Mulwala resident and business owner in Yarrawonga, Andrew Spilva, has come a very long way since escaping war torn Latvia as a two-year-old with his mother.
Seventy-four years on and the man in charge of legal firm Andrew Spilva Stewart and Co Barrister and Solicitor is to receive the national award, Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for service to the community of Yarrawonga/Mulwala.
Mr Spilva said he was overawed upon receiving the letter about his selection for the prestigious 2018 Australia Day award. “It’s something so unexpected - not something even remotely on an agenda. It’s not why you get involved in the community,” he told the Yarrawonga Chronicle.
Arriving in Australia in 1949 and soon afterwards living in Dromana which he said was “paradise” compared to Latvia, he was introduced to Australian kids and was looked upon as different. But things changed for the better with the young Spilva and those children who became his schoolmates.
As a teenager, it was sheer hard work and persistence with part-time jobs in the hospitality industry while obtaining qualifications for employment as telephone technician in the Post Master’s General’s Department.
Andrew’s strong capacity to study and learn continued in obtaining a Law Degree from the University of Melbourne in 1969. He was further rewarded, joining a noted law firm in Melbourne before commencing his own business in West Brunswick in 1972.
In 1994, the Spilva family of Andrew and wife Vivian, son Konrad and daughter Brenda, moved to Mulwala to continue the law firm, in Yarrawonga. It wasn’t long before Andrew was encouraged to become a member of various community organisations.
Volunteering his time, and undertaking leadership roles, were not new to him as he was President of Northwest Solicitors Association in Essendon from 1988 to 1993 and Honorary Solicitor for the Scout Heritage Museum & Rowallan Camping Group from 1987 to 2000.
Receiving a 50-year service badge from Victorian Scouting Organisation at the 100th year celebrations in 2011 was a particularly proud moment for Andrew. His 25 years to date support of the Baden Powell Foundation continues.
For over 20 years, Andrew has been Panel Solicitor for Victoria Legal Aid, providing legal services and advice to many disadvantaged people. In addition to providing Pro Bono services to many people in his local community, he has frequently assisted as amicus curiae in local courts in the district. More specifically, locally, Andrew has been involved in the following:
* Honorary Solicitor for Yarrawonga Yacht Club since 1996.
* Committee member of Yarrawonga Health since 1996, former director; appointed Life Member in 2010.
* Yarrawonga/Mulwala Chamber of Commerce & Industry 1996 Junior Vice President, President 1999 to 2006.
* Central Murray Regional Development Corporation Chairman from 1998 to 2000.
* Lake Mulwala Community Action Group Founding Chairman; since 2004.
* St James Golf Club support, for annual Mixed Foursomes Event from 1996 to 2015.
* Yarrawonga Mulwala Golf Club Resort director one year.
In Belmore Street Yarrawonga, the Spilvas run a busy legal service so how does Andrew find the time to be so actively involved in the community?
“This versatility is a distraction from work. The versatility gives me the reward,” Andrew responded. “Max Porter OAM (who recently passed away) was an inspiration and role model.
“And my darling wife - she’s been a great support to me and is into volunteering of immense depth.”
Vivian, who, as of last week has spent 45 years secretarial working in the business, said of her husband: “I am very proud of him. This national recognition means so much to him.”
An extremely young Andrew Spilva had it extremely tough. “I never met my father,” he said. “He was lost during the war. My mother and I were displaced persons in Germany.”
But Andrew got on with life, had new focuses in life and gave them his very best shot. He has been an active community leader all his adult life, in so many organisations. It is no surprise he will be formally recognised with an OAM medal for his service to the community.