tennis coach.
“I’ve been treated exactly the same as what I was before,” he said.
“Everyone is just pleased that the country has been represented.
“It means a lot to a lot of country reserves and halls, they know that they’re going to get recognised now.”
He said that’s the most important thing to come out of the award, being able to spread what’s good about the rural and Kamarooka spirit.
“If I need help at the reserve I just call for a working bee,” he said. “You only have to say that we’re having a working bee there and they’ll turn up and get it done.
“We’re a pretty close-knit community, we help everyone along the way.”
The reserve was once home to the Northern United Football Club but, since they left in 1987, the committee that Mr Cail is vice president of has fought to keep the space and its adjoining hall alive, applying for grants, recently getting ramp access and installing gardens.
They also hold an annual family picnic, a Christmas party, sales, afternoon teas and barbecues, creating a place where the community can connect.
“It should be done more in country areas, because we’ve got to keep an eye on one another; we don’t know how bad some people are until it’s happened,” Mr Cail said.
The reserve is one of the only areas in the district for community gatherings.
“If you loose the reserve or the hall, what’s left in the country areas? Very little,” Mr Cail said.
As part of his citizen of the year role, Mr Cail attends and speaks at council functions – ably assisted by his wife Bev, who plays a special role.
“I just get him organised with what he’s going to wear,” she laughs.
And, while he still doesn’t know who placed his nomination for the award, Mr Cail said it is ultimately a feather in his and his community’s cap.
“That someone in the community thought enough of me to nominate me, as just a volunteer,” he said. “You just do the things to keep the community ticking over.”
– SAM KANE