Bea Ballangarry from Toormina.
Bea Ballangarry from Toormina.

Feeling warm and cozy

FOUR Coffs Coast locals have been recognised in the Queen's Birthday 2006 Honours List.

Bea Ballangarry from Toormina, Dorothy Hays from Coffs Harbour and Madeline Halpin from Bellingen will now be able to proudly write OAM after their names, while William Lenthall from Macksville received the Australian Fire Service Medal.

All have spent years of their lives dedicating themselves selflessly to their communities.

None expected to be honoured in return.

"I feel really warm and cozy about it," Ms Ballangarry said.

"I was shocked and I feel a real buzz."

Ms Ballangarry was acknowledged 'for [her] service to the community through pro-active roles to improve social justice, economic advancement and education for indigenous people'.

The 63-year-old author has made a huge impact on the North Coast as an indigenous representative for many regional groups.

Recently, she established JIINDAS, a Gumbaynggirr term meaning 'sister', which aims to 'support each other and give ourselves a voice' in a society that doesn't always allow Aboriginal women refuge in mainstream services.

"When I see people struggling it's like a hand in my back," Ms Ballangarry said.

She emphasises the need for people to 'get out of their sludges', and to do what needs to be done.

"I've always believed I have a strong message that can be delivered around the world."

Madeline Halpin has also been a prominent figure in the community for most of her life, working with St Vincent de Paul and has been a member of the Catholic Women's League of Australia for more than 70 years.

The spritely 96-year-old is over the moon about receiving an Order of Australia Medal.

"I didn't think in my wildest dreams I'd get something like that," Ms Halpin said.

She was recognised for 'service to the community of Bellingen through church, health, agricultural show and welfare organisations'.

She said she has always been motivated by seeing her efforts making a difference, and work being done in the community.

"I like to see everything going ahead," Ms Halpin said.

When Coffs Harbour's radiotheraphy centre opens, there's one person who will definitely be there.

Dorothy Hays has been the driving force behind the lobby group which successfully obtained the unit at Coffs Harbour Health Campus.

She started her volunteer work in 1989, after losing her husband to cancer, and has focused her attentions on Coffs Harbour's palliative and health care services.

"I get some satisfaction out of feeling as though I'm helping people," Ms Hays said.

"I just want Coffs Harbour to get the health services it deserves."

Ms Hays, a breast cancer survivor herself, said she felt quite embarrassed about the honour and publicity she would be receiving in return for all her efforts, and that she was only giving back to the community what they had given her in her time of need.

"I just want to repay what I received," Ms Hays said.

"I wonder if I would have done all I have if my husband hadn't been diagnosed [with cancer]."

Mr Lenthall, the recipient of the Australian Fire Service Medal, has devoted 43 years of distinguished service to firefighting, and is still working in the service at 64-years-old.

Receiving this medal towards the end of his career has been the greatest reward Mr Lenthall could have hoped for.

"It's out of this world, it was the furtherest thing from my mind and I'm just overwhelmed," Mr Lenthall said.

All the recipients of this honour have spent years of their lives dedicating themselves to the Coffs Coast community, and none show signs of slowing down just yet.

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