NSW Hidden Treasure Honour Roll 2019 - Barwon

14 November, 2019
NSW Hidden Treasure Honour Roll 2019 - Barwon Image

The following stories celebrate and acknowledge rural women volunteers across New South Wales and were submitted by appreciative members of their communities.

These stories have been extracted from the Hidden Treasures Honour Roll 2019, published by the Department of Primary Industries

Emma Ayliffe


Emma grew up on vast sheep stations in pastoral South Australia but a career as an agronomist has seen her work across NSW and become an owner of her own consulting business by the age of 28. Keen to give back to organisations that have helped her along the way, she volunteers her time with the Local Cotton Growers Association, Tulli Young Farmers and Picture You in Agriculture programs, Young Farming Champions and the Youth Voices Leadership Team. In winter she also donates her time to her local netball club. Emma estimates she spends up to 10 hours each week in a volunteer capacity. Emma finds her volunteer work with Picture You in Agriculture to be particularly rewarding. As a Young Farming Champion she goes into schools with The Archibull Prize to engage with students face-to-face about the cotton industry with innovative games such as Good Bug, Bad Bug. She has also been known to beam live from a paddock directly into classrooms, which is popular with students and teachers alike. Emma is the acting chair of the Youth Voices Leadership Team, a group of professional agriculturists who aim to provide a youth leadership voice to community, media and industry, and to support new inductees into the Young Farming Champions program. Emma also shares her experiences as a public speaker at industry and community events. By paying forward the support and encouragement she has received over the years, Emma hopes to give similar opportunities to the next generation.

Lucy Collingridge


Lucy is a passionate advocate for all things agricultural. She has both graduate and undergraduate qualifications in agriculture from the University of New England, and is driven to help people understand the importance of agriculture in our community, and in particular, the important role of young people in the future of rural communities. Her volunteer work focuses on educating people about agriculture, and supporting young people in the field. Rural shows are where Lucy really shines – she started her association with shows in 2007 when she was involved in the high school show team. She joined the Cootamundra Agricultural Youth team, and took on the steward’s role for shearing and junior judging competitions. She was the Cootamundra Showgirl in 2015, as well as the Zone 7 finalist, and competed in The Land Sydney Royal Showgirl Competition in 2016. Lucy then stepped up to become chief steward for photography, steward for the beef cattle and overjudge for the fleece competition. Lucy also took on the role of social media coordinator and is responsible for the Cootamundra Show Facebook page and website. On moving to Narrabri, Lucy joined the Narrabri Show committee, becoming a beef cattle steward, and coordinator of the young judge’s competition. She is also the joint coordinator for the Wee Waa showgirl competition, and, because she isn’t quite busy enough, is also a steward at the Condobolin show. Lucy is an ambassador with the Young Farming Champions program, helping to promote positive perceptions of farming for consumers through programs such as Art4Agriculture and Picture You in Agriculture. She is a Royal Agricultural Society Youth Group Member, and has travelled to Canada and Argentina on scholarships to study and promote Australian agriculture. This is just the beginning for Lucy and we know she has great things ahead of her, and will do great things for the rural communities that she serves.

Belinda Fergusson


Belinda is vibrant, busy, has a laugh and a smile you can’t miss and a heart of gold. She was born in Nyngan and grew up in Carinda, before moving to Dunedoo to finish high school. She completed her textiles/home science teaching degree at Hawkesbury Agricultural College and worked in Gunnedah and Moree, before coming home to marry a farmer. Stirling and Belinda have three children and have lived, worked and been a part of the Dunedoo community for most of their lives. While her children were growing up, Belinda volunteered her time with the Dunedoo junior league and netball club, Dunedoo tennis club and the Dunedoo P&C. She is currently the secretary of the Dunedoo Lions Club and a director of the Dunedoo Sports Club. She would spend no less than 10 hours a week attending meetings, applying for grants and organising events for both organisations. She has been the driving force behind “Tunes on the Turf,” one of the sports club’s biggest fundraisers, for almost 10 years and is an advocate for the volunteer work the Lions Club does for the small town of Dunedoo. In 2017, Belinda’s family and farm were severely affected by the Sir Ivan fires – she volunteered cooking meals for BlazeAid, who were in turn helping rebuild the fences on her property. Community is a big part of Belinda’s life – she loves volunteering for the social connection, to make a difference in her town, and to challenge herself outside of her career.

