Perched atop one of Bunbury’s highest points, with 360-degree panoramic views of the ever-growing city, lives a gentleman whose passion and service for our bustling South West town runs deeper than one could ever imagine. Rolf Stene AM is a dedicated businessman who has lent his time to almost every project and organisation around Bunbury since first moving to the region in 1943. Most known for his establishment of the South West Chamber of Commerce and Industries that brought four power stations to the South West many decades ago, and the creation of opportunity for young athletes across the region, his story begins long before such milestones, as a young boy in Collie. The 84-year-old was born in Kalgoorlie but moved to the South West at a young age, growing up on the Stene Farm, some 12,000 acres of land in Collie where he we received schooling via radio while assisting his family full-time on the farm. After completing primary education in Collie, the aspiring businessman decided to forego his high school education to remain in the South West and help develop the region further. His first venture was the development of Australind Shopping centre in 1981, a move that lit the fire for many more economic improvements he would go on to helm within the city. Though receiving a limited education, he said his hands-on experience was invaluable. “I came down here, we looked around, see what I could do,” he said. “I may be uneducated, but I think if 40 years of experience is a science, then I’m a fellow at the university. “My father always used to say experience is a substitute for advice you didn’t take, but you have to have the common sense to pick the right advice. “Nothing happens unless you make it happen, unless it’s an act of God.” A self-admitted “active lobbyist” in the community, Mr Stene joined the Bunbury Chamber of Commerce in 1983 to learn more about the city’s economy. Overall, he said the city was “open to questions” on ways to grow, leading the community-minded man to serve on the City of Bunbury council for two years between 1987 and 1989. During his time on council, he played an active role in lobbying for the Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre and was integral to the development of the Marlston Hill Lookout in 1988 as part of the city’s bicentennial celebrations in partnership with Rotary Club of Bunbury-Leschenault, of which he is also a member. In the 1990s, keen to expand his efforts to a regional scale, Rolf established the South West Chamber of Commerce to give a voice to all representatives of the region, serving a president from its foundation in 1994 to 2006. He hoped the chamber would help to give every locality in the region a voice. “Originally there was only three chambers, Bunbury, Busselton and Collie...but what about the rest of them?” he said. “We went and started up another eight (chambers) from Manjimup to Augusta because each community, each town is their own little country. “They all want support and Bunbury wouldn’t be what it is today if it hadn’t been for the other towns and industries all working together.” During this time, he noted his proudest achievement was his instrumental role in the development of the Collie A Power Station, to help increase the region’s economy. The stalwart supporter of local commerce again took his efforts one step further, founding the Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industries WA in 1999, creating a network for regional business leaders across the State and ensuring there was an active “bush” voice in the Statewide commerce conversation. “The reason I started the RCCIWA was because the CCIWA were making decisions in regional Western Australia without coming and asking us,” he said. “Only the people here on the ground are going to know what will be best for us. “When my father came to Australia, he had nothing, but this place gave him great opportunity and that’s what I want to provide to everyone, that same opportunity.” His work in this field also saw him named an honorary life member of the organisation. It didn’t take long for his unwavering community passion to be recognised on a national scale, awarded one of the highest accolade an Australian can receive — being appointed a Member of the Order of Australia — in 2002. The honour recognised his service to commerce and industry over the years, as a contributor to regional planning and economic development, and to the enhancement of business and employment opportunities across the South West. More recently, Mr Stene has dedicated to his time to providing opportunity to the rising sports stars of our region, founding the South West Academy of Sport in 2008. He said the development of the program would not be possible without the contributions of Wally Foreman and Ray Philp, who were also instrumental in establishing the program. The idea came about after he noticed a lot of local athletes needing to travel to Perth to further themselves in their field and he wanted to provide the same pathways a little closer to home. “(SWAS) came about when a friend of mine in Manjimup was having to take her elite sports daughter to WA Institute of Sport twice a week,” he said. “A near six-hour round trip ... so I approached the South West Development Commission about it and I said we will be losing a lot of people from the South West and regional Western Australia if we don’t try to do something about it. “So I went out and did it.” To this day, the program has assisted 1636 athletes from a variety of sports unlock there potential, with four going on to compete at Olympic level. But while an entire library could be filled with Rolf’s contributions to the Bunbury community, the humble man said none of his achievements could have occurred without the tireless efforts, contributions and hours given by many others along with way, expressing his sincere gratitude for everyone who has also taken part in these projects. And despite his years of service, he admitted the best years of his life were spent as a loving husband and father to his four daughters — Inga, Petra, Anita and Regina — the motivation behind every single one of his efforts, to show his girls what they were capable of. Tragically, his wife Dorothy died 14 years ago after a battle with cancer, a loss Rolf is still grieving today, admitting no amount of community projects, achievements or accolades will be able to take her place. But all these years later her words, are a reminder for him to keep going and achieve his best. “I give so much to Bunbury because they’ve given so much to me,” he said. “But it won’t bring my wife back. “(Dorothy) used to say to me you must remember this, men have to have education to go out and make a living to bring home to their family, but educate a woman and you educate a family ... well she educated me,” he laughed fondly.