Bridgetown-Greenbushes Senior Citizen of the Year for 2019, Don Perks, loves his community and his deep commitment is demonstrated in the amount of time he has invested in serving local organisations over a long period of time.
Whether it is recounting tales about the history of Greenbushes at Greenbushes Discovery Centre events, serving in his local church or making decisions to benefit the community in his role as current vice president of the Greenbushes Community Resource Centre, Mr Perks (81) continues to play an active role in local affairs.
He is a Life Member of the Greenbushes Golf Club Incorporated, Grow Greenbushes Incorporated (formerly the Greenbushes Ratepayers and Residents Association Inc) and the Greenbushes Community Resource Centre which is testament to his years of volunteer work with these organisations.
Mr Perks was secretary of the Greenbushes Ratepayers and Residents Association (Grow Greenbushes Inc) from 1998 to 2014 and secretary of the Greenbushes Golf Club from 2003-2014. He was also part of a group who raised funds to rebuild the Greenbushes Methodist Church (now Uniting Church) after it was burnt down by an arsonist in 1987.
Mr Perks said his interest in serving his community started at 19 years of age when he was elected secretary of the local cricket club.
“I was a keen sportsman and playing cricket and football when I was asked to be secretary of the Cricket Club,” he said.
Other roles soon followed with the Greenbushes Amateur Athletics Club and the Royals Football Club.
He started his working life at the local store aged 14 which he says helped him develop an early appreciation of community life.
“I was weighing spuds, sugar and dates and bottling kerosene in Mrs Angus’s store and earning 10 shillings, which is about a dollar a week,” Mr Perks said.
His early aptitude in retail led to an offer to work at nearby Lindsay’s Store (now the Greenbushes Discovery Centre) but it wasn’t long before he made his first foray into mining, which eventually led to a lifelong career in the industry with various companies in Greenbushes mining tin, lithium and tantalum.
“My first job was as a ‘faceman’ with Tin and Strategic Metals at Southhampton Dam where I had to pick up sticks and stones to stop them going into the pumps during tin sluicing,” he said.
After another role in retail at Lindsay’s Store in Greenbushes Mr Perks travelled overseas to England and Europe for a three-year working holiday from 1962, but was still connected to home through weekly letters to his family.
When he returned from England in 1965 Mr Perks was again employed in mining helping to construct the Jim Crow Dredge at Greenbushes.
It was at this time that he met his wife Judy at a local dance and married and settled in the area.
After seven years the dredge work at the Greenbushes mine ended and Mr Perks was offered a job with Greenbushes Tin at the new Integrated Plant and Spodumene Plant where he was involved in the early development of the lithium mineral resource (spodumene).
He recalls the early days of lithium minerals mining when a lot of test work was underway to develop the technology to process the pegmatite.
“In those early days we were still learning and we had a contract to get a 2,000 tonne dispatch ready to export to Holland – and we managed to do it,” said Mr Perks.
As he gained experience Mr Perks found his expertise was sought after and he was approached to take on a new role as foreman at the Greenbushes Tin Smelter where he worked for six years full time before being transferred back to the Integrated Plant, Tailings Retreatment Plant and Spodumene Processing Plant.
After 32 years in mining, including the last three as a trainer, Mr Perks retired which enabled him more time with family and working on community projects.
He and his wife Judy celebrated 52 years of marriage in December 2018.
Mr Perks is now getting ready for one of the highlights of the year – the Back to Greenbushes Picnic at the Greenbushes Pool on the first Saturday in February, an event he has supported for the past 30 years.
With his enduring love of and interest in the history of Greenbushes Mr Perks is well known for his ability to ‘tell a tale or two about the town’ and will again be in fine form at the annual pool get-together. Many former residents of Greenbushes return for the event.
Mr Perks received his Senior Citizen of the Year Award at the Bridgetown-Greenbushes Shire Australia Day Breakfast on January 26.
Cheryl Hammence was presented with the Citizen of the Year Award for the Shire of Bridgetown-Greenbushes.
The Community Group of the Year was the Bridgetown Grumpy Old Men Group (Shed group).