Papley earns OAM


By Corey Everitt

Former-Mayor, former-VFL player and still firm community-man of Bunyip, Max Papley OAM has earned a Medal of the Order of Australia this King’s Birthday – a proud honour that he can’t help but feel ‘a little embarrassed’ about.

When he received the email from the Secretary of the Governor-General saying his nomination had been accepted, he thought it was a nefarious trick.

“I thought it was a scam when I got the first email, I rang my daughter and said I’m just about to delete this thing from someone supposedly in Canberra, what do you think?” he said.

“She said don’t do that and made a few phone calls, turns out it was genuine.”

The mild embarrassment doesn’t come from almost putting the Governor-General of Australia in spam, but the individual nature of the award.

“Everything I’ve done has been with a team of people, it’s people that have come together,” Mr Papley said.

“I’m proud, but a little embarrassed.”

The medal recognised Mr Papley’s contribution to the community of Cardinia. Although he emphasises the work alongside so many others, all those very people would no doubt recognise the pivotal role he has played.

You can’t mention Max Papley without talking about footy, well-known for playing for South Melbourne between 1964-67 and for Williamstown Football Club in the VFA where he was a captain-coach leading the side to a premiership in 1969.

Wearing number 11 for the Bloods, his grandson Tom Papley today dons 11 for the Sydney Swans.

Two other grandsons played in the AFL, Ben and Michael Ross who played for North Melbourne/Hawthorn and Essendon respectively.

He contributed immensely to local footy, serving many years as President of the Bunyip Grounds Management Committee and Lang Lang Community Recreation Precinct, as well as coaching at Bunyip Football Club where a pavilion is named in his honour.

Moving with his wife Laraine and young children to a farm in Tonimbuk over 50 years ago and now settled in Bunyip, the Papleys are firmly a local family.

But origins are hard to shake, ‘born and raised’ is what Mr Papley asserts with pride when mentioning the tough streets of old South Melbourne.

From living in a condemned house to being on his mother’s shoulder at the 1945 Grand Final between South Melbourne and Carlton famously known as ‘The Bloodbath’.

“Right in the shadows of the South Melbourne Market, wasn’t quite the place it is now mate,” he said.

“Interesting times, very interesting.”

Mr Papley’s work runs deeper with community banks, township committees and numerous local facilities and upgrades involving his contribution.

He is one of many to thank for initiating Our Community Company Ltd, the community bank which now holds six branches from Lang Lang to Narre Warren South.

Amidst a slump in 1998, the now large local bank started as a simple initiative for a publicly owned community bank in Lang Lang.

Mr Papley among others organised the council and Rotary to join a meeting to test public interest.

“We put out 70 chairs in the hall and we thought that would be enough, then 320 people showed up,” he said.

“There were about 70 government jobs based in Lang Lang that were closed down, it was a fairly depressing time and for these people to come together and contribute what they did, it certainly paid off.”

The initiative would come out of the meeting with a collective commitment of hundreds of thousands to begin the bank, Mr Papley would serve as its chairman for the first ten years.

“They have contributed over $10 million back into this community,” he said.

“To be involved in something like that with the joe blow in the community, we all just came together.”

Mr Papley at that time was a councillor, one of two roles he always said he ‘would never do’ alongside being a league football coach.

He ran a hardware and rural merchandise business in Lang Lang and was a part of the township committee where the need to promote the community arose.

“We ended up doing it because there were a few things we wanted council to know about,” he said.

“We all agreed that we needed a voice on council.”

Elected in 1997, he would serve two terms and a stint as Mayor in the role he originally wrote off.

He enjoyed his service and looks back on it with pride, one of the most significant legacies he left was the establishment of township committees throughout the shire.

Mr Papley saw a central part of his role was to break a barrier between municipal government and the ratepayer.

“We undertook the task to establish a township committee in every town so that council would know the community, the ratepayers and how they felt about things,” he said.

“It’s good to have a relationship where you are coming together and you are coming together for the right reasons as a team rather than ‘you owe us this’, ‘why don’t you do that’.”

Based on the committee he was a member of in Lang Lang, many set up at the time still remain today as key local institutions.

“It enabled me to build a relationship with my community members and council, and that is not easy,” he said.

“I feel in the time that we had it going in those years, the relationship was exceptional.”

Max and Laraine Papley are now retired in Bunyip, enjoying the time with their four children alongside the many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.