For more than 40 years, Bernie O’Farrell has been at the helm of Sunbury Residents’ Association, doing his best to ensure the community voice is heard.
By last month Mr O’Farrell decided it was time for a change of pace, opting to stand down from the association’s committee.
Peter Free was elected as the new president.
Mr O’Farrell became involved in the group in 1974 after coming across a meeting notice in the local newspaper.
The association had been formed a year earlier, but over the year, member numbers had dwindled … at the meeting, there was talk of the group folding.
Mr O’Farrell remembers speaking up for the residents’ association to keep going. After the meeting, he was appointed president – a role he held for “virtually” all the time he was on the committee.
“I felt that it was important to have a group that was the voice of the people,” he said.
“We still need a group that will advocate for the community.”
Since Mr O’Farrell joined the association, Sunbury’s population has grown from about 7000 people to close to 40,000, presenting the group and Hume council with significant challenges.
Mr O’Farrell said many of Sunbury’s issues were related to its growth.
“Traffic congestion and parking in the town have been big issues,” he said. “There has been a continuing need over the last 15 years for another railway crossing.
“The town is getting bigger. I believe that all of the issues raised over the past 40 years will continue to be issues.
“The solutions to them haven’t appeared yet.”
Mr O’Farrell believes the push for Sunbury to leave Hume is still the biggest issue the association has tackled. He believes that there is still strong support for Sunbury to quit Hume and that this will continue to be a big issue for residents over coming years. Mr O’Farrell said he would remain part of the residents’ association despite stepping down from the committee.
And he will always be a passionate advocate for Sunbury and its townsfolk.