Sheena Geppert


Sheena was born and grew up in Cobar and loves her community. Sheena knew at an early age that she wanted to help people. She spent time volunteering at Lilliane Brady Village aged acre facility in her later school years. Sheena also volunteered to help raise funds for multiple sclerosis. Sheena is married to Paul and they have four young boys who love getting into mischief on their property ‘Restdown’, east of Cobar. The Cobar district is in severe drought and Sheena recognised the need to support struggling farmers around Cobar. In 2018, Sheena helped set up a community committee to conduct a ‘Night for the Farmers’ event in Cobar. This event was hugely successful with more than 300 farming family members attending the night. Based on this success, Sheena again motivated the community committee to deliver another Night for the Farmers in 2019. Sheena worked long hours to make this event a success while helping husband Paul feed stock and being a mother to their sons as well as taking grocery packs to needy farmers. This event was held on 27 July with more than 400 farming family members attending the event and a Shannon Noll concert, which Sheena was able to arrange at the venue as well. These events have been of immense value to our farmers in reassuring them people do care and that support is available. Sheena is a real Cobar local treasure.

Jillian Kelly


Jill grew up in the rural centre of Coonamble and has been a passionate supporter of her local community and the rural sector for her whole life. Jill is a district vet with the Central West Local Land Services and goes above and beyond to support her local landholders. In fire, flood and the current drought, Jill continually puts others before herself to help ensure their livestock are taken care of. From workshops to property visits, Jill is at the forefront of livestock management supporting her landholders. Jill is one of the committee members and organisers of the Coonamble Challenge & Camp draft, an event that attracts hundreds of horse men and women to the town each March. Apart from helping to run the event on the day and competing with her horses, Jill is also the social media and sponsorship steward for the event. In her spare time, Jill likes to relax and paint in watercolour. An extremely talented artist, Jill is the first to put her hand up and offer an original for auction for many local charities and organisations. Recently, Jill and a small committee of Coonamble locals held the Coonamble Rain dance, an event attracting 900 people to their small town to celebrate the resilience of rural communities in the current drought and supporting each other through these hard times. Jill is a massive asset to the Coonamble community and the Australian agricultural community. If there was anyone I would call on in an adversity it would be Jill, without a doubt.

Debbie Matheson


Debbie is a little pocket rocket. Known for her kindness and generosity, she can be seen at any given time in any situation volunteering her time. Over the years she has been heavily involved in many organisations and has given over and above assistance simply just to help out. Currently she is investing her time into Nyngan Golf Club and has been working hours and hours to make sure the local club stays viable and keeps running for the wider community. Only those close to her are aware of just how much time she volunteers as she is never one to say. It is people like this who are the true ‘most valuable players’ of our community and who keep rural communities alive. I am proud to be her friend.

Elizabeth Nalder


Nan was born and raised in the Gilgandra district and has been a wonderful contributor to the community all of her life. She met her husband Robert at a Methodist youth camp and when they married, lived on the family farm near the small village of Curban. As well as raising her family and participating in school and sporting activities and helping on the farm, she also became a member of the Curban branch of Red Cross. She joined Gilgandra branch of Red Cross when she moved to Gilgandra some years ago and has held many executive positions over the years, served as president in 2018–2019 and was recently elected as president for the 2019–2020 year. Last year Nan received her 60 year member rosette. Other activities associated with her involvement in Red Cross include fundraising, catering, cooking and street stalls. She has made and laid the wreath at Anzac Day ceremonies over the years. Nan was one of the original members of the ladies auxiliary at Cooee Lodge Aged Care facility when it commenced in the mid- 1980s. This volunteering included regular visits to residents and fundraising events such as the Cooee Fair. She is still volunteering on a regular basis with catering for and serving afternoon teas to the residents. Nan is also part of a regular hand and nail care activity conducted for the residents. She is also a long-term active member of the local Unity Church and assists with the fellowship of the church through singing, flower arranging, funeral service catering, visiting others who need a friendly word and playing the organ, which she also did at Curban when she lived there. Nan was president of the Women’s Bowling Club on the occasion of the club’s 50th anniversary. Her involvement over many years included travelling and driving ladies to many district towns to play competitions with other clubs, catering for bowls functions, flower arranging and participating in entertainment. Nan is also one of the volunteers who helps to run the Christian bookshop in town. Over a number of years Nan has been involved with Gilgandra Entertainers participating on stage, assisting with costumes, singing and anything else that needed to be done. Nan has recently taken on the office of president with the local Probus Club. She has held a number of positions over the years and also continues to be welfare officer, sending get well cards to sick members and visiting those who need a friendly visit. With her friendly, caring and outgoing personality Nan is certainly a great asset to her community to which she gives countless hours to volunteering.

