Peter Ryan may have spent a busy lifetime in classrooms and boardrooms, but the roots of passion become obvious when he stops for a phone chat at his Caniambo South sheep property.
‘‘I’ve just spent the morning chipping out Bathurst burrs,’’ he said when The News called to congratulate him on his appointment as a Member of the Order of Australia.
Mr Ryan’s contribution to his community is as wide and deep as the Goulburn Valley itself.
Education, agriculture, water industry and health have all benefited from his skills as a teacher, farmer and business leader.
A 20-year association with Goulburn Valley Health came to a pinnacle last year when he stepped down after four years as board chairman.
A highlight of his tenure as chairman was the 2016 announcement of a $168 million hospital redevelopment plan to include three new operating theatres, two new wards and an extended emergency department.
‘‘This had been talked about for so long. After years of planning, it is now going to happen and everyone will benefit. It is just stage one, but Shepparton deserves it. We now have a much brighter future,’’ he said.
Similarly, the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority, Goulburn Ovens Institute of TAFE, Dookie Agricultural College and the Dairy Industry Association of Australia have all benefited from his commitment and diligence.
‘‘Seeing things happen is the greatest reward, as well as all the people you meet and their enthusiasm, then over time, things improve,’’ he said.
Mr Ryan’s home patch is the Sunbury, Gisborne and Kilmore area where he grew up and attended Sunbury’s Salesian College.
A Melbourne University degree in agricultural science followed by a Diploma of Education took him to Colac, where he taught science at the technical school.
He went on to join the Department of Agriculture and worked in Gippsland and Werribee Agricultural College.
Along the way, he married his wife Lorraine and had three children — two girls and a boy.
He spent nine years as principal at Dookie Agricultural College and 10 years as GOTAFE chief executive.
Mr Ryan is 68 and looking forward to a ‘‘gentle slide into retirement’’ on his Caniambo South farm.
But not before he sees stage two of GV Health’s redevelopment started.
‘‘I’m still pretty passionate on getting stage two started. Let’s make sure we lock that in,’’ he said.
Education is also a priority — he is a big supporter of the Lighthouse Project and the school merger plan for Shepparton.
‘‘All the education reforms coming through now — let the experts tell us what is best, because what we had was failing,’’ he said.
‘‘Every child must have the same opportunity as the next.’’
Mr Ryan sees nothing but positives ahead for the region.
‘‘My absolute conviction is that the GV is on the brink of great things. Fundamentally we are very strong. We do need better rail transport for freight and passengers, and basing the MDBA on good science not politics is fundamental for the future,’’ he said.
He politely deflected any praise due for his Australia Day recognition.
‘‘Gee I’m glad the award has been offered. But it’s all the people I’ve worked with — smart, dedicated people that make it all worthwhile,’’ he said.
He encouraged everyone, particularly young people to get involved in their communities.
‘‘We really do need to encourage the next generation. Even the little things matter — join a service club or a school council,’’ he said.
‘‘As soon as you make that effort — the rewards outstrip the effort.’’