Bill Gibbins, a final-year student of Parade’s class of 1963, has been appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Pictured here with his wife Iolanda at the Old Paradians' Association's High Tea at Ballara Receptions in October 2019, Bill was named a Member in the General Division (AM) “for significant service to horse racing, and to people with disability”.

The founder of trucking company FCL which he sold some years ago to the LinFox group, Bill has been a committed philanthropist. He won the hearts and minds of all Australians back in 2007 when he spent part of his fortune to outbid a Sydney developer to save the Albert Park headquarters of the surviving Rats of Tobruk – just when the old veterans thought age might finally weary them and the years condemn.

Bill assured the Rats that the premises where their association had met for more than 50 years was theirs to keep for as long as they wanted. As he told them at the time: “I thought I’d buy it and let you keep it going, because we owe you a debt that can’t possibly be repaid”.

In 2008, Bill was awarded with Life Membership for his support of Riding for the Disabled Association of Australia.

At Warrnambool Racecourse in December 2018, Bill proudly oversaw the inaugural running of a race he founded, The Jericho Cup – a $300,000 flat race which recreated that staged by Australia’s mounted troops in Palestine in a brief lull in hostilities during the First World War.

The original race, involving members of the Australian Light Horse, was run over three miles through the desert sands. Dubbed ‘The Jericho Cup’, line honours went to a horse named Bill the Bastard, arguably Australia’s greatest war horse.

Inspired by this story, in part because his wife Iolanda often jokingly referred to him as ‘Bill the Bastard’, Bill sought an opportunity to honour the courage and spirit of the mounted troops as the centenary of the event neared.

And so the Jericho Cup came into being - a race restricted to Australian and New Zealand horses to preserve the fighting spirit of the servicemen and their mounts, their sacrifices and bravery.

At the High Tea convened by the Old Paradians’ Association at Ballara, Bill was named the association’s Community Service Award winner. On that occasion, he was presented with a glass memento on behalf of the OPA, together with $1000 to be donated to the charity of his choice, Wheelchairs for Kids.

In declaring his support for Wheelchairs for Kids, Bill told the story of the Christian Brother and Old Paradian Olly Pickett (1959), who oversaw the voluntary manufacturing of wheelchairs for children who needed them. He related the tale of how in 2009, the World Health Organization sought the support of any wheelchair manufacturer globally to develop a unit which could be adjusted manually to cope with the growing body of its young user.

“The organization that came up with something acceptable was Wheelchairs for Kids,” Bill said, “which in the years since has further developed those wheelchairs to a fantastic level of sophistication”.

The Community Service Award, established in the Old Paradians’ Association Centenary Year of 2014, acknowledges those Old Paradians who contribute significantly to the welfare of those in need.

The Award recognises and honours individuals who are community builders, creating healthy community through their contributions and commitments.

Victoria Police Sergeant Jon Ellks (1984), an Old Paradian at the forefront of the massive recovery operation in the wake of the Black Saturday bushfires, was the Association’s inaugural recipient. Then followed Alex Fabiani (1976), Lucas Zugaro (2013), Kevin McMahon (1965) and Bill.

The Old Paradians' Association congratulates Bill on being named a Member of the Order of Australia.

images: Old Paradians' Association, The Australian