Community stalwart: Russ Dickens has no plans to give up his work as a vet or Blacktown councillor. Picture: Gene RamirezVET, deputy mayor, Blacktown councillor and koala expert are some of the many terms used to sum up Russ Dickens.
He received a community achievement award at the recent University of Sydney Faculty of Veterinary Science Alumni Awards.
It’s well-deserved recognition of his efforts to protect Australian wildlife and almost five decades of service to western Sydney as a vet and local government representative.
Dr Dickens said he was honoured to receive the award alongside his friend, TV vet Harry Cooper.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen,” he told the Star.
“To be put on a similar stage as Dr Cooper — what more could I want in life.
“I enjoy what I do. I wouldn’t work every day if I didn’t.
“I enjoy the satisfaction of helping animals and giving them a quality of life.”
Dr Cooper described his friend as one of the great icons of the veterinary fraternity.
“As a young veterinarian, having only recently graduated, I looked to a man like Russ Dickens as some sort of father figure in the profession; a man who had gone out into, what was in those days, a very rural environment to set up a business which treated everything including our native animals,” he said.
Dr Dickens has lived in Blacktown for almost 50 years.
“I was born in Westmead, which was in the Blacktown shire at the time,” he said.
“When we moved here in 1964, Blacktown was a rural shire that consisted of dairy and poultry farms.
“A lot of my patients were cows and pigs.
“Today, it’s one of the biggest LGA’s in NSW.”
Councillor Dickens has been a Blacktown councillor for 32 years.
In the 1970s, he was one of the first veterinarians in Australia to study diseases of the koala with advice on their management.
He is a founding Australia Koala Foundation board member and helped set up the Australasian section of the Wildlife Disease Association.
“I have a fulfilling life that consists of many lives,” Dr Dickens said. “I love all wildlife. Koalas are Australian icons and not much work was being done in the early days.”
He said good health and a challenging career were his secret.
He refused to state his age and won’t retire: “Look at it this way — if you’re 100 but think you’re 50, you’re 50.”
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