AFTER 40 years of serving the Wonthaggi community as a Justice of the Peace, John Fleming was honoured with a plaque and afternoon tea at the Wonthaggi Police station on Wednesday.
The 88-year-old spent his early times in Northcote and Doncaster before he eventually saw opportunities for himself as a motor mechanic in Bass Coast.
His long marriage to wife Diana has resulted in two delightful daughters and two even more delightful grandchildren.
Having arrived in the Bass Coast, he became the Holden dealer for the district on the auspicious day of April 1, 1961.
Not only was that April Fools’ Day, it was also on the same year that the sales tax of 10 per cent of motor vehicles was changed up to 40 per cent.
One could imagine that sales took a bit of a hit.
Despite that, if you were old enough to buy a Holden in Wonthaggi between 1961 and 1975 it would have been John Fleming who gave you a great deal.
John has had a number of businesses serving the community, from running Wonthaggi Taxis until 1983, to becoming a leading gas and plumbing business owner right through to 1994.
That’s all very well for John the businessman, however he has always had a strong social conscience and has been active in community service all through his life.
This included serving as Mayor of the Borough of Wonthaggi, and was foundation member of the Wonthaggi Lions Club 50 years ago.
He has significant senior officer service with the Country Fire Authority from 1961, and has been honoured with a life membership of the CFA.
He also has been awarded the National Medal of Australia with three bars.
It’s in his other community service that he became involved with Victoria Police at Wonthaggi.
One police driven initiative John was involved in was the Bass Coast Safety Ambassadors, where police asked nominated JPs to carry out safety and security assessments of elderly citizens’ homes and report back to police.
The elements of this are still on VicPol Wonthaggi computers.
Appointed an Honorary Justice in 1977, John commenced bail and out-of-sessions duties at Wonthaggi Police Station the same year, and completed an admirable 40 years.
In that same year he commenced sitting on the bench of the second division of the Magistrates’ Court, a duty he continued all the way through the many years until that aspect of the work of honorary justices was curtailed.
Through the application of the knowledge he gained through various study courses he eventually became to be chairman of the bench.
In those early days, acquiring the knowledge required justices to undertake independent study, a far cry from today’s re-examination of 70 questions, with a pass mark of 80 per cent, that all justices have to pass every fifth year.
Since the inception of the Department of Social Services, he has reliably attended to all manner of certification, totalling thousands of instances where the public were served and much police time was saved.
Recently John has voluntarily resigned from attending the roster at the police station, having served both the community with honour and dedication for 40 years.