Member of the Week - Sandy Walker
Sandy Walker will be 73 next week but is as active as a man half his age. Every weekend, he still rides his home-bred horse through the stunning landscapes of the vineyards in Mudgee.
“People would kill to have what we take for granted in Mudgee” he says.
Born and bred in Mudgee and one of the original ‘Budgee Boys’, Sandy loves his home proudly declaring it has the best “wine, honey and wool” in Australia. Sandy is an equally passionate Nationals member, and considers his near 30-year membership with the only Party as vital for the future of his children and grandchildren.
Dubbed ‘Sandy’ but born Alexander, he first joined the Nationals in 1987 after attending a local branch meeting. Since then he has been an active member of the Nats and is now entering his tenth year as Chairman of the Mudgee Branch. Of all his activities with the Nationals, it is Conferences he most enjoys, nominating this year’s Broken Hill Conference as the best yet, a nod of the hat to the organisers.
His preference for Conferences emphasises his interest in policy development – an area in which he has a history of success. Notably, his motion at last year’s Tweed Conference regarding apiarists’ access to State parks is now at consultation paper stage with Minister Blair’s office, with the aim for the legislation to be drafted by year’s end. Sandy’s motions at Broken Hill regarding kangaroo meat, fuel security and dams were all successful and show how widely he considers the needs of regional Australians when bringing motions forward for delegates to debate. The ability of delegates to debate both sides of a motion is something he highly values, noting that, if argued well, it may in fact change your vote for the better.
Sandy is proud to see the Nats driving decentralisation, and believes that tying more water infrastructure projects to the Inland Rail would bring about a ‘fibre and food boom’ for the Central West. He believes that we need another great infrastructure project to be proud of – a “Snowy for this generation”.
Sandy started out in his early twenties with a meat handling business in Mudgee. An example of just how strong regional small businesses can be, his company had grown to 82 employees by the time he was 32. Sandy then relocated to Armidale where he was a meat buyer for Woolworths for seven years. Not content with just experience behind him, Sandy returned to university as a mature-aged student, graduating from the CRC at the University of New England with a degree in Rural Science, majoring in Feedlot Management and Meat Technology. He studied the meat industry from “conception to consumption”, and thinks having agricultural departments located near UNE is the best way to maximise the capabilities of this world-leading institution.
These days, Sandy is a consultant for the meat industry while running his shed and steel business, Mid Western Sheds.
Sandy is also passionate about horses, breeding Thoroughbreds for most of his life. He recently retired his best performing horse to date, having won $93,000 in prizemoney – the aptly called ‘Budgee Boy’. He is proud father with two sons and two daughters, and has nine grandchildren on whom he dotes.
With regards to the Party, his final thoughts are to the future. He believes the greatest test facing the Nationals is membership with not enough young people joining to replace the ageing membership.
Always looking to recruit himself, Sandy urges other branches to engage with local youth. Only by being politically involved with the Nats, he says, can we ensure local rural and regional communities grow, providing real opportunities for the next generation.
Caption: Margaret Reid and Sandy Blair at a local show