President of the Crabbes Creek community association Reg Robinson. Photo: Nolan Verheij-Full / Tweed Daily News
President of the Crabbes Creek community association Reg Robinson. Photo: Nolan Verheij-Full / Tweed Daily News Nolan Verheij-Full

Reg's recipe for life

REG ROBINSON'S mother died when he was just 11 and, with their alcoholic father unable to care for them, he and his siblings were adopted out.

But the seed of Reg's community-mindedness had already been planted, allowing him to grow up into "the most wonderful man I've ever met", as a fellow Crabbes Creek resident described him.

Reg was the eldest in the family and his mum - "a Guides leader and lovely person" - had advised him how to deal with his brother and sisters.

"Don't fight with them; talk to them, communicate and you'll have them eating out of your hand," she told him.

It was the recipe for a life of successfully working alongside others, motivating them and getting things done for their community.

Tragedy struck again when his younger brother died from a heart condition aged 9 or 10, further challenging Reg to roll with the punches and make the most of things. Reg was grief-stricken but came to accept the loss as "a part of life".

Now 57, a 25-year veteran of the village and Tweed's 2015 Volunteer of the Year, Reg is a tireless worker for Crabbes Creek across a range of activities, including providing its pyrotechnics.

But when he's not pulling huge crowds to the community hall with his New Year's Eve fireworks display, Reg can be found assisting at the school; driving its bus, organising film nights, cultural and food events and even village cricket matches - the list goes on and on.

Born in Wollongong, he moved at a young age with his family to Katoomba where he grew up, playing outside, building billy carts and picking blackberries.

It was an upbringing based on "old-fashioned values", he says: respect for elders, not swearing, service to others.

At 15 he started as a butcher's apprentice and later worked for the railways. At 20 or 21 (he's not big on dates) he met and married "the love of my life", Toni, applied for a job in Mullumbimby and bought a three-quarter acre block in Crabbes Creek, where they raised four kids.

Made redundant by the railways, Reg started on the bus run and then landed the job as general assistant at the school, and he's still there 20 years later.

A firm believer in keeping busy, when he came north he joined Life Education and other community groups, including Apex, where he was president "for a while", and also district governor.

Apex made him a life member when he had to leave the organisation due to its age limits.

The memory of that honour - and of being nominated for Australian of the Year - brings tears to his eyes. Underneath that rugged exterior is an old softie with a heart of gold.

"All the kids love him," said Tracey Quinn, who has a child at the school.

Along with the school, Crabbes Creek Community Hall is at the centre of his active life.

"When we came here there was nothing happening at the hall," he says. "It had a good committee but they were a bit burnt out, so I stepped in and started the ball rolling. We've tried a great many activities: some worked, some didn't.

"I'm a good motivator," he says, which means "being organised, being fair and being a good listener".

"I'm a firm believer in praising people; if someone comes up with an idea I never knock it back. You've got to give it a go. Kids need praise and adults do as well."

The hall's new year's eve party attracted between 400-500 people this year. "We ran out of food," he laughs.

He helped form the Film Society, and film nights at the hall also draw big crowds, as does the Crabbesfest Film Festival, which screens short films made by children from the region's schools and includes "the red carpet thing".

St Patrick's celebrations, curry nights and Australia Day breakfasts are a growing success. He has encouraged the council to help with the hall maintenance, organised grant applications for renovations, including disability ramps, a new kitchen and removal of asbestos.

He doesn't take all the credit though, praising the "tremendous" hall committee, and its commitment to "making things happen".

In his time in the region he has also been a member of the local RFS - a branch which received a unit citation for most call-outs, sometimes up to three a week, on the Old Pacific Highway.

Like his mother, he's keen on Scouts and was a leader at the Brunswick Heads group. All of his children joined up and benefited from it, he says.

He is clearly proud of their achievements: his eldest daughter continues her grandmother's charitable legacy and son Brenden will be bringing his own fireworks skills to the 2016 NYE celebrations for the 20th anniversary.

Reg even made peace with his dad, organising an 80th birthday party for him just months before he died.

In his spare time he's an amateur radio operator, in touch with the world, and a maker of home brew.

Toni has had health problems for many years. Reg is her carer and they plan on travelling around Australia for a while. Question is, how will Crabbes Creek cope without him?

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