Indian-born John Castella is a true jack of all trades. The retired aerospace engineer talks to Ben Cameron about his passion for local history, and volunteering at Sunshine Hospital.

How did you end up in Taylors Lakes?

I grew up in Essendon and then, as a young man, moved to Taylors Lakes 35 years ago. It was a thistle farm that was developing into the newest suburb in Melbourne. It was good then … and it’s good now.

Have you enjoyed strong community links?

Our kids went to school (Overnewton Anglican Community College) and grew up in the area; we’ve been involved with sporting clubs, now we’re involved with the community … we’ve been brought up with the volunteer ethos of that school.

You’re a Patient Health Information Centre member at Sunshine hospital, right?

This is one of the most interesting new services offered by the hospital to patients and families, as they can access a library of health-related information in leaflet and online format, and not rely on Dr Google. In our neighbourhood, the availability of such information in alternative languages is especially important, and the centre is able to print information in patients’ preferred languages. This service was nominated for the Victorian Premiers Volunteer Award in 2016.

Have you been involved for long?

I’ve been volunteering the past three years (through a connection with Ambulance Victoria). I was very impressed with the professionalism and the dedication of people providing health services across Victoria, which led to what I could do in my neighbourhood.

What took you to Sunshine hospital?

I was lucky they were looking for people to volunteer with some of their special projects. I’m enjoying it immensely. There’s an awful lot of like-minded people doing the same thing, we enjoy the team approach. It’s different, it’s new, something’s happening all the time. This hospital has 600 people as volunteers, that’s an awful lot of resource; people who have got time and ability and the spirit of community.

Where did you work as an aerospace engineer?

I worked for Boeing in Port Melbourne for 20-odd years and for Qantas for the other 20. My high school yearbook of 1968 actually says “wants to be a journalist”.

What other hobbies do you have?

I do creative writing, the internet allows you to do those kinds of things. I have an interest in history, I’ve researched everything from Charles Darwin to Buddha.

What about local history?

I’ve done some with the local church in Essendon to do with the Anzac troops who went out from the Essendon and Keilor area – its contribution to World War I. It was almost like 50 per cent of young men in the district … that’s something not too many people know about.