Lyn's our Volunteer of the Year

Georgetown's Lyn French recognised for more than 30 year's service


Life & Style
Lyn French being presented with the Volunteer of the Year award by opposition spokesman for volunteers, Lachlan Millar. Pictures supplied.

Lyn French being presented with the Volunteer of the Year award by opposition spokesman for volunteers, Lachlan Millar. Pictures supplied.

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A woman whose impact in rural and remote Queensland has been described as "truly extraordinary", Lyn French has been announced as Queensland's Volunteer of the Year.

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A woman whose impact in rural and remote Queensland has been described as "truly extraordinary", Lyn French has been announced as Queensland's Volunteer of the Year.

In accepting the award at the Brisbane presentation ceremony last week, Ms French paid tribute to a group of like-minded volunteers who helped her achieve so much.

"Having had a limited education as a child and not being able to read or write, when faced with having to teach my own children on our remote station, I became determined to overcome this challenge," she said.

"I had wonderful help from many volunteers who walked through the door to help in our schoolroom.

"This is most likely the main reason I am standing here today."

I accept this award on behalf of all rural and remote mothers out there who teach their own kids

The Georgetown grandmother's passion for helping others for more than 30 years saw her chosen from 145 nominations for the 2019 award.

As well as being a volunteer firefighter, Ms French has put her hand up for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the Bureau of Meteorology, Drought Aid, Angel Flight, Northern Gulf Resources, and has supported isolated children's education in a variety of ways.

She has been a member of the Isolated Children's Parents' Association for 40 years, spending six years on its federal council, and helped administer the Volunteers for Isolated Students Education program for 29 years before it closed its doors.

Through her initiative and with financial assistance from Aussie Helpers, the replacement AHVISE program was set up three years ago.

In the middle of all this, Ms French and her husband Robert set up a luxury ecological tourism retreat to diversify and drought-proof their business.

Volunteering Queensland CEO Mara Basanovic said it had been a tough decision for the selection panel to choose from the 145 outstanding nominations but they believed Ms French's impact in rural and remote Queensland was truly extraordinary.

"Thank you Lyn for the extraordinary gift of service you so generously give to others," she said. "You are an example to fellow Queenslanders. Through your inspiring examples, I hope that others who are yet to experience the richness of volunteering will be motivated to give it a go."

Lyn French proudly displays her Volunteer of the Year award after the presentation ceremony.

Lyn French proudly displays her Volunteer of the Year award after the presentation ceremony.

The other two finalists for the award were Helen Zahos, a humanitarian, emergency nurse and paramedic who has volunteered in disaster areas across the globe, and Maureen Danbury, a volunteer with Protect All Children Today who has supported over 500 children, young people and their families through the court process.

Ms Basanovic said it had been moving and awe-inspiring to read the many nominations received.

"What a giving, caring and generous community we have," she said.

Ms French said it was a great honour to accept the award, saying she felt humbled but rather embarrassed.

"I am sure that every other nominee is as capable, if not more, of winning this award.

"Receiving it, though, is a demonstration of a phrase I love: 'Can't is a coward, can is a king'.

"I was faced with a challenge and just did what needed to be done."

Read more: New model VISE planned

She was nominated by good friend, archaeologist Jacinta Warland who accompanied her to the awards ceremony.

Topping off the whole experience was when the manager of the Brisbane hotel they stayed at took the pair out to dinner to celebrate.

"It was so lovely as they were just as excited as me in receiving the award," Ms French said.

For her, hearing an isolated mother on the other end of a telephone say thank you when they received a home tutor, was enough reward.

"I accept this award on behalf of all rural and remote mothers out there who teach their own kids.

"(AHVISE) is slowly growing at the moment - we have more families than tutors but each month we're recruiting more so hopefully we will be able to fill all placements to help families.

"We just need to keep getting the word out to our city retirees that their wealth of knowledge is still very valuable, should they wish to volunteer in the outback."

Ms Basanovic said as well as paying tribute to the volunteers, the Queensland Volunteering Awards promoted the vital contribution that volunteering made to the social, cultural, economic and environmental wellbeing of the state.

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