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Housing : March 2009
HIA Legends taking it as it comes W This recently retired builder’s experience goes back more than half a century – to the early post-war days in Victoria. hen Brian Dawson hitches up his caravan and heads to Central Australia this year it will mark the end of 58 years in the building industry. Brian counted among his friends the founders of HIA, then the Builders and Allied Trades Association (BATA), Perce Newton and Bill Hunt. ‘Bill lived just round the corner from me in Ormond and I was a member of BATA’s Caulfield Branch for quite a few years,’ he says. ‘We used to meet once a month, about Right: (L–R) Michael Mutsch (manager of Merimbula RSL Club Ltd), Brian Dawson and Ross Jones (president of Merimbula RSL Club Ltd). Below: Brian’s farewell dinner. (L–R) Ron and Karin Bayley, Aggi and Ron Storck, Brian Dawson and Phillip Innes. 30 blokes. The big issue at that time was materials; it was hard to get a lot of things like steel, cement and bricks. You had to take it when you could get it. ‘But it was also very social with some great golf days.’ At 73 and now based at Merimbula on NSW’s South Coast, Brian has kept working longer than most, but there were moments when he thought his career – and even his life – would be cut short. ‘In 1989 I was diagnosed with a pretty serious melanoma on my back, the cancer had got into my lymph glands and the doctors said I would be lucky to live another couple of years. ‘It was hard to get a lot of things like steel, cement and bricks. You had to take it when you could get it’ ‘But I had treatment and fortunately got over it. The surgeon who did the job saw that I was a builder and immediately said “I suppose you have worked out in the sun without a shirt”, and of course I had in my early years and that was when the damage was done. ‘I still see him every 12 months and he calls me lucky because no-one else he knows who had a melanoma that large lived more than five years.’ Brian also had ‘a bad turn’ last year on his way home from a caravan holiday. He was later diagnosed with a leaking heart valve and fitted with a stainless steel replacement at the Alfred Hospital. ‘I’ve been as good as gold ever since’. Brian began his career as an apprentice carpenter and joiner with Carrison and Robinson in Garden Vale, Victoria 74 HOUSING MARCH 2009