“Skinny kid, ‘Felton’ Hopefield Buraja, Poidevins Bus Lines, St Mary’s Primary School, Corowa High School, Army. What a champion you are,” Rotary Club of Corowa, President Gary Poidevin OAM told Major General Shane Caughey, AM, CSC.
“We’re so proud of you what you’ve done. It’s absolutely fantastic. It’s a privilege to have you back.”
Major General Caughey, who grew up in Corowa, was special guest speaker at Rotary’s third annual Federation Dinner and Tim Fischer Oration celebration on the birth of Australian Federation.
“I’m so proud to be standing here in a building that is something unique, so steeped in history, and to hear that wonderful speech from Shane who comes from such humble beginnings,” Mr Poidevin said.
Eighty-seven people attended the January 26 dinner in Oddfellows Hall Corowa to hear Mr Poidevin MC introduce the 56-year-old who delivered a most interesting and well received speech.
Oddfellows Hall, of course, was used in 1893 to hold a public meeting where the people of Corowa and district were able to have their say in what they believed - what colonies should do to federate this wonderful country of ours which was referred to by the Master of Ceremonies and the special guest speaker accordingly.
Major General Caughey felt at home as ‘Shane’ and said Australia Day related to white settlement, aboriginal history dating back 60,000 years, to migrants who make up our society and new Australians such as the 13,000 persons naturalised on Australia Day 2018.
“Australia Day should recognise all these things,” he said. “I have been very fortunate being provided the greatest responsibility and privilege that a nation can bestow on one of its citizens. I have seen much of the character of Australians through this interaction: capable, patriotic, fearless, adaptable, compassionate about others, ANZAC legend alive and well, and direct.
“Observations from Operations Command in East Timor, Afghanistan: fierce fighters compassionate, relate to others. My experiences reinforce the view we all share that there is no better place to live than Australia.”
Shane expressed his gratitude for Australia’s access to education, education that encourages critical thinking and debate, freedoms not only of speech, religion, but the way we dress, and our children - certainly compared to other countries - are not traumatised.
Commenting on future challenges and opportunities, Shane predicted the economic power house will see, by 2030, two thirds of the growing middle class living in the Asia Pacific. Markets, competition for land, water and access to resources, particularly energy, North Korea not conforming to global norms, and a balance of security and economy are all challenges according to Shane.
“Regional leadership is vital. We will need to work together to seize the opportunities,” he said. “There are challenges ahead, but like past generations who made such sacrifices, we have the potential and ability to prosper,” he said.
A tremendous round of applause was given to Shane’s address. And beforehand, a standing ovation resulted following the surprise entertainment by the Melbourne-based 5/6th Battalion, The Royal Victoria Regiment Army Pipe Band. The 13-member band’s 25 minutes of brilliantly performed songs included a Scottish flavour and concluded with ‘Waltzing Matilda. It was a superb lead-up to Corowa’s Federation Festival where they perform.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity and Corowa is a regular part of our annual calendar,” band officer, 25-year-old Rupert Vicary told The Free Press.
Corowa’s third Federation Dinner, which also included a delicious three-course meal, was another outstanding success and pleased its originator John Law. “It was introduced to give the Federation weekend a start,” John explained. “The Rotary club and historical society got behind it and we’ve had about the same numbers each of the three years.”
Shane Caughey is currently Vice Director Operations United States Central Command in Tampa, Florida, a position he has held since December 2015.
In 2005 he was awarded a Conspicuous Service Cross and was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2012.
“It’s almost 38 years to the day when my mother and father drove me to the Springhurst Railway Station,” Shane said.
“I could never imagine the experiences I’ve had over the last 38 years and I am grateful for being at St Mary’s Primary School and Corowa High School which stepped me up for everything I’ve been able to achieve in my career.
“I thank Rotary for the opportunity to speak about such an important event here in Oddfellows Hall which has so much history in the lead-up to Federation.
“It’s a privilege to give a speech in my home town that while I left 38 years ago, is still the place I call home.”