John Fox Senior Award Recipient

Victorian Governor shows recognition for John’s work

In 2021 Timboon resident John Fox was awarded the Council of the Ageing (COTA) Victoria Senior Achiever Award after being nominated by Sabine McKenzie and Fiona Hanel from Timboon and District Healthcare Service (TDHS). COVID-19 restrictions meant the official award ceremony had to be postponed a couple of times until the date was finally set for 26th October to celebrate this special occasion with other recognised volunteers from across the state with a visit to Government House.

For more than 25 years, The Victorian Senior of the Year Awards have recognised the volunteer work and community contributions of older Victorians. It highlights the resilience, compassion and commitment of senior Victorians across the state.

John has lived in the family home in Timboon his whole life. His late father, Dr Peter Fox, was for a long time, the only GP in the town. Jane, John’s sister, said that as their parents aged, John became their in-home carer and he loved that role and responsibility.

“He took amazing care of mum and dad. As they got older and frailer, he was the reason they were able to stay at home,” she said. “When they passed away that left a huge hole in John’s life. Some of John’s other friends passed away as well and life really changed for him.”

About 6 years ago John was gripped by severe depression and anxiety and was a prisoner in his own thoughts. Unable to do the things he’s loved doing for decades, John was forced to withdraw to his family home.

As John received professional help to deal with his mental health, it was clear that having a purpose in life would assist in beginning to re-enter the community life he had always loved.

When Fiona and Sabine suggested for John to volunteer at the local healthcare service, he embraced this opportunity and hasn’t looked back.

“We’re very fortunate here at TDHS to have about 60 volunteers that do meals on wheels, community transport, social support group and palliative care,” Sabine said. “All our volunteers do an amazing job giving the gift of time and I don’t like singling out just one particular volunteer, but John is not only a great representation of our wonderful volunteer workforce, but also a great example of how people with mental health issues can turn that around by having a purpose in life by helping others.”

“John is turning 71 this year, but he is in the prime of his volunteering years. His resilience by turning his mental struggles into something positive by helping others within the community is nothing but inspiring. He has come such a long way!” Fiona said.

John was very excited to finally be able to receive his award presented by The Honourable Linda Dessau AC, Governor of Victoria, and the Hon Colin Brooks MP, Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, at Government House. “I felt very special to have my award presented at such a prestigious venue.”

John said he wasn’t nervous, just very excited. “I’m very pleased that I could celebrate this with family and friends and am very proud to have received this unexpected accolade,” John said. “I don’t feel any different though. I love volunteering and will continue to do so until I won’t be able to do it anymore.”

“John is a man of few words and a big heart,” Sabine said, ”and Fiona and I are convinced that John’s parents, Dr Peter Fox and his wife Mary, would be very proud of how their son continues supporting the local community in the spirit of the Fox family.”

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