85-year-old Dawn McPherson is president of the Moore Soldiers Memorial Hall and has played important roles in Moore’s community most of her life (Photo: Facebook)
Dawn McPherson, OAM, at a recent social function (Photo: Kate Dohle)

June 13, 2016

A modest 85-year-old woman from Moore has been awarded an OAM in Tuesday’s Queen’s Birthday Honour list.

Shirley Dawn McPherson (“everyone calls me Dawn”) was awarded a Medal In The General Division for her lifetime of service to the small community at the foot of the Blackbutt Range.

Dawn said the award came “as a complete surprise”.

She first heard about it on Saturday when her daughter Heather phoned to warn Dawn she might get a few more phone calls than usual on Tuesday.

“To be honest, I really don’t know what it’s all about,” Dawn told southburnett.com.au.

“It’s all a bit of a mystery.”

Dawn has lived all her life in Moore and was married to her husband Jack, a farmer and timber-getter, for 65 years.

Sadly, Jack died last September. But one of their two children – her daughter, Heather – still lives in nearby Toogoolawah where she runs a business with her husband, while Dawn’s son Wayne lives in Tamworth.

Dawn is a well-known figure in the Moore community.

Over the years she’s served on the Moore State School’s P&C; played a key role in the now defunct Moore Rodeo (which at its peak was one of the largest events of its type in Queensland); and had a long-standing involvement with the Moore tennis club.

But it has been the Moore Soldiers Memorial Hall – and encouraging volunteering in younger members of the community – which has consumed most of her efforts.

Dawn’s mother was one of the small but enthusiastic group of women who raised the funds to build the timber Memorial Hall in 1922, and long-time friend Bob Howe speculates this may have “sown the seed” for Dawn’s own involvement when she came of age.

She has been president of the Soldiers Memorial Hall Association since 1998 but has been involved in the group since at least 1969 (which is as far back as the Hall’s records go), and very likely for much longer.

“Her unselfish commitment to keep fundraising going is a credit to her, even at times when illness should slow her enthusiasm,” Bob said.

“Under her guidance – and for no personal financial gain – the hall has increased its activity to the degree where there’s some form of community or external hire on most weekends of the year, as well as other events through the week.

“Because of this, the hall has been able to generate the funds needed to ensure it’s properly maintained and improved.”

The hall celebrated its 90th birthday in 2012 in conjunction with Moore’s monthly markets.

Dawn, who had stayed in touch with many people who’d left the area, used her extensive network of contacts to bring them back to the town for the celebrations, helping make the event a great success.

But it’s her good-natured generosity of spirit that has won her so many fans.

“It’s humbling to watch Dawn providing assistance to other volunteers, whether she is in good health or ill in some way,” Bob said.

“This type of commitment helps open the eyes of the younger generations and creates an enthusiasm for them to volunteer. And without this type of mentoring, it wouldn’t be possible to create a new generation of volunteers to keep these type of community organisations functioning.

“There need to be people with unselfish commitment like Dawn to ensure the community not only survives, but continues to grow.

“That’s why I’m very pleased she has been honoured in this way.”

* * *

Former Murgon resident Br Daniel Hollamby was made a Member of the Order of Australia for his service to primary education, particularly in indigenous communities, through senior teaching and leadership positions.

Br Hollamby served at St Joseph’s Catholic School in Murgon from 2007-2012,

He is currently based at Ltyentye Apurte Catholic School at Santa Teresa near Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.

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