That's the Spirit: John Sinclair - Narromine NSW
With roots that run deep into the soil of the western plains, John Sinclair’s diverse career paths have given him a unique view of the region. By his own admission, he’s seen “the good, the bad and the ugly” over the years, but he wouldn’t hang his hat anywhere else. John is profoundly connected to the west and its people, and sees it as both his pleasure and his path to “give back” wherever and however he can. Jen Cowley sat down for a yarn with the affable Narromine local.
John: I was born in Coonamble and grew up out between Tottenham and Trangie near Dandaloo, so my roots are in the region. I spent most of my youth between Tottenham and Quambone, but then I went to Bathurst for three years before a job came up back here in Narromine with Western Power, now Essential Energy. I moved back here for that job and that was 27 years ago.
Jen: What have you done for a crust over the years?
John: I’ve been involved in the electricity industry most of my life, but I’ve also been involved with farming and shearing, I was a shearer at one stage as well. I’ve owned trucks, I’ve had an earth-moving business. I spent 23 years with Essential Energy and now I’m working with (Narromine Shire) council.
Jen: You’ve had an opportunity to see the region from a number of different perspectives, then?
John: Yes, from the good, the bad and the ugly (laughs).
Jen: And through all that good, bad and ugly, what is it that keeps you in the region? What do you love about it?
John: The people. The people and probably the weather. I find people here very friendly and very engaging. They’re very easy to get along with and communicate with, and I find if you open up a conversation with most people around this district that they are quite willing to have a genuine conversation with you.
John Sinclair, Narromine NSW
Jen: Is that largely because you speak the same language, as it were?
John: I’d say that’s a part of it, because I belong and I have a connection, so you can have those conversations. Also, because of my wide range of experience within the region from a number of different industries – farming, shearing, trucking, electricity industry – I have a pretty broad aspect grasp of what happens in those sectors and what’s happening around the region.
Jen: That’s a very good point. Is that ability to connect across a wide range of industries help you in your role as president of the Rotary Club of Narromine?
John: I think it does. It enables us, even when we are out on a project depending on where we are, to engage with the people and actually understand and talk the same lingo. It helps because I understand their wins, their losses, the tough times, the good times and the bad times.
Jen: What was it that attracted you to Rotary?
John: I’ve been a Rotarian for about two years now, and I’m just starting my second year as President. I originally became involved through my youngest daughter who went on a Rotary youth exchange program to America.
That gave me an insight into the opportunities (Rotary was) giving to youth, which I thought was great. I originally came on board with Rotary as a volunteer and I liked the company, the people, the projects they were undertaking and their purpose in the community. I thought I would like to be a part of it in a more formal way. Rotary does give people the opportunity to contribute to community and to give back in so many ways.
What gives me pleasure is that the jobs I’ve had in Narromine are essentially serving the public. I see my 23 years with Essential Energy as a service to the community and in the role I have now with council, I’m also serving the community, and again, with Rotary it’s the same – serving the community.
John Sinclair, Narromine NSW
Jen: And that feels good because…?
John: I guess it’s that feeling of being able to give. I can offer my experience and knowledge to the community. That’s a good feeling to be able to share that knowledge and experience and actually help people out. All the jobs I’ve had in the public service area are ones in which I’ve been able to help people.
Jen: Why is it important to contribute to community – both from a personal perspective but for people in general?
John: For me, it’s probably just because I like to give. It’s not like I do that for any accolades but it’s good to see smiles on people’s faces when you are able to do something for them. I can’t speak for others, but probably the thing I have enjoyed most is the fellowship. Rotary isn’t about individual projects. You can’t do it as an individual, you have to do these things as a group. I enjoy the fellowship and the learning. I’m learning so much from the elder people in our club. I just love listening to the experiences they’ve had over their lives and the challenges they’ve faced and how they’ve overcome them.
Jen: Speaking of overcoming challenges, you said you’ve seen the region in all its glory, the good, the bad and the ugly. What do you think makes regional communities resilient?
John: They are certainly resilient, there’s no doubt about that and probably the reason is that they are made up of down-to-earth people. They take a realistic look on life. I often say there are two worlds – the idealistic world and a realistic world. And I think most of the people in the regions out this way live in a realistic world. They know it can be good and they also know it can be bad. The other thing as far as resilience goes is that people are prepared to support each other and that is most important.
Jen: Why do you have faith in Narromine as a community?
John: I think it is just the people. It’s a very difficult time in regional areas and there’s not massive industry to keep it going, but I think the people will. They enjoy being here. I know a lot of people from out west retire to Narromine because they don’t necessarily want to go into a bigger city like Dubbo. I’ve often said Narromine is in an ideal location – it’s close enough to Dubbo to get access to it but it is far enough away from it to have the space and smaller town appeal.
Jen: What are some of the misconceptions people in the city or in the wider Australian community might have about small communities like Narromine?
John: City folks probably have a lack of knowledge about the facilities we have out here. We are fortunate in Narromine itself to have some very upmarket facilities that a lot of smaller towns within the region just don’t have available and that a lot of other regions and communities would be envious of.
Jen: What would you say to people who look at Narromine and go, “Oh God, why would you live there?”
John: I’d say come and spend some time here. Come and see what actually happens here.
NALAG's 'That's the Spirit' hardcover book features a selection of excerpts from the stories gathered from Western NSW during 2018-2020.
John Sinclair with fellow members of the Narromine Rotary Club.