Richard Lyle's involvement with the Black & White Committee goes back further than most, and now his years of volunteering for longtime supporters of Vision Australia have been acknowledged.
Richard was announced as one of the 2023 Vision Australia Award winners at the Vision Australia Annual General Meeting for his decades-long contribution to the Committee, which was inspired by attending Black & White events in his youth.
"Growing up in Sydney, the Black & White Committee was somewhat of an institution and the Black & White Ball was a huge event each year. It was an event where the music never stopped and we would dance all night," Richard said.
"Having known members of the Committee from that, many years later they were thinking of doing a revue and I was asked to produce a show for them and it's just gone on from there," he said.
In the more than 50 years that Richard has volunteered for the Committee he has taken on various roles, including master of ceremonies, producing and directing revues and performances, and even stepping in as an auctioneer.
Prior to his first official involvement Richard had previous experience in stage productions, but said the enthusiasm of the amateur cast from the Committee was what convinced him to give up his time.
"The Committee knew that I had put on a couple of concerts at my boarding school and I think they quite rightly figured that if I could get 30 rowdy teenage schoolboys to put on a show, then I could handle the ladies of the Black and White Committee!
"But what really got me involved was that everyone who was involved was so enthusiastic. I had a bit of experience putting on shows and I bought in a rehearsal schedule that was quite disciplined and all the women.
"I was very impressed at our first meeting about the need for rigorous rehearsals for the show, of two to three times a week, over a three-month period, no excuses!
"Well, without a word of dismay from the ladies, out came those little black diaries and gold pens, all the dates put in, hairdresser appointments shifted, bridge games cancelled, and husbands told to make their own dinners. When you see that much dedication, you know you just have to put on the best show possible and we did! Gold Diggers of 1972 was a triumph."
Having supported the Committee for so long, Richard said he's been fortunate enough to work with several different office holders over that period – all who have given excellent service.
"The Committee has always been made up of wonderful and inspired members and leaders who have always thought outside the box.
"There have been so many women through that time who if they were starting out today would be starting business and being titans of industry, but instead devoted all their time and energy to the Black & White Committee."
While he too has devoted significant time to the Black & White Committee and supported the raising of vital funds for Vision Australia, Richard is quick to downplay his contribution.
"I grew up in an era where my parents, family and friends - everybody who was doing well - would do some work for a charity in one way or another. It was just accepted that if you were doing just fine that you would work for a cause that helped others who might not be doing as well.".
"Back then, the Black and White Committee supported the Royal Blind Society (now Vision Australia) and that was a cause everyone could get behind and with such a well-run committee, made it both fun, easy and rewarding to support."
Each year, the Black & White Committee raises vital funds that support Vision Australia's services for children who are blind or have low vision. You can find out more about their work and events from their website.