Wendy Robb


Born and raised in Nyngan, Wendy is a quiet achiever who has spent her life sharing, caring and helping others in the community from a young age. As a teacher she goes above and beyond for her students encouraging them to strive for their best and often tutoring for free. While her children were growing up Wendy was treasurer of the Nyngan Preschool Committee, which saw the instigation of the long day care facility, relocation of the preschool to larger premises and an upgrade of the facilities. Throughout her children’s primary school years Wendy was secretary of St Joseph’s P&F, instigating many projects at the school which have contributed greatly to what it is today. During this time she was also president of the Western Studio of Performing Arts Parent’s Committee. For the past 10 years, Wendy has been the secretary and treasurer of the Nyngan Jockey Club working to secure the club’s long-term sustainability and promoting racing within the region. She also organises the local Anzac Day races and assists with other local race meetings. Wendy has been involved in many other committees over the years. She has been the secretary of the Hermidale Gymkhana for the past five years, is treasurer of the Blue Sky Ball in Nyngan and is secretary of Nyngan Touch Association. She is also on the fundraising committee of Nyngan Pony Club, is a steward at the Nyngan Show, assists with Nyngan Junior Rugby League, Nyngan Senior Rugby League and Nyngan High School and raises funds for Angel Flight. Wendy is a vital component in the success of these many organisations and without her our small community would be lost. She is most definitely a hidden treasure in our community.

Sarah Rushton


Sarah Rushton is a Narrabri local who joined the NSW State Emergency Service 13 years ago. As a first responder with the SES she has attended many incidents, predominantly floods and storms, but also land searches, rescues and assisting other agencies during major incidents such as bushfires. Sarah stepped up to become training officer, a position she held for nine years, and in 2019 she took on the role of unit commander for the Narrabri SES Unit. She is both the first female, and youngest unit commander that Narrabri SES unit has had. Sarah is a qualified incident controller and manages operations for all local incidents, handling requests for assistance and tasking crews. She is a qualified trainer and assessor, and is skilled at working at heights and on flood boats. She is a passionate advocate for the SES, promoting the organisation through community education events and social media. Sarah is also a busy mother of two young children and works two jobs in Narrabri. For the last two years she has organised the debutante ball in Narrabri on behalf of Lodge Namoi. Sarah is always the first to put up her hand to help, volunteering at her children’s school and day care centres, helping with sports, and always helping other people get their children to various after school activities. She even babysits the children of other emergency service personnel to allow them to go to incidents. We don’t know how she fits it all in. Sarah’s generosity, willingness to get in and get the job done, and unending desire to help others make her an asset to the Narrabri community and a true hidden treasure.

Helen Spilsted


Helen is 72 years old and has always been a rural lady. She was an inspirational mother having been left to raise three very young children alone when she was 26 years old. Having been married very young and with no trade, she took in washing and ironing and cleaned houses to support her family and encouraged them in their educational and sporting abilities. Helen has always volunteered. She was very involved in their schools and was president of the P&C at both the primary and secondary schools during her children’s schooling years and also assisted slow learners through the Bridging the Gap program. She thoroughly enjoyed seeing them progress. For more than eight years Helen volunteered two days a week at the high school tuck shop and also put on morning tea to raise money for cancer. For 28 years she was on the Meals on Wheels committee and delivered meals throughout the community. Later in life she moved to Broken Hill to support her daughter where she has resided for more than 20 years. Helen was also a very active member of the Lions Club, often organising guest speakers. She also loves knitting and does hundreds of hats for premature babies in Sydney hospitals, as well as outfits for children in Africa. I have not hesitation in saying Helen is a worthy recipient of the hidden treasures award.

