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East Gippsland Citizen of the Year - Blake Hollonds

"You see a need and you make it happen.  Don’t worry about the money, it will come”.

"Gippslanders are resilient and it’s important we remain optimistic during this difficult time. It’s people like Blake Hollonds and the contribution they make to their communities which make this possible."

Darren Chester MP, Australian Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel

by Victor Perton

2020 has seen East Gippsland make international news for the ferocity of its bushfires, the naval evacuation of people and the generosity of the community.

In the midst of such emergencies, trials and tribulations, there are stories of hope, optimism, selflessness and gratitude.

The East Gippsland Australia Day Awards ceremony at Lakes Entrance honoured Blake Hollonds of Swifts Creek as the 2020 Citizen of the Year.  Blake was absent dealing with fire on his farm and in his community.

Ninety-five years of age, Mr Hollonds has made an exceptional contribution to the communities of East Gippsland over many decades.  As we know, healthy longevity is marked by purpose and optimism.

Blake Hollonds's motto?  "You see a need and you make it happen.  Don’t worry about the money, it will come”.

Legacy is a charity providing services to Australian families suffering after the injury or death of a spouse or parent, during or after their defence force service.

On return from active service from World War II, Mr Hollonds was a 1949 foundation member of Legacy’s East Gippsland Group.  He also served as president and over his 70 years of membership used great ingenuity and passion in fundraising.  In the early days the Legatees gathered old tyres for recycling which was not very profitable. The members collected wool pieces from shearing sheds in the area and sold the bales at wool sales. They also arranged for steers to be fattened on farms in the area and sold at the local cattle sales. This proved to be  very profitable and firmed the establishment of Legacy in East Gippsland.

Mr Hollands still has six Legacy widows under his care and is in regular contact with them and takes great care of them and their needs.  He rarely misses a Legacy meeting. He travels to Bairnsdale in summer and winter regardless of the weather.

With a lifelong engagement in his community,  Mr Hollands played football for Swifts Creek and governed on its tribunal.  He is an active member of the Swifts Creek Anglican Church.

An active member of the National Party, he was committed to making a difference to the way Australians are governed and hold government to account.

In 2011, Mr Hollonds compiled the history of the East Gippsland Group of Legacy covering more than 60 years. It was a difficult task considering most of the information was obtained from old minute books, newspaper cuttings and the odd story. The result is a valuable book on Legacy at work in East Gippsland.

With his Swifts Creek farm impacted by the bushfires, Mr Hollands was unable to attend the award presentation and loyal friends appeared on his behalf.

As the local Member of Parliament Tim Bull MP told me, "Blake was at home fighting fires when the ceremony took place to recognise him so he was an absentee.  However, what a great citizen of the year he will be. 70 years of service to Legacy on their back of returning from active combat in New Guinea in WWII

"The Swift’s Creek community has been - and still is - under threat from fire. It has been cut off for days at some stages of this summer due to fire to the north and south.

"On the back of three years of drought the rural sector is finding it hard but they are a resilient community and will see this through."

I asked The Hon Darren Chester MP, Australian Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel, who knows Mr Hollands well for his take on this well-deserved recognition.

Darren told me, "Gippslanders are resilient and it’s important we remain optimistic during this difficult time. It’s people like Blake Hollonds and the contribution they make to their communities which make this possible.

"Blake has shown an outstanding dedication to his community through Legacy over almost 70 years and it’s certainly not hard to see why he has been recognised as East Gippsland’s 2020 Citizen of the Year.  Congratulations Blake and thank you for all you do."

Tim Bull MP

Please take a moment to read about one of the great men in our community, Blake Hollonds, of Swift’s Creek.  Was lucky enough to spend some time this week with 95yo Blake this week and award him with a plaque to recognise 70 years as a Legatee, a great organisation that cares for war widows and their families – he is the only 70 year servant in the history of the organisation.

He joined Legacy after serving himself. Blake was a member of the 2/10th Battalion that saw considerable action at Milne Bay, the area around Lae and Jacquinot Bay in New Guinea.

If that wasn’t enough, he has then donated much of his life to looking after others. He was at the first meeting to form East Gippsland Legacy at the Terminus Hotel in July 1949 with my grandfather Joe Bull and has continually attended meetings ‘down the hill’ since.

Others at that first meeting included well-known local names like Bill Dreverman (Orbost), Ken McQueen (Bruthen), Nelson Cap (Bairnsdale) and Vic Carstairs (Lakes Entrance), who won a Military Cross. Since that time Legacy has done an enormous amount of work in our region supporting those who need it. 

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