The awards were kept a tight secret until the night, and Russell suspected nothing when he turned up at what he assumed was a normal chamber meeting at the Byron Bay Bowling Club, dressed in polo shirt and joggers after his usual evening walk.
“I didn’t twig,” said Russell.
“But right at the end of the meeting, all of a sudden through the back door came Don Page, my wife and my mother.”
The award from State MP Don Page is a highly prestigious one, with only two per year handed out per electorate, and some years none is are awarded.
Russell Siwicki clearly deserves the accolade, given the impressive list of community organisations whose committees he has served on spanning 30 years as estate agent in Brunswick Heads, and his is a familiar face behind many a sausage sizzle, as auctioneer at many a fundraiser, or doing “mad things” like dressing up as town crier for the annual Kites and Bikes Festival.
“I’m a bit of a larrikin,” he admitted.
But he’s a larrikin with a big heart and a big love for his community.
Besides being involved in the steering committee for the chamber and serving on the executive for the 10 years of its existence, many times as president or vice-president, he was in Mullumbimby Apex for 12 years and made a life member, and in Mullumbimby Rotary for 15 years.
He sat on Chincogan Fiesta committees, was in Mullumbimby Scouts and Cubs for 12 years and co-ordinated collections for The Salvation Army and for the Red Cross.
Over the years “hundreds of thousands of dollars” were raised by the ALR (Apex, Lions, Rotary) carnival committee, of which he was a member, to be put back into the community, and he has also helped fundraise for causes as diverse as the Turkish earthquake appeal, the Cancer Council of NSW and for local families in need at events organised by the Billinudgel Hotel.
He has been president of Rotary, as well as many other positions in Rotary, and has received the club’s highest award, as well as that of Brunswick Valley Lions.
And while he’ll turn his hand to just about anything to help out, it’s in apron and chef’s hat where Russell is in his element – he loves “cooking up a storm,” and producing fundraising dinners for 100 people.
He’s called housie, emceed Breakfast in the Park, been host to Rotary exchange students and lobbied tirelessly for the enhancement of Brunswick Heads.
But Russell is adamant that all the good works and the fundraising have to be fun to do.
“I love the camaraderie,” he said. “I always stress that if nothing else happens, as long as we are having fun and enjoy doing it, then it’s worthwhile and volunteers will keep coming back.”
He attributes his strong community sense to parents who were involved in service clubs all their lives, and his continued involvement to being a “happily married man for 34 years, and very proud father of three adult children,” and he plans to stay involved far into the future.
“I felt very humbled by it all,” he said of his awards.
“But I don’t go out looking for awards and accolades. I do it because I love my community.”
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