St Mary's resident honoured with OAM

Life begins at age 88 according to St Marys resident Harold Hunt.

He was awarded an OAM in the Australia Day honours for his tireless service to Aboriginal communities in NSW during the past 40 years.

"I was surprised because the work I've done was never recognised by the organisations," he said.

Mr Hunt grew up in western NSW where he had "zero interest" in school and left at 14 to work on the land.

"I saw the sea for the first time when I was 25 while visiting Sydney," he said.

"We were told at school that Aboriginal people couldn't learn.

"Today, there are Aboriginal doctors and lawyers and they are represented in almost every field."

After being a heavy drinker for 27 years, the father of four had his last drink in 1969.

"Alcohol remains the most destructive single element in our society today," he said.

Mr Hunt became an alcohol counsellor in 1974.

He counselled Long Bay Jail inmates and joined the NSW Health Commission as a Aboriginal alcohol health liaison officer from 1976 until 1981.

"I had to look up what a liaison officer did," Mr Hunt said.

"A friend come to visit last week, my first — and one of the worst — clients.

"She now owns a home on the Gold Coast and is one of the many success stories. Every now and then, you would see someone's life be turned around. I had access to the best, in terms of resources."

In 1982, he became a probation and parole officer at the Department of Corrective Services and has since served on the NSW Offenders Review Board and Aboriginal Advisory Committee.

He was also a community facilitator at the NSW Police Academy and ran cultural awareness workshops with police commands.

"It improved police relations with the Aboriginal community," he said.

He's currently working on getting a proposal he co-wrote to develop drug and alcohol counsellor pathways with a focus on rural communities published. While he's proud of his achievements, Mr Hunt refuses to take all the credit.

"A lot of people have made a difference to my life," he said.

"I wouldn't have done anything without them.

"This award wouldn't have possible without the support of my family, friends, colleagues, even enemies.

"The greatest thing is I've still got my family, despite the hell I put them through years ago."

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