By Colin MacGillivray
DEDICATION to their community and a passion for history saw Wandong-Heathcote Junction residents Karen Christensen and Allen Hall awarded medals of the Order of Australia, OAMs, during today’s Queen’s Birthday celebrations.
Ms Christensen and Mr Hall were among nearly 1000 people across Australia to receive Queen’s Birthday recognition.
Mr Hall is the president of Wandong Public Hall committee, chair of Wandong War Memorial committee, secretary of Wandong Heathcote Junction Community Group, a member of Wandong History Group and editor of the local newsletter.
He was previously secretary of the Neighbourhood Watch committee for more than 10 years and was named Mitchell Shire Citizen of the Year in 2013.
Ms Christensen is the president of Wandong History Group, secretary of Wandong Public Hall committee, Wandong War Memorial committee member and and Wandong Heathcote Junction Community Group member.
She was one of five people to receive a national RSL Anzac of the Year award in 2020 and helped organise the Mitchell Shire Community Event of the Year in 2019.
The pair said they were surprised but gratified to find out they would receive the honours.
“I was very happy, but also a bit embarrassed really, especially when you think of all the other people around the place who deserve it, like the SES members who have been working hard at the moment. It’s a bit unreal,” Mr Hall said.
Ms Christensen said she was ‘rapt’ to learn she had been awarded an OAM.
“These are things you don’t expect, and it was really nice to think that people had thought enough of what we do to think it was worthy of that sort of recognition. It is quite an honour,” she said.
Mr Hall said he and Ms Christensen shared a sense of civic duty, and their involvement in the Wandong Heathcote Junction Community Group.
“I suppose it really is a spokes-group for the town of Wandong-Heathcote Junction,” he said.
“Most things that happen there comes through the group, especially with council but even with the State Government and Federal Government.
“We’ve got projects on the go all the time, including four we’re trying to get up and running at the moment.”
Ms Christensen said she had a passion for recording the area’s history.
She joked she had put ‘about a million hours’ into a project to create the Wandong War Memorial, starting in 2012.
“We wanted to do a war memorial here because there was nothing at Wandong, and so many people who fought from this area weren’t recognised anywhere,” she said.
“From there we started to look at the rest of our history with saw-milling and brick-making. We’ve put a few books out and we’re working on another two at the moment.
“Now we’re working on a plaque for the RAAF men who were killed on Mount Disappointment.”
Ms Christensen said history was important to the town’s identity.
“Once it’s gone, it’s gone. If someone doesn’t try to capture it somewhere, then no one will ever know about it, and I think that’s a shame,” she said.
“For people who are new to the town, they have no idea of what’s gone before, so the more that we can have of that stuff around for people to see what influence this area had, the better.”
Mr Hall said the community group focused not just on the past, but improving the town for the future.
He said the group’s work to restore Pickett Walk was a testament to what it could achieve.
“We put a lot of work into the history part of the town with interpretive signage of what Wandong used to be like in the early 1900s. It used to be a thriving town then with the timber and brick industry,” he said.
Mr Hall and Ms Christensen thanked the community and their families for their support.
“It’s about having pride in the place – that’s what we’re all about,” Mr Hall said.
“When I was told about the award, I initially thought about saying no thanks, but when I thought about it you accept these awards not just for the work you’re doing for the community but also for your family.
“I’ve got six children and I think they’ll be rapt. To be able to give so much of your time you need the support of your family.”