Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Giving Back with Interest; the Australian of the Year Recalls How His Parents Sowed the Seeds of His Philanthropic and Community- Minded Life and How a Brief Visit to Buderim Brought Those Childhood Memories Flooding Back

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Giving Back with Interest; the Australian of the Year Recalls How His Parents Sowed the Seeds of His Philanthropic and Community- Minded Life and How a Brief Visit to Buderim Brought Those Childhood Memories Flooding Back

Article excerpt

Byline: BELINDA WARREN

AS SIMON McKeon faced a crowd of about 240 people at Buderim Tavern on Monday morning, it was not just the brisk cold wind that reminded him of his childhood in Melbourne.

The sense of community in that room had taken the Australian of the Year back to when, at the age of six or seven, his parents first instilled in him the virtue of making a contribution.

Like the Sunshine Coast, Dandenong was an evolving, growing and expanding community.

At one stage it was one of the fastest growing regions in the country, putting pressure on infrastructure and services, which could not keep up with the population and increasing poverty.

His parents, whom he describes as naturally happy people, knew no other way of life but to respond to the needs of others.

He recalls hospital extension plans on the family's kitchen table as neighbours tossed about fundraising ideas. Tactics for successful sausage sizzles were decided and cake stall rosters drawn up.

He remembers laughter, camaraderie and that sense of fulfilling community spirit as everyone worked together for the common good, helping those less fortunate, not expecting anything in return.

And, he realises, that's when his own philanthropic spirit was born.

aI owe my parents a debt of gratitude for that sense of community they gave me,a McKeon said. aThe corporate world was seductive and I could have left all that stuff behind, pretended I was too busy.

aBut there was no way I could let it go. I never wanted to leave behind what it was like to be in a community.

aThis morning, Buderim has been a flashback to those days.a

McKeon was guest speaker at the Buderim Foundation's breakfast and you couldn't help but be inspired by his words, said in a calm and humble manner.

He applauded the foundation's strategy, where people are encouraged to make donations and bequests on the understanding the money will be invested wisely.

The foundation proudly boasts 350 supportive ambassadors and the income generated is used to fund projects that will add to Buderim residents' quality of life for generations to come. …

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