A tribute to James (Jim) Collins AM, July 6, 1927 - December 16, 2022.
Jim Collins was a man ahead of our times, he led from the front.
Since 1950, when Jim and Moira Collins arrived, the Bega Valley has undergone a social transformation. Jim was one who led that transformation.
Jim began life in the Bega Valley teaching science at Bega High School. Moira, his life partner, with him.
Together they began to build their life and their family here, entering the dairy industry with their purchase of "Grevillea" at Springvale.
The young couple showed their talents for technical innovation on the farm and for getting public policy that supported the regional dairy industry.
They led a successful five-year campaign to get regional producers access to the Sydney milk market. Moira remained as a member of the executive of NSW Dairy Farmers for 12 years.
Jim continued to work at Bega High School until 1973.
He ran camps and set up a place for young people to build canoes to paddle at Bournda Lagoon. He would arrive towing racks of canoes behind his little brown Datsun ute.
Jim thought the area should be dedicated for educational use. In 1973, a group called the Bega/Tathra Conservation Society committed to the goal of having that land "preserved in perpetuity" for use by schools.
Today, the Bournda Environmental Education Centre and Bournda National Park are a tribute to Jim's talents and the dedication of those around him.
Jim is remembered for his exceptional generosity, his drive, his intellect and his great heart.
Jim used his genius for being ahead to show others the way. In the 1980s, he planted vines and established Grevillea Winery and The Bails restaurant, complete with a wood-fired pizza oven and a walking path around the farm lake.
He made a prototype for what is now a growing new sector of agricultural tourism in the Bega Valley.
Jim always kept bees and grew copious quantities of vegetables. Jim and Moira's home was a place of warmth and simple comforts.
When leaving, Jim would be there in his overalls and that towelling hat with a box of produce, a pot of honey, or a bottle of wine.
Generosity was part of who Jim Collins was, generous with his home, his time, whatever he had. In his great generosity of spirit, he gave himself fully to what he knew to be right.
In the early 1970s, the Bega/Tathra Conservation Society expressed opposition to woodchipping.
As this campaign grew over the ensuing decades, there were angry confrontations in the forests and in the meeting halls.
Leading from the front, Jim was always methodically clear and dignified when he spoke.
"The facts are these..." he would say, counting them off on his work worn fingers.
Resting his case, he would spread his arms out and then drop them to his sides and shake his head as if to say, now I've stated my case and the facts to support it, how can you possibly not be persuaded?
In 1990, during that campaign, Jim stood as the Green Independent candidate for the seat of Eden Monaro, two years before the launch of the Australian Greens. He came a respectable third, gaining 10.4 per cent of the vote.
Today, we have the South East Forests National Park.
The park, gazetted in 2006, protects the valley's major catchments and local biodiversity from the woodchip industry.
Woodchipping however has not stopped in other public forests and that campaign is still not over.
Among all this, Jim was a board member of Tulgeen from 1986 to 1994.
From that position, he drove changes in the Commonwealth Disabilities Services Act while supporting the young organisation during a period of rapid growth. At that time, typically, Jim and Moira offered The Bails restaurant to host the wedding of a couple with disabilities.
In 2005, aged 77, Jim travelled to the remote district of Natarbora in Timor Leste. What he saw there determined the direction of the rest of his life.
Dedicating himself to the people of Natarbora, Jim launched the Bega Valley Advocates for Timor Leste.
He set about establishing a network in Timor Leste to enable investment, initially by he and Moira, in water and sanitation.
He made 14 trips to Timor Leste. The generosity of Jim and Moira has supported schools, restored the agricultural college that was razed during the war, funded teaching scholarships and with assistance from Rotary, shipped containers of bicycles for children to ride to school and musical instruments to play when they get there.
Jim's experience of Timor Leste went far deeper.
Jim extended his generosity to the people, and they responded with love.
We share our sadness with our friends in Natarbora. Jim's passing was recognised with condolences from His Excellency President Jose Ramos-Horta and His Excellency former Ambassador to Australia Abel Guterres.
Jim's work was celebrated in the 2011 Australia Day Honours List.
He was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia for "service to the community through roles with the Bega Valley Advocates for Timor Leste, as a supporter of environment and conservation initiatives, as an innovator within the Bega dairy industry, and to people with a disability."
Jim Collins is a man to be remembered for his exceptional generosity, his drive, his intellect and his great heart. He strived for a better world, one where social justice and care for the environment are given the highest priority.
He rests in peace now. His work goes on.
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