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Monday, 23 June 2014
Page: 7017


Mr McCORMACK (RiverinaParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance) (10:51): I rise to speak today about a warm, empathetic, humorous, intelligent and funny friend of mine called John Winterbottom. On Friday, I had the absolute pleasure of presenting John with his Order of Australia medal. He normally would have gone to Sydney to receive it from Governor Marie Bashir, but his polio did not allow him to do that, and he wanted me to present it. We have been mates for years.

John Winterbottom is a tremendous person, born on 7 March 1945 at Nurse Scott's in Thorne Street, Wagga Wagga. The son of Elsie and Ian—better known as 'Bindy'—Winterbottom, he was educated at Gurwood Street Demonstration School. He then attended Wagga Wagga High School. He left after the third year there and did not receive his intermediate certificate until it was given to him in his 60s. He contracted polio in 1948. He was one of four youngsters—Margaret Kendall, Shirley Heydon and Owen Smith being the others—all within a block of one another who contracted polio at the same time. He spent 2½ years in the Wagga Wagga Base Hospital. Thereafter, every six months until he was 14 years old, he would go to the Far West home at Manly for treatment.

He had it against him right from the start. Despite that disability, John got on with life. He went and worked at All Cars, in the spare parts department, working with mechanics and car salesmen, ordinary people. He is an ordinary person, he says—he has done extraordinary things, might I add—and he loves ordinary people. Then he worked at the kitchen in the Riverina College of Advanced Education. But he got the sack from there because he opened the bar too early one night when the footy players needed some refreshments after a game. Despite that, he was then offered a job at the teachers' college library, where he started stacking books.

The rest, as they say, is history. He got involved with the Charles Sturt University archives, the committee of the Wagga Wagga and District Family History Society and the Wagga Wagga and District Historical Society. He then found a niche with the local ABC radio and The Daily Advertiser newspaper, presenting those wonderful historical stories that have made him so well known. He is a household name right throughout the Riverina. Indeed, last Friday when he could not turn up for his normal segment on the ABC as he was getting his OAM, a caller phoned in from Tumut and bemoaned the fact that this humorous, wonderfully intelligent man was not on his ABC. He demanded to know why. He said, 'Come back, John.' John is a tremendous human being. Certainly his wife, Jan, has been very supportive. I wish John all the very best for the future. He has that disability, but I tell you what: it has not stopped him. He is a wonderful man and this is a well-deserved award.