Pete Monty – a long and busy life.

After a lifetime of work, reserves and volunteering, Pete Monty has a lot to look back on. Not least is knowing his instruction saved at least one man’s life.

“I was an air cadet when I was 14. Then I joined the air force reservists after that and was in it for 27 years,” says Pete.

“I became an instructor and I specialised in ground defence, weapons stuff, bushwalking, map reading and ground navigation.

That turned into teaching survival. Making fires and shelters, staying alive.

“It saved one fella’s neck. He got lost and had to spend one night on his own in the lake country. He made himself a shelter and got a fire going in pretty abysmal conditions.

He rang me up and told me about it afterwards. He got found by a news crew – they thought they were looking for a body,” says Pete.

Pete didn’t escape the reserves the first time he tried.

“I resigned from the air force but the army wanted an RSM for the cadet corp. I knew the commander, went in, sat down. I got conned. Before I left, I was in the army.

I did 35 years altogether – air force and army.”

A highlight from Pete’s time as an army trainer was putting forward a group of cadets in an army competition where they actually beat the regular soldiers.

“One of those cadets is a brigadier now,” comments Pete.

It’s not just the reserves where Pete has left his mark.

Since moving to Rokeby in 1968 when it was still apricot orchards, he’s been involved in many community groups. Both while Pete was working full time at Telstra and its predecessors and since he retired 25 years ago.

“Because I played cricket for Sandy Bay I got talked into coaching cricket at Rokeby High School. My son wanted to play cricket but they didn’t have a coach. I got elected by secret ballot, the only parent who played cricket.

“I was a volunteer coast guard for quite a while. I got talked into the communication and operations brigade for the volunteer fire brigade as well because I was an instructor and could read maps,” says Pete.

Map reading skills meant Pete was also ‘talked into’ becoming a navigator in car trials, now called rallies, for about 15 years.

“They used to be navigation events and they were fun. In those days it was people trying to get you lost in forests, quite successfully.”

When asked what drove him to get involved in so many activities, Pete says simply: “You get bored if you don’t keep busy.”

One of the projects keeping Pete busy recently is setting up the men’s shed at the Rokeby Neighbourhood Centre.

It’s open to all men who are interested in making things such as model boats. They’ve also used scrap wood to make a rabbit hutch among other useful things.

“I just got roped into it,” says Pete. “I was very lucky to have a person who was rehabilitating from a car accident.

He was really good with tools fortunately and built most of our benches. My knees have gradually died over the years. He did most of the work and I supervised.”

Pete jokes he’s a born supervisor and has to be talked into everything, but his long history as a reservist and volunteer says differently. And at age 79 he still has plenty of plans.

“I’ve got some unfinished projects,” said Pete. “About 150 years of them.”

Story by Reena Balding.

The Shaping the Plains project is supported by a Clarence City Council Recovery Grant.

📷 Pete Monty at the men’s shed at the Rokeby Neighbourhood Centre – affectionately named ‘Pete’s Shed’.