Gwen Warmington receives OAM for services to Yass community

TRAILBLAZER: Yass hasn't been the same since dynamo Gwen Warmington arrived in 1952. Photo: supplied

TRAILBLAZER: Yass hasn't been the same since dynamo Gwen Warmington arrived in 1952. Photo: supplied

When Gwen Warmington was raising her two sons in Yass in the 1960s and 70s, she made regular trips to Canberra.

It wasn't just to see the sights of the nation's fledgling capital.

It was to lay in wait in the Great Hall of the Old Parliament House, pouncing on parliamentarians as they came and went from sessions, rustling up funds for her many community projects.

"I would nab whoever I needed to talk to," Mrs Warmington, now 88, said.

"They gave us money just to get rid of me, I think."

Mrs Warmington has today been honoured with an Order of Australia Medal, something that she "didn't expect" and finds a bit embarrassing, just like when the aged care facility she began agitating for over 50 years ago was eventually named Gwen Warmington Lodge ("silly name, I used to say").

Embarrassed or not, she was also thrilled.

"I've been bubbling ever since they advised me - it was so long ago but I couldn't tell anyone!" she said.

She blames her long list of achievements on her "pig-headedness".

"Everything I've done all these years - it's just because I'm pig-headed when I see something that needs doing," Mrs Warmington said.

"A lot of things I achieved was just determination - the pool and the aged care unit and the special school were pipe dreams, but once I get my teeth into something, I want it done yesterday."

Mrs Warmington moved to Yass in 1952, the day after marrying her sweetheart John in Sydney.

Gwen and John Warmington married on November 1, 1952. The next day they moved to Yass. Photo: supplied

Gwen and John Warmington married on November 1, 1952. The next day they moved to Yass. Photo: supplied

The pair had chosen Yass as their new home due to Mrs Warmington's family connections there, and the fact that John had recently qualified as a radio technician.

"John got his ticket for radio repairs, and he'd always dreamed of owning his own business," she said.

"When I brought him out to meet the family, their radiogram had broken down and he fixed it, and then they decided he should open a shop as Yass desperately needed one."

And Yass hasn't been the same since. Mrs Warmington was instrumental in the establishment and development of a number of key projects - such as Yass War Memorial Swimming Pool, Yass Valley Aged Care, Yass Community Aid and Yass Music Club - as well as serving the region as a councillor for six years, back when she was the only woman in the chambers.

The Warmingtons lived in Yass for 31 years, then sold the business and moved to Darwin following the death of their younger son David. (Their elder son Mark lives in Canberra.) Another 24 years in Queensland followed, but they returned to Yass in 2014, as John's health was failing.

"Cancer took him in 2016, and it took me a year or two to get over that," she said.

"But since then I've been back into things - I've just got out after two years as Probus president."

So active is the nearly 89 year-old that she still does volunteer work for three charities (the hospital auxiliary, CanAssist and Yass Valley Aged Care), which keeps her busy almost every day.

Gwen Warmington with Hope Styles (left) and Valmar Jean Dowling (right)two residents from the original Warmington Lodge in 2017. Photo: Toby Vue

Gwen Warmington with Hope Styles (left) and Valmar Jean Dowling (right)two residents from the original Warmington Lodge in 2017. Photo: Toby Vue

"Back in April, the 30th was the only day that month I had at home," Mrs Warmington said.

In fact, when she is helping at the aged care unit, she is often preparing morning tea for people somewhat younger than herself.

Following is a list of community and local government positions Mrs Warmington has held over the decades:

Community

President, Yass Probus Club, since 2019.

Volunteer, Yass Can Assist, since 2017.

Charter Secretary and Board Member, Yass Quota Club, 1967-1983

Secretary, Yass Music Club, 1957-1975.

Founder, Yass Community Aid (assisting with the foundation of Andalini's Special School), 1969, and Chair, 1969-1983.

Chairperson, Yass Aged Persons Hostel Implementation Committee, 1969-1979.

Foundation Organiser, Yass Woollenwealth Festival, for the Yass War Memorial Swimming Pool, 1956-1970.

Former President, Yass Pre-School and Primary School.

Gwen Warmington Lodge (now Yass Valley Aged Care) - Chair, 1970-1973; Secretary, 1974-1977; Founder.

Local Government

Former Vice-Chair, Council for Social Development South Eastern Region, 1977-78.

Former Delegate, Southern Tablelands County Council, Goulburn, 1971-1977.

Council Alderman, Yass Municipal Council, 1968-1977.

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