Julie McLaren has been honoured with a Macedon Ranges council Community Achievement Award for her immense contribution maintaining Kyneton’s country community feel. She speaks with Serena Seyfort.
How did you find yourself living in the Macedon Ranges?
My son and I moved to Kyneton 10 years ago now. Something dawned on me after 30 years of living in the city – that I was really a country girl!
What do you like about Kyneton?
It’s just such a friendly, welcoming place. People say you have to live in a place for a long time before you really belong. But after just six months here, every time I went down to town I’d see someone I knew, so it felt like home very quickly.
Tell us about all your involvement with the community.
The first group I became part of was the school council at Kyneton Primary School, then I went to Kyneton Secondary College council, as my son moved through school. For his last two years I was president of Kyneton secondary’s council.
But most of my community involvement started from Kyneton Transition Hub, the local sustainability group. We launched the group in 2011 in Kyneton because this town is such a community.
We chose a model that says the real way forward for sustainability is building strong communities that support sustainability and regeneration.
A couple of achievements from the hub which I’m very proud of have been the produce-swap at Kyneton Community Market, and Kyneton Community Garden, which is located at Kyneton Secondary College.
I also got involved with Kyneton Community Learning Centre (KCLC), and I was on the steering group that formed the weekly community lunch, which is all about building community and resilience and connections.
I began co-ordinating the Boomerang Bags project last year, but then in August I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was also president of the KCLC board last year before that news.
I’ve been involved with Kyneton Connections, and I’m on the Kyneton Agricultural Show committee. In terms of supporting the wider community, I’m on the Victorian Council of Churches Emergencies Ministry. I am called out for emergency responses. I was there after the Lancefield fires, and I was down in Bourke Street after that horrific incident last year.
You’re so involved with the community – has it been supportive since you’ve become unwell?
Oh yes. I’m being treated in Bendigo and all these different friends and community members have been taking me to my appointments.
It’s just been incredible – people dropping round food, helping in all sorts of ways. People from the community garden are helping tidy up my garden. And that’s just a sample of what the community’s like.