After a life-time of dedication behind the scenes at the RSL Victoria, Thomas Murphy, OAM took centre stage as he accepted the organisation’s highest award – the Meritorious Service Medal.

“I’d never even heard of the Award before…I’m shocked in a way, I didn’t expect anything like that. But it was excellent, I was really pleased. I don’t know how to express how I felt.”

The Meritorious Service Medal is awarded to people who have given outstanding service to the RSL over a long period of time and is awarded on a restricted basis to preserve its prestige.

Mr Murphy enlisted in the Australian Army in 1958, which included a two year deployment in Malaya.

"My mates said ‘we’re going to join the Navy, would you like to come?’ I said, ‘yeah, why not?"

Thomas Murphy, OAM

So, the trio paid a visit to the recruiting office in Brisbane where Mr Murphy was living at the time.

His mates were called into the naval office and Mr Murphy waited for his turn.

But fate had other plans. He was approached by an Army Sergeant.

‘You ever thought about the Army?’

Within minutes, Mr Murphy had signed on the dotted line and so began six years of full-time service, followed by Army Reserves.

Shortly before his discharge from the full-time army, Mr Murphy popped around to a nearby RSL.

"I thought I’d just go to a water hole and I’ll be able to have a beer and meet some new friends and it was only after that I realised what the RSL was all about"

Thomas Murphy, OAM

He grew to admire the RSL’s involvement in the community and the support it provides in a multitude of ways to current and ex-servicemen and women.

Impassioned by the RSL’s work, he joined the Flemington-Kensington Sub-Branch in 1964.

Early on, he became the Welfare Officer for Flemington for some decades, and filled every position on the Committee, including three different terms as President.

In 2014, Mr Murphy relocated and transferred his membership to the Romsey-Lancefield Sub-Branch.

Aside from his ongoing commitment to the RSL, Mr Murphy has also volunteered for the State Emergency Service, Carry On, assisted war widows and their families and was appointed a justice of the peace in 1986 and a bail justice in 1989.

During his time in the Army Reserve, he assisted the local Cadet Unit with training nights and camps.

Mr Murphy is also very proud of his work at a Youth Training Institute, where he assisted wards of the State and reintroduced young offenders back into the community.

Mr Murphy was honoured with a Medal in the Order of Australia in 2014 and made a Life Member of the League in 2015.

On presenting Mr Murphy with his prestigious award, RSL Victoria Vice President Des Callaghan said: “Tom, you’re an outstanding member of your generation and a truly living example of the RSL motto ‘Serving Still’.

You have the utmost respect in the RSL, veteran and wider community. You are a most worthy recipient of the League’s highest honour.”

Mr Murphy is humbled and grateful.

“I don’t like getting up and talking about myself, things that I’ve done or seen in the past because I get a bit emotional.”

And the 81 year old’s work isn’t done yet.

“I go to all the meetings [at the Sub-Branch], help with selling ANZAC and Poppy Appeal merchandise. I can’t get around as much, but I do try and get involved as best as I can, as much as my body will allow me.”