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Tuesday, January 26, 2016 – PAGE 5
Bob Sampson – Medal of the
Order of Australia (AM)
Michael Wheal - Medal of the
Order of Australia (OAM)
By Genevieve Cooper
Bob Sampson’s life has always
been on track – railway tracks;
earning the Birdwood man a
Medal of the Order of Australia in
this week’s Australia Day honors
for service to railway heritage
He has worked in the industry
for more than 40 years and been
volunteering at the National Railway
Museum for even longer, starting when
he was 13-years-old in 1968 scraping
rust off old pieces of equipment.
“I lived at Mile End at the time, where
the (Mile End Railway) Museum was
first located, and someone told me to
go and have a look,” he said this week.
“So I did, and I never left.”
By the age of 18 he was serving on
committees and taking on various
Mr Sampson followed the fortunes
of the museum as it shifted to its
current location at Port Adelaide
and eventually became known as the
National Railway Museum.
He has been a board member since
2003, the executive officer since
2012 and has been the editor of the
museum’s glossy Catch Point Magazine
Meanwhile, in his working life, Mr
Sampson was working on the railways.
He started as a conductor collecting
tickets on the “Redhen” rail cars for
the South Australian Railways when
he was 16.
Until his retirement four years ago,
he followed the fortunes of the rail
industry, working for the Australian
National Railways and then the
Australian Rail Track Corporation in
various roles including shunting rail
cars, handling freight logistics such
as livestock and working in corporate
units such as media and communication
and property management.
With his working life and his spare
time consumed with trains, Mr
Sampson said he never felt the need
to go “train spotting” or to spend every
holiday travelling on trains.
However, when his family was young
he did take wife Sandra and children
Heather and David on the Indian
Pacific from Adelaide to Perth.
He said the iconic journey gave
travellers an insight into Australian
history and the vast distances rail was
designed to cover.
For him, the fascination with rail
is less about the “nuts and bolts” of
trains and more about why railways
were built and what they meant to
the social and economic fabrics of the
communities they serviced.
“It’s the social side that needs
elevating because it’s so important to
get the oral history of the railways,” he
said. “Why did this happen? Why was
that line built?
Mr Sampson said he was surprised
and honored to receive an OAM but
he was more proud of the preservation
work achieved by the museum.
“It’s considered one of the top 10 rail
museums in the world,” he said.
Much of that reputation is due to the
variety in the collection as a result of
SA’s eclectic rail history.
At one stage the State had three
different rail gauges and different
trains and equipment were brought
in from countries such as Scotland,
England, France, Germany and the
Dedication to railway heritage recognised
Bob Sampson from
Birdwood has received
a Medal of the Order
of Australia for service
to railway heritage
It’s the social
side that needs
because it’s so
important to get
the oral history
of the railways
– Bob Sampson
By Melissa Keogh
Prison is a place most people
like to avoid, but for Nairne
man Michael Wheal, spending
time with inmates behind bars
is one small way of helping
make the world a better place.
Mr Wheal is a volunteer at
centre where he spends one day
per week teaching number and
literacy skills to low-security
Now the former school teacher
has been honored for his
selflessness by being awarded the
Medal of the Order of Australia
(OAM) for his service to the
For nearly a decade Mr Wheal
has visited the Murray Bridge
prison to help bring hope to the
“Most of the students I come
language skills and they don’t
know how to talk their way out of
trouble,” he said.
“I want them to have a sense of
the things they can achieve and to
know that they aren’t a complete
In 2008 Mr Wheal, along with
wife Prue, also became involved in
a volunteer program at the former
Inverbrackie Detention Centre. He
visited refugee families to deliver
clothes and newspapers and teach
them the basics of everyday Australian
“Their greatest needs – in addition
to knowing that the extended families
they had left behind were safe
were to become familiar with
the English language and to
be prepared for living in an
Australian community,” Mr Wheal
“I taught them some of the basic,
mundane aspects of our lives, such
as watching out for children on
the roads before and after school.
“We also tried to emphasise the
importance of children learning
to swim and the ladies learning to
drive a car.”
Laughing a lot
After the centre’s closure in 2014,
Mr Wheal managed to maintain
contact with many of the families
and has even attended their
“There were some language
barriers, but we managed by
laughing a lot,” he said.
The grandfather of two also
holds skills in IT and has been a
computing tutor for the Hahndorf
Senior Citizens Club since 2009.
He has also given his time to
various local sporting groups,
including the Heathfield Junior
Soccer Club as president in the late
1980s, and is still the Hahndorf
Bowling Club’s secretary.
Mr Wheal said he was honored
to receive the OAM but admitted
to feeling “a little guilty”.
“There are many others who do a lot
if not more than what I do,” he said.
“I’ll keep volunteering for as long as
“I’m not planning to change.”
Nairne man Michael Wheal is being awarded a
Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his
service to the community including volunteering
at Mobilong Prison and Inverbrackie Detention
Language the key to a better life
AUSTRALIA DAY AWARDS
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