2021 Australia Day Honours: Geoffrey Basser receives OAM for service to Port Stephens community

HUMBLED: Salamander Bay resident Geoffrey Basser has received an OAM in the 2021 Australia Day honours for his service to the Port Stephens Community.
HUMBLED: Salamander Bay resident Geoffrey Basser has received an OAM in the 2021 Australia Day honours for his service to the Port Stephens Community.

Ask a community volunteer why they give their time and often they will say it is because they want to "give back". For Geoffrey Basser, community service has been a way of life.

Mr Basser, aged 91, first joined the "young men's service club" Apex as an 18 year old when it was introduced to Lithgow, the country town he was born and raised in, following World War II.

"It gave me the basis of what I became as a man," Mr Basser said of joining Apex. "I met up with a group of men older than me who had opened business after the war in Lithgow or were involved in the banks or services, like the railway.

"I thought 'wow, that would be a wonderful way to help in the community' but at the same time thought 'what a wonderful mentoring opportunity for me'. It was also a good socialising opportunity. I still have many friends from that era in my life."

The Salamander Bay resident and 2018 Port Stephens Medal recipient was an Apex member from 1947 to 1969. He was one of the original members and a past president of the Lithgow club, and continued to take part in Apex when he moved to Sydney for work. He only left Apex to join another community organisation, Rotary, of which he is still a member today some 40 years later.

It was through his involvement with Lindfield Rotary Club in the early 2000s that Mr Basser began working with others to establish a free mental health service for youths - many years before the spotlight had been cast on and funding became available to help tackle the mounting health issue.

Geoffrey Basser, aged 91, has dedicated 68 years of his life to community service. He has received an OAM in the 2021 Australia Day honours. Pictures: Ellie-Marie Watts

Geoffrey Basser, aged 91, has dedicated 68 years of his life to community service. He has received an OAM in the 2021 Australia Day honours. Pictures: Ellie-Marie Watts

Mr Basser was a founding member of the Kur-ring-gai Youth Mental Wellbeing and Development Service (KYDS), commonly known as the KYDS Youth Development Service, a free counselling service for 12 to 18 year olds living, working or attending school in Northern Sydney.

His work in helping to establish this ongoing service came to benefit Port Stephens when Mr Basser and wife Nanette settled in Salamander Bay 16 years ago.

In 2013, Mr Basser became a founding member of Caring for our Port Stephens Youth (COPSY) and a driving force behind it launching a free youth counselling service, Jupiter, which will this year expand from Salamander Bay to Tanilba Bay.

"Research Rotary undertook 25 years ago to inform the founding of KYDS showed there was an apparent need for youth mental health support," Mr Basser said. "That need has only become more apparent over the years. Young people are just as much impacted by major events as adults but there aren't nearly as many services for them to turn to."

Mr Basser, who is also active with the Tomaree Ratepayers and Residents Association, Nelson Bay and Salamander Bay Rotary clubs and Nelson Bay NOW, has been recognised in the 2021 Australia Day honours with a Medal of the Order (OAM) for his "service to the community of Port Stephens."

The "humbled" Mr Basser said it was "certainly nice to be recognised" but added that it was being well supported by likeminded people, wife Nanette and family that had lead to him receiving the honour.

"There's no way in any endeavour that a single person can achieve their goals without others around them. It has being part of teams, working with likeminded people, that made this happen. I don't do it for the congratulations. The good job is when I see young people come out of the dark tunnel into light."

Mr Basser has dedicated 68 years to community.