LOCAL Red Cross ladies pulled some strings to tempt refugee advocate and NSW Regional Woman of the Year Julia Harpham to be guest speaker at the AGM.
Val Lennan said several of the members had connections to Mrs Harpham through her membership of the Mole River Red Cross branch, and that of her mother before her.
“Julia said she was raised with Red Cross,” Mrs Lennan said.
The esteemed guest travelled from her home in Mingoola to be at the meeting on July 10.
She brought along with her Renate, matriarch of one of the three refugee families now making their home in the small village west of Tenterfield.
Around 35 ladies including representatives from Torchbearers, Lionesses and the United Hospital Auxiliary enjoyed Mrs Harpham’s ad-libbed presentation on the Mingoola Progress Association’s struggles to reinvigorate the village and attract workers to farms, with the local school then in recession due to a lack of students.
Mrs Harpham’s efforts kept hitting brick walls until a chance meeting with a politician’s offsider put her in touch with the right people, and the ball started rolling.
Now, Mingoola is often held up as a model of how a small rural community can renew itself, including conducting working bees to make disused farm houses habitable again and liberating refugee families from their urban situations.
Mrs Lennan said several of the Red Cross members are well-travelled and were particularly interested in Renate’s African roots and her story.
“Renate was a little shy,” Mrs Lennan said.
“I’m sure it was all a bit overwhelming for her but she seemed happy with the plans.
“She’s a gentle soul.”
For the ladies at the branch the big push this year will be promoting the Red Cross Christmas Tree in the town hall to make it bigger and better, even bussing people in from as far afield as Stanthorpe.
“We want to bring more people to town, to spend the day in Glen,” Mrs Lennan said.