TONY Jurd says he often sits down and wonders whether he “dips a finger into too many pies.”
The father of three and a former president of the Rotary Club of Canberra South has never quite managed to retire and, at 67, shows no signs of slowing down.
After selling the cable and satellite installation business he owned for the last 20 years, self-confessed “tech-head” Tony now spends his time helping people from all kinds of backgrounds.
For the last 12 years, he has been volunteering at the Goulburn Correctional Centre and the Alexander Maconochie Centre, working in spiritual ministry to support prisoners and give them “the awareness that they have other choices in life”.
While he originally had some reservations about working in prisons, Tony says “there’s never been a moment that’s scary”.
“The whole process in society is interesting… what gets people off the rails,” he says.
“Some prisoners appear to be bad eggs and some have made the wrong choice or had a lousy upbringing, the stories go on and on. I can understand why the judge says what he does though.”
Tony also volunteers once a week at the Technical Aid to the Disabled ACT, creating or modifying equipment for people with a disability or for the elderly, and at Questacon, helping with any technical requests in the science area.
And for the last 10 years, he has been spending about two to four months annually volunteering at the Don Bosco Technical Boarding School in East Timor, teaching his skills to students to help give them strong foundations for work in the mechanical, electrical and electronics fields.
Thanks largely to the efforts of Tony, the school – which is located in Fatumaca about three hours east of Dili – has now become the first in the country to operate its own FM radio station.
“I’ve seen normally shy kids get a microphone in their hand in the radio room and become different people,” Tony says.
“I’m just amazed at these kids’ resilience… I’d look at them and see so many smiles on their faces.”
Tony first visited East Timor with his wife Rose, in 1974, as part of an 18-month overseas trip.
Back at their Canberra home in Holder, the couple became active in the local Timorese independence movement and returned to Timor in 2001, after the Indonesians had left.
“We stayed with a family in the mountains in a town called Same and I started teaching some of the young people how to install satellite antennas for TV,” Tony says.
“I was inspired by the triumph of human spirit that I saw and drawn to these people who have overcome adversity.”
On the basis of his work in Timor Leste, the Rotary Club of Canberra South named Tony a Paul Harris Fellow in August 2003 and in November the club awarded him the John Scott Memorial Community Service Award, the first time to a club member.
Ever modest, Tony says it’s simply the joy in helping others that keeps him coming back.
“I get involved in these things because I find inspiration from people who face a far different reality from what I do,” he says.
“I guess I just believe it’s our call to make life better for others, and you don’t have to be long faced and miserable to do it.”