Margaret humbled by OAM

OAM recipient Margaret Sedgwick is being celebrated by the Batlow community including the staff and children of the Batlow Apple Tree Learning Centre she helped to start.
OAM recipient Margaret Sedgwick is being celebrated by the Batlow community including the staff and children of the Batlow Apple Tree Learning Centre she helped to start.

BATLOW’s Margaret Sedgwick has been bestowed the accolade of inclusion on the 2013 Queen’s birthday honour list.

Receiving a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to the community of Batlow, Mrs Sedgwick was surprised and humbled with the announcement and said she shared her award with the many people who work along side her on the various committees she is involved with.

“It was a great surprise to receive the award and I see it as an acknowledgement of the work put in by many people,” Mrs Sedgwick said. “I didn’t do anything on my own. Many men and women have worked long hours, put together many thoughts and helped to raise finances to create the facilities that Batlow was in need of.”

Batlow has been Mrs Sedgwick’s home since she moved to the hilltop apple growing community with her husband, Richard, 48 years ago.

Raising their three girls, Susan, Kate and Emma, in Batlow was a wonderful experience with Mrs Sedgwick openly adoring the town, its people and the opportunities living there has provided for her and her family.

Mrs Sedgwick’s involvement within the Batlow community commenced almost upon arrival in town. After driving her eldest daughter up and down to Tumut each week to attend preschool, she joined forces in 1971 with a group of mothers to bring early childhood education to Batlow.

“Looking back it was an amazing feat as we all had young children, we were young ourselves and we had no financial backing. But we believed in what we were doing,” Mrs Sedgwick said. “It was a lot of fun. We first opened the preschool in the football pavilion, they were very generous letting us borrow the space but the drawback was we had to pack up after each day.

“We operated for five years there and then under the Whitlam Government’s preschool push we were lucky to have our $60,000 application for a purpose built preschool successfully granted in 1974.

“The Batlow preschool opened in 1976 and we also got our first qualified preschool director Judith Wilson, so we started with a bang.”

The project is still very close to Mrs Sedgwick’s heart and of all her community involvement it remains one her greatest achievements.

Now operating as the Batlow Apple Tree Early Learning Centre, which offers long day care and an early learning centre, the facility is a long lasting legacy to the ladies who identified a gap and filled it.

Over the years Mrs Sedgwick has seen the town change and face potentially crippling challenges that made their mark on Batlow’s social fabric.

“Things have changed a lot in Batlow over the years,” she explains. “Employment prospects have been a significant change for the town as many jobs disappeared with Mountain Maid,.

“Over the years a lot of shops have disappeared as well and we have lost people and amenities like the forestry office and banks, which all have had an impact on the town.

“Now we have good basic shopping and I think the future is looking bright for Batlow.”

Mrs Sedgwick feels the Murder in the Mountains writer’s festival, Ciderfest and the Apple Blossom Festival have injected a fresh spark of optimism into the town and have improved morale. Planning to continue helping on various committees, she too has been reinvigorated by the fresh ideas resonating around the Batlow hills.

As Mrs Sedgwick’s life continued beyond running around with preschoolers, another project that served the community came onto her radar. She was asked to join the committee of the Batlow Senior Citizens Village Association Inc. in 1996.

Within two years she would be wearing the president’s badge and along with her dedicated committee, helping to oversee the construction of four two-bedroom units for the senior citizens village.

“I seem to have moved from one end of the aged spectrum to the other, with a lot in between, ” Mrs Sedgwick laughed. “The first units were built in 1984, then more in 1994 and another lot in 2008. I feel it is extremely important to give the opportunity to older people to stay in town. They have made their life here and it is hugely important they have the option of remaining here.”

The facility boasts 17 units with the need for more growing constantly. The option of a three phase elderly housing plan thrills Mrs Sedgwick who knows as a small town, Batlow is fortunate to have it.

“We are lucky we have the village,” she said. “As well as the MPS as the next stage where people can move into the hostel bed section or later onto long term care.”

Still enjoying the work she does within the aged care organisation and her other pursuits, it will be some time before Mrs Sedgwick calls it a day in her volunteering role.

Her involvement in the community has been widespread and as a founding member of the Batlow View Club, she still revels in the social aspect of organisations that also help other people.

Her OAM is not the first for the Sedgwick household. Richard received an OAM in 1996 for service to local government. Her husband’s long term involvement with the Batlow Rotary Club has also allowed Mrs Sedgwick to pursue volunteer work as an honorary member.

“We have both gotten a lot out of Batlow Rotary Club,” she said. “Service organisations have been a very big part of our lives.

“As much as I love my garden and reading I think it is also important to get out into the town. Whilst I still enjoy volunteering I will keep doing it.”

Mrs Sedgwick is encouraging others to offer any time they have to helping community organisations. A realist in terms of understanding how precious spare time can be, she said the rewards for even offering a small amount of time to organisations is worth it.

“It is always a problem to get younger residents involved because when you have mothers that work and have small children plus all those activities that the children are involved in, it is hard to find time.

“I worked for a lot of my life, but still found a little time for community work. I urge younger people take up the position of volunteer. It has many wonderful rewards.”

“Receiving the award means a lot and I will also share it with the volunteers of Batlow that have seen the needs of the town and then worked towards providing for the town,” she said. “In a small town you know the facilities that are lacking. It then takes a lot of work and a lot of time pooling resources to achieve the goal of providing these facilities.

“My parents were big on community work. If you want things to happen then I believe you need to become involved. Aside from that, I enjoy doing what I do and it is good to work together with people for a project.”