Being named Yass Citizen of the Year in 2009 and serving 13 busy years on Yass Valley Council are among many of Brian O’Connor’s local achievements. But it is his tireless work in the country’s oil sector that has earned him his latest accolade.
At a ceremony at the Royal Hotel Tara in Binalong recently, Brian was recognised with an award for 60 years of comprehensive service in the industry.
The Old Oilies Fellowship of Australia (OOFERS) Award was presented to Mr O’Connor by Kevin Hughes on behalf of Mr O’Connor’s peers.
“It was a big honour to get this award, it was a wonderful lunch and it also meant a lot that they could come down here to present it,” he said.
After a few years working with the Commonwealth Bank, which included some time spent in Sydney, Brian moved home to Yass and began work with his father, Joe O’Connor, who owned the old Caltex Distributorship. Brian eventually took over running the business until he sold it in 1988.
He then began work at the Canberra Inland Terminal as a contractor winning several awards for his leadership.
It was in that time that a 35,000-litre oil spill occurred on the Federal Highway between Goulburn and Canberra. Brian noticed that most people were unprepared and discovered there was no spill response equipment in Canberra.
“I was absolutely blown away that no one knew what to do, it was a real problem around this region and I knew something needed to be done before a major spill happened again.”
As a consequence, following intense media backlash, Brian and Don Kirk formed the Canberra and Regions Oil Industry Emergency Response Group (CROIERG).
The group’s purpose is to house equipment that can be used in emergency oil spill situations. The company now has about $700,000 worth of equipment and today CROEIRG also hire contractors to run training courses in Canberra. Over 200 people in the industry have been trained.
Brian continues to run the business, which now offers training courses, as secretary out of his home office on Rossi Street.
“I find it all interesting, I love how I'm always busy, I wouldn’t be still doing it at 82-years-of-age otherwise,” he told the Tribune.
“It’s one of those industries that is always changing, and I like that about it.”
Brian continues to be actively involved in the community and said being busy is important.
“I’m a practical person, I like seeing things done…and I am a huge enemy of procrastination.”
He said he is proud of what he’s done throughout his career, especially in such an important industry.
“Without petrol this world would grind to an absolute halt.”