A life of service and support

On 2 May 2024, our very own Amaroo Village resident, Geoffrey White OAM, received an Order of Australia Medal for his 50+ years of service in the Boys’ Brigade.

Originated in Glasgow, The Boys’ Brigade was founded by Sir William Alexander Smith and aimed to provide young people with a mix of fun, adventure and challenge using military discipline and order, summer camps and religious classes.

“Back when I was a young boy, many of my friends either started out in the Cub Scouts or Boys’ Brigade”, Geoffrey explains.

“My parents initially enrolled me in Cub Scouts, and after a few weeks my mother asked me whether I was enjoying myself. I responded that it was awful – all they do is run around!”

The rest was history, and soon after Geoffrey’s parents enrolled him in the Boys’ Brigade down at the local Methodist Church.

During this time, Geoffrey would meet with the Boys’ Brigade nearly every night of the week, learning a range of skills from reading and writing to how to complete military drills.

“Many of the Officers would selflessly give up their own time to take us boys away for two-week camps during the summer when school was out. I made some really great life-long friendships during this time”, Geoffrey reminisces.

“I ended up staying at the Boys’ Brigade until I was 17 and soon after enlisted in the Royal Air Force.”


Making the move to Australia

“During my life, I had always been involved in the Boys’ Brigade, however I didn’t become an Officer until I moved to Australia.”

Following in his father’s footsteps, it was actually Geoffrey’s son who asked him if he could join the Boys’ Brigade.

“I took my son to the Boy’s Brigade in Wattle Grove, and I happened to tell one of the Officers that I was in the Boys’ Brigade as a young boy. The Captain then came up to me and asked if I could help out for 2-3 weeks… which has continued to this day.”


Finding love through service

Geoffrey’s lifelong service to the Boys’ Brigade also helped him meet his now wife, Esther.

“I had only been in Australia for three weeks, and I had a friend take me to Mount Pleasant Baptist Church for a service. It was only the second time I had been there, and they happened to have a Boys’ Brigade service”, Esther explains.

“The man that was inspecting the boys was Geoffrey, and he was sitting on a raised platform at the front. The Captain then announced that the visiting Officer would be giving us a report of his inspection of the boys. It was quite funny to me, as I just knew he hadn’t been told he’d have to do this, but he carried it off beautifully.”

Geoffrey soon took to the podium and started talking about a little flower that grows in the dirt in the coal mines in Wales, however, never becomes dirty itself.

“Geoffrey linked this back to how the boys should live their lives – I was so impressed, I thought it was amazing,” Esther reminisces.

18 months later, Esther became an Officer in the same Boys’ Brigade and fate just had it that she would cross paths with Geoffrey again.


Memories to last a lifetime

Looking back on his service in the Boys’ Brigade, Geoffrey reflects on one key memory that he will never forget.

“In 1983, we celebrated the centenary of the Boys’ Brigade. I went with a group of Officers from all around Australia to Glasgow, where it originated in 1883. It was a worldwide camp, and it was so great for us all to come together and share our experiences and learnings”, Geoffrey reminisces.

A few years after, Geoffrey’s selfless service was recognised by the Boys’ Brigade, and he was made an honorary life member.


Receiving The Order of Australia

“In September of last year, I received a letter from Government House in Canberra notifying me that I had been nominated for an Order of Australia Medal. I don’t actually know who nominated me for this award, so it came as a big surprise”, Geoffrey explains.

The Order of Australia Medal is an exceptional award that recognises Australians who have demonstrated outstanding service or exceptional achievement.

Geoffrey and Esther were then advised in October that the nomination had been processed, however they would have to wait until Australia Day 2024 to know if Geoffrey had been successful.

“We had to keep the nomination a secret during this time, we really wanted to tell our friends and family but we had to wait another three months. It was one of the hardest secrets we have ever had to keep!”

On Australia Day 2024, both Geoffrey and Esther found out the news they had been so desperately hoping to hear – Geoffrey had been successful.

On 2 May 2024, Geoffrey was awarded The Order of Australia Medal from the Honourable Chris Dawson AC APM for his 50+ years of service in the Boys’ Brigade.

“Being apart of the Boys’ Brigade has been such a passion of mine throughout my life, and to be recognised for this was a wonderful honour.”