Is Don, is humbled

January 26, 2018

Don Kilgour has been recognised for his service to the community in today's Australia Day honours.

There has not been too many times in Don Kilgour’s life where he has been lost for words.

But it happened recently.

The former radio broadcaster, State Member for Shepparton and community identity had just learned he would be awarded an Order of Australia Medal.

On finding out, his wife Cheryl recalls he sat at the kitchen table, in something of a state of shock for about 15 minutes, speechless, wondering how it had happened.

Mr Kilgour’s CV reads like a long, snaking roll call of committees and community groups he has served on.

Speaking on his career and life, it is clear this remains among his proudest achievement.

Politically, he was instrumental in an expansion for Tatura Park, home to International Dairy Week and in planting the seeds to what became the popular Springnats.

He has met the British Royal Family and former prime ministers. And yet, it is the work with his twin brother Rod hosting the city’s Carols By Candlelight for more than two decades or his service to the Deakin Reserve committee he crowns among his biggest achievements.

Speaking on these, he remains humble, with that same sense of disbelief around receiving an OAM.

‘‘I’ve been surrounded by very good people in those organisations ... people just as passionate as me, working for the community,’’ he says.

He points out a few items around the house that also instil a sense of pride. One in particular is a painted picture of his family’s general store in Katamatite where he grew up.

In his mind, the work his OAM recognises is foremost his service to the community.

He traces the origins of the tireless community work back to the Katamatite days.

‘‘I grew up with an understanding, if you want things to work, you’ve got to get in and do something about it,’’ he says.

After growing up wanting to be a radio announcer and sports broadcaster, Mr Kilgour speaks fondly of interviews with legendary sportsmen such as Gary Sobers and Lionel Rose, including the latter just minutes after leaving the ring following a bout in Japan.

‘‘Getting to do that sort of thing makes me think I’ve had a very fortunate life,’’ he says.

After helping with commercials for Nationals politicians of the day, Mr Kilgour talks about how he found himself suddenly caught up in political campaigns, before landing a role as campaign director.

Then, when it came to looking for a candidate for the upcoming state election, he was asked to run.

‘‘They said to me, if it’s not you, it’s your brother and no-one knows any difference,’’ Mr Kilgour says with a laugh.

‘‘We think you’re the right person to win,’’ they had said.

And win he did, something Mr Kilgour in part attributes to his public profile.

What followed was 11 years of up to 80-hour weeks as a state MP.

‘‘I’m thinking what am I doing here?’’ he recalls of walking into Parliament House for the first time.

‘‘It was a wonderful opportunity to change things.’’

He believes experience in radio helped with speaking and piecing together messages in politics, citing funding for local schools and medical facilities he proudly had a hand in securing.

‘‘I worked my butt off for 11 years,’’ he says.

But no matter how busy things got, Sunday nights were always set aside for family time.

Speaking about the progression of Greater Shepparton, Mr Kilgour talks about its stark transition and of a bright future exporting quality produce from the region to Asia.

He talks fondly of the region as somewhere he wants to live for the rest of his life.

‘‘I’m very humbled that (the award) happened,’’ he says.

‘‘But I am surprised. I didn’t regard myself as doing anything special.’’

These days, Mr Kilgour is still active on committees, in commentary, public speaking and out in the garden.

His most glowing words of thanks are reserved for his wife though.

‘‘I couldn’t have done it without her,’’ he says.

‘‘You don’t do it on your own.’’

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