Just being nominated as Ballarat Citizen of the Year was a shock for Robert Gray.
When he won the award last night he couldn’t believe it.
Mr Gray has been a school teacher at Ballarat Grammar School for 36 years and during that time has developed a passion for East Timor and helping the people who live there.
Speaking to The Courier after being announced as the recipient of the award, Mr Gray said the recognition still did not sit well with him.
“It just doesn’t sit comfortably on me,” he said.
“The enjoyment is in it. It is the same as Rebecca (Vass, Young Citizen of the Year) said, it is the getting out there and helping people.”
Mr Gray is on many local committees aimed at helping the people of East Timor and he even spent some of 2008 working as a teacher in the country.
“It was great fun. They are just so keen to learn English,” he said.
He also urged people to become involved with volunteering opportunities and to find ways to help the community.
“Get out there and volunteer and help people. You get more back than you give.
“That is what East Timor is all about. The people are so loving and so grateful with what we deliver.
“Even though we pay a lot of money to go over there and volunteer, you just come back so enriched by the great bond you form with people like that.”
The passion for helping others runs in the family, according to Mr Gray, who thanked his mother, Enid, after accepting the award. “It is just the way our family is. We give,” he said.
Mr Gray said he was surprised at the fact 21 young people were nominated for the Young Citizen of the Year award.
He said it showed a change in culture in the community.
“There are so many young people nominated for the Young Citizen of the Year this year, which is great stuff and it has been a shift in our culture and hopefully it continue.”
Mr Gray has also been involved in Ballarat rowing for more than 30 years and has completed the Oxfam Trail-walker Event 10 times.