It was some words from his father that spurred Bill Wood on through his 20 years in politics.
"Be useful, he always used to tell me," Mr Wood said.
"Don't just sit there.''
The former ACT Labor MLA will be appointed a member of the Order of Australia in today's Australia Day Honours for his services to the community and the Legislative Assembly.
Mr Wood, who also served on the Queensland Legislative Assembly in the 1970s, said it was work as a teacher of children with disabilities that originally brought him to the ACT and he and his wife, Beverley, had not planned to stay in Canberra long.
"But I couldn't keep out of politics," he said.
The father of four, who served on the first ACT Assembly in 1989 and as a minister for education, disability, housing, community services, police, the arts and urban services before retiring in 2004, said the "overriding" attraction of politics for him was being able to contribute to the community.
"My beat was mainly in the community sector, and all those people I saw working out there, I'd think to myself, 'I used to work around here'.
"I saw people working so hard and working so hard to do what they wanted to do.
"It was good just to talk and sit down, have a cup of tea and a biscuit and see what was on their minds."
Mr Wood stayed active in the sector after leaving politics, working as the chairman of Arthritis ACT and a patron for not-for-profit disability organisation Abbeyfield ACT.
He said today's award was an "honour" that could be bestowed upon many.
"I'm very much aware of all those people in the community that work so hard," he said.
"This community really thrives on lots of people doing lots of things.
"There's literally thousands of groups out there, tens of thousands of people doing things, doing great things.
"I'm just one of those tens of thousands."