Hugh Bateman honoured with Order of Australia

His nickname is Mr Mudgee, and it’s not hard to see why.

For semi-retired real estate agent Hugh Bateman, the small country town – population about 12,000 – in central west New South Wales is a lot more than just home.

It’s a special place where the community bands together to help each other, where everyone mostly knows everyone else and selling real estate is not just a job but a lifestyle that sees you take a journey with every seller and buyer.

Over the years, Hugh has joined just about every community committee going, started fundraisers that have taken off nationally and now the man behind The Property Shop has been recognised for his efforts after being appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia for his significant service to business through real estate and to the community.

Hugh says he was surprised but delighted to receive the honour on Australia Day.

“I was certainly humbled and surprised because you do these things because you want to,” he says.

“I’ve always had the philosophy that it’s not about the wealth you might get, it’s not about the awards, and it’s not about the Facebook followers. It’s the smiles on people’s faces that gratifies me.”

Hugh says his parents instilled his sense of giving back and community in him as he grew up on a 1200-acre rural property at Meroo, which is about 30km south of Mudgee.

“My parents had the same attitude of giving,” he says.

“I was taught that if we keep taking and not giving, we’re going to have a pretty bad old world.

“So that’s something I’ve instituted from an individual point of view, a family point of view, a community point of view and also in business.”

Hugh’s career in real estate started as a cadet with Dalgety Australia, now Wesfarmers Dalgety, in Sydney and in 1973, he opened The Property Shop in Mudgee.

With purple and white corporate colours and a new purple Pontiac car, Hugh immediately stood out, not just for his brightly coloured vehicle, but as he was an agent that focused on real estate.

Within three weeks he had 30 properties listed.

“People just wanted a breath of fresh air because agents at that time were mostly stock and station and not specifically concentrating on real estate,” Hugh says.

The first house Hugh sold for $3000, and today that same home would fetch about $550,000.

Three weeks after opening, Hugh hired someone to work in administration and about a month after that put on another selling agent.

The team now comprises 23 people across residential and commercial sales, as well as property management.

Over the years, Hugh has served on the board of the Real Estate Institute of NSW, as well as being chairperson of the REINSW’s publications and auctioneers committee.

“We also had a dual partnership with the Law Society, so I was chair of that group,” he says.

“That was essentially for the production of forms and things for real estate agents. I was also on the Real Estate Employers Federation committee.”

You might think that Hugh’s list of service to the community would finish there, but it doesn’t. He was a councillor at the Mudgee Shire Council from 1977 to 1979.

Hugh also served as chairman of the Salvos Red Shield Appeal, was a foundation chairman at the Mudgee Business Enterprise Centre and a chairman at the Mudgee Business Association.

From 1981 to 1983, Hugh was the chair of the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, and he is also a patron of the Mudgee Museum and the Mudgee Hospital Auxiliary.

“God knows how I got this one, but I’m also a patron of the Mudgee Kennel and Obedience Club,” Hugh says.

But perhaps his most significant contribution to society is as the founder of Pink Up Your Town, which is an annual fundraiser held in October to raise funds for the McGrath Foundation.

“I started Pink Up Mudgee in 2016, and then it went national in 2017,” Hugh says.

“So there are towns and cities and suburbs all over Australia now that ‘pink up’ their town, city or suburb during October.”

Hugh says the idea for Pink Up Mudgee stemmed from the 3000km Pink Tractor Trek he did in 2015, which saw him drive across NSW in the tractor to raise money for breast cancer care.

Together the trek and Pink Up Mudgee events have raised about $840,000.

“One per cent of people who get breast cancer are men, but the majority are women, and from a regional point of view, it can be really hard,” Hugh says.

“People on the land, if the kids go to school and the husband goes out in the paddock, the mother’s left at home having been told she’s been diagnosed with breast cancer.

“It’s not just the medical side of things, but the psychological side that the McGrath nurses have helped these women with.

“When I first started on this project, I think there were about 100 nurses, and now we’re approaching 200 nationally.”

Hugh says the team at The Property Shop is also heavily involved in the community on various committees, and the group also sponsors numerous associations and sporting groups, as well as holding an annual tradie’s night where they say thank you to all of the local trades who assist them in their sales and property management business.

Funds raised on that night go to local community groups.

One sale Hugh says he will never forget was the auction of a home where the buyer paid in cash, immediately after the hammer fell.

“After the auction he came in with a bundle of cash and I said, ‘you can’t really do this, I have to count this all out’,” he says.

“And he said, ‘well I don’t want it, I’m buying the property, there’s the cash’.

“So instead of paying the deposit, he paid the whole lot. It was about $35,000 and in the early 1970s that was a lot of money.”

While Hugh is now semi-retired, handling just a few long-term clients and acting as a consultant and mentor at the agency, he has no plans to slow down.

“I love it. It’s great to see the smile on people’s faces, both the seller and the buyer,” Hugh says.

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Deputy Editor at Elite Agent.