RECIPIENTS of Order of Australia medals do some extraordinary unselfish things in the community, but it’s all about them when it comes to preparing their individualised gongs.
Tuggeranong’s Vince Patrech is the man behind the machine and every year he engraves up to 15,000 medals at Government House in Yarralumla.
Not all are Order of Australia medals. He also engraves operational and long-service medals for recipients such as firefighters and police.
“Across Australia, you might see a policeman wearing a little badge,” Vince says. “Nine times out of 10 I engraved the long-service medal for them.”
Vince moved to Canberra after 17 years at the Royal Australian Navy where he became a household attendant for then Governor-General Michael Jeffery.
After the retirement of his predecessor, Vince took up his current role as a warrants officer.
“At the time we looked at the costings that Government House was spending for out-of-house engravings,” Vince says.
“We decided it would be more cost effective for Government House to do it in-house.
From then, Vince’s job as the man behind the machine started and he says he’s almost always looking after a medal for something.
Vince starts work on the hundreds of Order of Australia medals after the announcements are made on Australia Day and the Queen’s Birthday.
The medals were introduced by the Queen in 1975 as a way to recognise the achievements of Australians. Stuart Devlin designed the insignia a year later. He used the livery colours from the Australian Commonwealth coat of arms and the image of the Australian wattle blossom to create the Order of Australia medal sets, which illustrate a ring of blue enamel to represent Australia’s surrounding sea.
Vince has six to eight weeks to engrave all the names on to them as well as emboss the accompanying certificates.
“A few steps go into creating an award from nothing,” he says.
But no matter the steps and no matter the level of the award, Vince says everyone gets the same quality.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s for Kylie Minogue or if it’s a local volunteer, we always put out a product that’s above reproach,” he says.
“There’s no ‘you’re only getting an OAM’, we don’t discriminate because of the level. Everything we put out is consistent.”
This includes getting the spelling right and Vince says he’s never made a mistake and the awards get checked and double checked and triple checked before being given to each recipient.
The best part of Vince’s job isn’t the engraving but the investiture ceremonies because he gets to put a face to the name when he assists in handing out the medal boxes with the certificates.
“You do get to meet people who do surprise you with what they’ve done,” he says.
“[And] it’s nice to see people from your past and congratulate them.
“I did a fair amount of time in the military and names do come up from the past.”
Once, Vince says he even met a recipient who had known his great, great grandfather.
When Vince sees people down the street wearing the awards he engraved he says he usually smiles to himself knowing he had a little part in that person’s life.
“It’s great to be a small part of that,” he says.