Clelland Lodge volunteer and winner of Fresh Hope Care’s 2017 Volunteer of the Year Award, Rae Doak has been awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM). Rae shared the achievement with her husband James who was also awarded an OAM. Together they were recognised for their outstanding commitment and service in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven communities.

Since retiring from the NSW Police Service in 2004 where she worked as a Rehabilitation Coordinator, (was previously a registered nurse), Rae has been busy making a difference, volunteering her time and leading various community organisations.

When Rae and her husband James became aware of how Asparagus Fern (a weed which stops anything else from growing) had taken over the bushland between Seven Mile Beach and Crooked River Road, they started a Landcare group. The group meets once a month to remove the weeds and bring back local native species.

“We worked together and were awarded grants to be able to hire specialists to assist. It’s still a work in progress and I’ve now had to step back due to having a reaction to the ticks, but we have restored so much,” says Rae.

Rae was also the Secretary, Welfare Officer and ‘Chief Scone Maker’ of the Gerroa Community Association, a small group whose aim was to meet the needs of the community. The group provided friendship, information and help to the residents.

“We had a Community Hall hut where we held indoor markets a few times a year. We also organised bus trips for the elderly who lived the community. We don’t live in Gerroa anymore but the things we started are still occurring and thriving.”

The couple now live in Berry and since moving, Rae has continued volunteering at Fresh Hope Care’s, Clelland Lodge. The Hearing helper role has been a big part of her life since 2006. She is also the vice-president and former president of Nowra Lions Club, and it was originally through the club that she found out about the Hearing Helper program at Clelland Lodge. Hearing Helpers are volunteers who ensure that the people who live at Clelland are equipped with hearing aids, and the hearing aids are working correctly. Rae is particularly passionate about hearing as her mother became hearing impaired at a young age, Rae relies on strong hearing aids and her husband James, is also hearing impaired.

“It is very isolating, and I know with my mum, she was withdrawn, and sometimes  got the wrong messages. You think you hear somebody, but you really don’t hear them.”

Aware of this, Rae works hard to help the residents overcome these difficulties and assists them to stay socially connected with others.

It was in February last year when Rae found out that she would be receiving the OAM. “A letter arrived with a lovely crest. I felt very honoured and privileged. To get something for doing what you enjoy is wonderful.”

Rae and James were presented their OAM’s at Government House in Sydney on 24th November 2020.

“Our son Steven lives in Victoria and we really wanted him to come. The border to NSW opened on 23rd November and he flew up with his partner the next morning – just in time! My brother, his wife and James’ sister also joined us.”

“There were 11 of us who received OAMs. The Governor of New South Wales Margaret Beazley, presented them to us then after the Investiture Ceremony, we all enjoyed morning tea.”

Since receiving the OAM, Rae has started to think about who she could nominate.

“I feel that females are underrepresented in the OAMs and I’d love to see more females receive one. I have already nominated someone I know and I’m working on a nomination for another.”

Congratulations Rae and thank you for your outstanding contributions to Clelland Lodge and the rest of the community. You have made an incredible impact on the lives of so many.