Bessie Thomas


At 31, Bessie has transformed from an urban girl to a rural woman, moving from her city-based career as a journalist to the role of wife, mother and grazier on a property in western NSW. With most of the state in drought, it has been a challenging introduction to agriculture and while motherhood and sheep are demanding of her time she also prioritises volunteering. Bessie believes we all have an ethical and social responsibility to live by actions that leave communities, people and the world feeling valued, appreciated, supported and better off than we found them. Bessie volunteers as the communication coordinator for the Youth Voices Leadership Team (YVLT), which is the youth-led voice of Picture You in Agriculture. As communication coordinator, she creates and rosters social media content, liaising with more than 100 Young Farming Champions to collate their activities and events. Bessie, herself, has volunteered as a Young Farming Champion since 2013 and in this role enjoys engaging with school children about her life growing fibre and food. The highlight of her volunteer activities is the opportunity to connect and collaborate with talented young people, who are considered inspirational leaders of the agricultural industry: movers and shakers, and future decision makers. Volunteering is Bessie’s way of sharing their stories, and also to lay foundations that may provide a bright future for her daughter.

Katie White


Katie was born in Nyngan and grew up there, attending school and always playing a leading role as SRC president and vice captain of her school. Katie was diagnosed with epilepsy in her early teens and quietly went about coping with her new life in a way that was amazing to watch. She attended Charles Sturt University where she obtained her degree in social work and since then she has worked in many organisations bettering the life of those around her. In the past four years she has been running the Community Hub in Nyngan, a Red Cross organisation that aims to bring communities together with activities and information for every age group. Katie has been outstanding in her field and has gone above and beyond by creating events for young and old, bringing together other service groups and just being a general support to the many people she sees in her everyday job. She volunteers in several groups and teaches dance in her spare time. She has been a go to person for many at risk teenagers who feel safe with her and her empathetic nature. She quietly goes about her work expecting no accolades and it is so great to see such a beautiful role model in our small town. She is most certainly a hidden treasure in our local community.

Margaret Zell


Margaret is a very special friend and an outstanding volunteer. In the true spirit of the word, for more than 60 years she has volunteered in many roles in the local and broader community, gifting thousands of hours to make life a little easier and more rewarding for others. Growing up at ‘Cherrywood’ in the Gilgandra Shire, Margaret moved to Tooraweenah in 1955 when she married her husband Don. Margaret’s involvement with the Tooraweenah Public School included volunteering for the tuck shop, preparing for communion, cleaning, and in later years she taught scripture. She also drove the school bus and organised multiple fundraising activities. Margaret was also the leader of the Brownies group and organised working bees and fundraising activities to support and maintain the Tooraweenah Tennis Club. For many decades she was an active member of Tooraweenah Country Women’s Association, serving various executive positions including president, secretary and treasurer, as well as judging many local show cooking competitions. Over the years Margaret has shared her love of cooking with the younger generation and has been active in many catering roles; including morning teas, lunches and afternoon teas during the annual Tooraweenah Show, Tooraweenah Endurance Ride and at clearing sales. Margaret’s most outstanding role was as a founding volunteer member of a group who worked tirelessly to establish the Castlereagh Rural Financial Advisory Group in 1988 to support rural farming families and rural businesses during drought and ongoing difficult times. Margaret

was also a founding volunteer editor of the Toora Bungles community newsletter, which was established 1994. Margaret has always kept in touch with people who are going through tough times, always there to help when needed.

Joanne Tailby


Joanne Tailby is a born and bred country girl with three children and has been married to Paul for the past 23 years. Joanne is a very caring person who nursed her sick mother prior to her death and loves to spend time with and support her grandchildren. She provides whatever assistance is required to anyone who asks, coordinating fundraising raffles, running events, preparing food, loading firewood, walking the streets gathering donations and participating in Relay for Life. For 11 years, Joanne has been a major performer and organiser of the skit evening entertaining hundreds of people at the annual Lions Club Drovers’ Campfire. Joanne was the treasurer and canteen organiser of junior league for seven year, PTF committee, donations from mines’ barbeque organiser and organiser of fashion parades even after her children left Sacred Heart School. She was president of the swimming club for 10 years and had the high diving board reinstated as well as organising bingo and garden tours as fundraisers. She gets up at 3.00 am to cook barbeques at the mines to raise money for the Boggabri Hospital auxiliary as well as models in fashion parades. For the past eight years Joanne has filled more than 100 Samaritan boxes and donated them. Joanne is a member of the board of directors at the RSL Club giving countless hours. Her most recent project has been as a vital team member raising funds for a young mother with cancer. Joanne never seeks the limelight nor has expectations of anything in return for her efforts.


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