For Naracoorte’s Erika Vickery, being awarded the prestigious Order of Australia Medal (OAM) represents much more than an accolade acknowledging her service to local government and the Naracoorte community.
The Naracoorte Lucindale mayor was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday honours list on Monday, and she humbly owed the award to years of teamwork and support from family, friends, work colleagues and the local community.
When Mrs Vickery received a letter informing her of the OAM accolade, she said she was absolutely thrilled. “It’s a real honour and I just feel so humbled that you basically get recognised for something that you really enjoy doing,” she said.
“The thing I really have to emphasise is that these sort of things never happen on your own – it’s a team effort from family, friends, colleagues and the whole community that makes it possible.”
Despite finding out about the award around a week before they were publicly announced, Mrs Vickery said she wasn’t allowed to tell anyone, which she admitted was quite difficult.
“I wasn’t allowed to say anything to anybody and so I couldn’t even gather the close people around me,” she said.
After the awards were made public knowledge on Monday, Mrs Vickery celebrated the momentous occasion with family members.
“Being a long weekend, it’s a tradition for us where family comes home and helps with the lamb marking, but we did celebrate with a nice bottle of wine,” she laughed.
“Neville and I also went out to the caves for lunch on Monday, it was quiet but a nice way to celebrate.”
Since Monday, Mrs Vickery said she has been inundated with dozens of phone calls, messages and emails congratulating her on her achievement.
“I was absolutely overwhelmed with all the people that have contacted me about the award – I would just like to thank them all very personally,” she said.
When asked what inspired her to be so involved in the community, Mrs Vickery said she owed her humanitarianism to her mother and father.
“My family and I came out to Australia as migrants in 1965 and mum and dad were always so grateful to have a better way of life here because it was really difficult in Austria after the war,” she said.
“My dad was a member of the Lions club and was always very involved in the community and that kept me interested – I guess I’ve been one of those sorts of people where if you can help, you just put your hand up.”
“I really do love people and I just love being involved with the community. I would say a main highlight for me would be attending community events like Anzac Day, Australia Day and Harmony Day – it’s just wonderful when everyone gets together.”
A large component of Mrs Vickery’s award recognises her work with local government, which spans around 17 years. Mrs Vickery first joined the Naracoorte Lucindale Council as a councillor in 2000 and was elected as mayor in 2010.
She has also been the president of the Limestone Coast Local Government Association since 2015, the president of the South Australia Regional Organisation of Councils since 2016 and has been the vice-president of the Local Government Association of South Australia since 2017.
Another important aspect of Mrs Vickery’s life acknowledged by the award is her long-standing and ongoing involvement with music in the SE.
“One of the most important things for me has been my music – it’s been a huge part of my life and something that comes from my family,” Mrs Vickery said.
Over the years Mrs Vickery has been able to master the piano, guitar and piano accordion and also excels at singing.
She has been the conductor/musical director of the Naracoorte Singers since 1991 and was made a life member in 2007. She has also been a singing teacher at local primary schools for around 20 years.
Mrs Vickery was made a life member of the SE Primary Schools Music Festival in 2008, is a patron of the Limestone Coast Symphony Orchestra and a committee member of the Limestone Coast Opera.
Sport has been another passion of Mrs Vickery’s and over the years she has been involved with a number of sports across the SE, earning life membership with the Naracoorte Football Netball Club.
“I’ve been quite heavily involved in the community through sport, particularly netball, but as the children went through school my husband Neville and I helped out with other sports like football, tennis and cricket,” she said.
“I was also involved with school councils for many years and was actually the first female chairperson of the high school council.”
Several other noteworthy awards that Mrs Vickery has received include the Melvin Jones Fellowship Award from Naracoorte Lions Club and the Paul Harris Fellowship Award from Naracoorte Rotary Club.
To read Mrs Vickery’s full citation, visit www.naracoorteherald.com.au.
Other SE locals celebrated in the honours list included Penola child safety advocate Anne Johnson, who received a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) award for her service to child injury prevention in community health.
Senior Sergeant First Class Peter Brown was also recognised with the Australian Police Medal for his ongoing dedication to the South Australia Police since 1976.
Snr Sgt Brown has worked as a general duties patrol sergeant at Naracoorte, Victor Harbor, Murray Bridge, Mount Gambier and Peterborough.
To see all recipients in the 2017 Queen’s Birthday Honours list, visit www.gg.gov.au/queens-birthday-2017-honours-list.