PHOTO: Orana Volunteer of the Year Barbara O’Brien with Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders and Mayor of Dubbo Regional Council Matthew Dickerson.
A well-known name in the Gulargambone and Coonamble areas, Barbara O’Brien, received recognition for her long and varied volunteering efforts when she was named last week as both Senior Volunteer of the Year and the overall Volunteer of the Year for the Orana Region.
Specifically, Mrs O’Brien was nominated for her work with the Country Women’s Association (CWA) in her current branch at Terramungamine.
Barbara says that while she was aware of her nomination, the win caught her by surprise.
“I actually had a little tear in my eye,” she told the Coonamble Times. “I was just so touched that Joy Beames, the State President of CWA, would come all the way to Dubbo just to see me get this award.
“She has 8400 members to look after so to me that was the most special part that she’s so caring that she would come to support just one member.”
The awards are conducted by The Centre for Volunteering and the Orana Region ceremony was held at Dubbo Golf Club on Tuesday 26 September.
Awards for Young Volunteer of the Year, Adult Volunteer of the Year and Volunteer Team of the Year were also presented.
Barbara had been a member of the Gulargambone CWA until it closed and was then actively involved in the Armatree branch before her retirement and relocation to Dubbo in 2013.
“I transferred to the Terramungamine branch,” she said. “It was a good fit for me because the ladies are more like the Armatree branch members.”
Barbara has received an OAM for outstanding services to her community and is currently the Secretary for the Terramungamine CWA, where she has been instrumental in organising local activities and the 100 years of CWA celebrations.
A lifelong advocate for volunteering, Mrs O’Brien’s efforts go far beyond one organisation.
At present she attends weekly meetings in her role as State Secretary of the Combined Pensioners & Superannuants Association and has been Dubbo Secretary “for a long time.”
She is an Ambassador at the Dubbo Cultural Centre which puts her on the desk to welcome visitors one Sunday a month and has volunteered as a ‘welcomer’ at Western Plains Zoo every week since moving to Dubbo.
Barbara says she really enjoys these roles.
“It’s just talking to people – why wouldn’t I like it!”
“Every little job needs to be done,” she said.
“I started my volunteering when my kids went to the Catholic School in Gulargambone. I was a ‘reading mother’ and then it went into school sport.”
Like many mothers Barbara juggled her volunteering with her other roles, as a Nurse, Midwife and Health Service Manager of the Gular Hospital and partner with her husband Ernie O’Brien in their transport business.
“After I finished work I started to volunteer at Two Eight Two Eight and eventually served as President, then I became a councillor on Coonamble Shire.”
She also served on the Board of Outback Arts Inc.
These days she is also Secretary of the University of the Third Age and, as well as running a monthly class called Dubbo Personalities, also attends other classes.
“U3A I just love,” Barbara said. “I do the gentle exercises, and Australian History and music classes with Peter Dargin.”
She also helps out one Friday a month at the Community Kitchen run by Baptist Care in Dubbo, volunteers at her own local Catholic church, spends half a day each week in the St Vincent de Paul Shop and one day a fortnight in Vinnie’s Care & Support service.
“I try to help people when they come in,” she said. “Sometimes they just talk and other times they need a bit of assistance
“Volunteering has given me a lot of challenges. You learn so much and of course you’ve got the socialisation. It’s important for your own self esteem and meeting all different people from all different backgrounds is wonderful.”
“I love working with the other volunteers. They give their time so generously and you find out such amazing things.”
Barbara says she is very proud that all her children and grandchildren do voluntary work.
“I think volunteering starts by example,” she said. “It’s an example that you’re given and then you follow through with.”
Barbara will now go on to represent the Orana Region at the NSW Volunteering Awards in Sydney on 7 December.
“Volunteers from across the Orana region give their time and energy to help make their local community a better place,” said The Centre for Volunteering CEO Gemma Rygate.
“They help build healthy and well-connected communities across the region.
“Their tireless work helps support people across health, education, sporting, and community sectors. Our awards recognise their work and give us the chance to say thank you.”
The awards are supported by principal partners the NSW Department of Communities and Justice and ClubsNSW, which represents the state’s 1,100 not-for-profit clubs.