Wagin farmer Maurice Becker’s lifetime commitment to community recognised at WA Volunteer of the Year Awards

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Tom ShanahanNarrogin Observer
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Maurice Becker with the WA Spirit of Volunteering Award.Picture: Tom Shanahan
Camera IconMaurice Becker with the WA Spirit of Volunteering Award.Picture: Tom Shanahan Credit: Tom Shanahan

Down-to-earth Wagin farmer Maurice Becker says he was overwhelmed when he was named the winner of a Statewide accolade for a lifetime of volunteering.

Much to Mr Becker’s shock, he received the spirit of volunteering award at the WA Volunteer of the Year Awards on Thursday night, earning a standing ovation from a packed Grand Ballroom at Crown Perth.

“You get to the end of a long life, you see the rewards, but it is the people you meet along the way that are your awards,” the 91-year-old said.

“It was overwhelming for someone my age. The list of names read before me was long and there were many categories and they went through all of them, and I was the last one.”

The veteran Wagin volunteer was recognised for his decades of devotion to the community, becoming the inaugural winner of the spirit of volunteering award, which was decided by a public vote from 10 finalists.

Maurice Becker at his home in Wagin
Camera IconMaurice Becker at his home in Wagin Credit: Picture: Tom Shanahan

Mr Becker said he fell into volunteering accidentally when he started helping students get to and from school.

“I was one of the big kids at our country school and there were a bit over half-a-dozen six-year-olds that drove four miles in a horse and cart, so I would harness it up when they went home,” he said. “I left school in 1944 and we didn’t have a tractor for six years so I drove a horse team for six years working the ground.

“You would do it in five minutes these days in what took me all six hours.”

Outside of working on his family farm, Mr Becker has volunteered with Wagin Agricultural Society and Wagin Woolorama for 66 years; Wagin Historical Society for 20 years; and the Wagin Bush Fire Brigade.

“Our neighbours were dependent on one another, we were all small farmers, so instead of paying someone to do something you just helped one another,” he said.

“You've just got to do things.

“If you want a golf club, it’s the volunteers that make that happen — same for the bowling club, footy club.

“You’ve got to be out there among it. You are not part of your community if you’re not doing it.

“We sort of lost that when the farms started to grow ... we have lost some of that nobleness.”

Mr Becker is well known for his contribution to Wagin Bulldogs Football Club, where he got the nickname “Uncle Maurie” during his 30 years as match-day timekeeper.

He never played football himself but he loved going down to Matera Oval to watch the Bulldogs play, because it was the place where his family and community came together. “It’s what makes my winter, going to the footy,” he said.

“I’ve got a grand-nephew who takes me to the footy each week now and my nephew played for the club for years.

“I never played footy but most of my family played — five of my six uncles played over the years.

“There was five years where I went to the game on my own without having a family member playing, so that’s what started me with time-keeping.”

Mr Becker also volunteered with Wagin Rotary Club, including a stint as president.

He said one of his proudest achievements was pushing for the construction of Bart the giant ram in the 1980s.

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