A 40-year stroll down memory lane

As Yooralla’s Swan Hill residential accommodation turned 40 years old, Maureen, one of the inaugural residents, also celebrated four decades of memories at the home.

“It was 1981 and I still clearly remember the official opening day. It was a great ceremony held on a beautiful, sunny day and there were a lot of important people there, including Minister Alan Wood and the Mayor of Swan Hill at the time,” says Maureen, who is now in her 60s.

Images from and invitation to the official Swan Hill opening in 1981

Over the past 40 years, Maureen, who was born with spina bifida, has led a full and busy life becoming a well-known figure in her Swan Hill community for her work in advocacy and providing a voice for people with disability. With a population of 11,000, Swan Hill is a small town on the south bank of the Murray River in the northwest of Victoria.

“I really care about our community and if I see something that is not safe or something that can be fixed or improved – like a footpath for example – I act on it,” says Maureen.

“I had the door at our local McDonald’s fixed recently, for example, because it was located in a dangerous place for people trying to enter, especially for people in wheelchairs.”

Maureen’s advocacy work was recognised by the Victorian Disability Awards.

“I’ve been a volunteer for Mallee Sports Assembly for many years, joint facilitating disability awareness sessions at local primary schools, Swan Hill Leisure Centre, Sunraysia TAFE and Murray ACE,” says Maureen.

“I was also supported to do public speaking by a lady called Delia Baber from Swan Hill Mallee Sports Assembly, to whom I am very grateful.

“I love getting out and about and helping people and achieving something rather than just sitting at home watching TV. It makes me feel good about myself,” she says.

Maureen is fiercely independent and is always out and about going to the local shops and cafes.

“I’m a bit of a celebrity in Swan Hill – pretty much everyone knows me here,” jokes Maureen.

Maureen uses a motorised wheelchair for mobility and regularly travels around Victoria on her own using public transport for her advocacy work and family get-togethers.

Leeanne Waylen, Lead Support at the accommodation where Maureen lives, says Maureen has been an important and active member of the Swan Hill community over the years and shows no signs of slowing down.

“She’s been an excellent role model for local people with disability and we are very proud of her. She is well-respected by our community and is often interviewed about her advocacy work by the local paper,” she says.

Maureen, who shares her Yooralla accommodation with five house mates, says she only has happy memories looking back at the last four decades living at the home.

“I really love living here. Yooralla staff have provided me with amazing support over the years, allowing me to live my life on my own terms. It is thanks to them that I am able to enjoy a rich and independent life,” she says.

Yooralla's senior leaders got together on Teams to congratulate Maureen on her anniversary day.

To mark the occasion ABC Radio Mildura-Swan Hill ran a story this week on Breakfast featuring Mark Hulbert, Group Manager – North, and Maureen, one of the inaugural residents at the home.

Find out more about Yooralla’s shared Supported Accommodation and view our current accommodation vacancies.

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