Barbara Rafter was the first female president of the Rotary Club of Brimbank Central. She first joined the organisation in 1994 and is now in-house historian. She is also known as ‘The Teddy Lady’. She talks to Alexandra Laskie.


What’s your connection to Keilor?

My husband and I moved into Keilor in November 1998, after buying a block of land on the Reeves estate and sub-contracting the building of our home. We had previously lived in St Albans.


What attracted you to the area?

The area has a very country feeling and also the history of the Keilor area.


Has this area shaped who you are, and if so, how?

Now that I am retired I am able to enjoy the relaxed and easy going feeling of the area and the Keilor Village.


You met your husband on a blind date. Was it love at first sight?

It was an instant friendship that grew stronger each time we met, and even now, after almost 25 years of marriage, he continues to be my best friend.


You were the first female president of the Rotary Club of Brimbank Central. How did you first get involved with Rotary?

When I married my husband he was a member of the Rotary Club of St Albans, now the Rotary Club of Brimbank Central. The Rotary Club name was changed in 1997 to coincide with the local council amalgamations. I was always helping my husband, in the background, on Rotary projects, so in 1994 the charter president, Murray Stevens, nominated me for membership.

In 1995-96 I was elected as secretary and have held this position many times over my 22-year history with the club. In 1999-2000 I was the first female president of the Rotary Club. It is very satisfying to know that Rotary can help change the lives of children, adults and communities locally and throughout the world through health, education and water projects.


You’ve knitted about 1500 teddy bears for the Caroline Chisholm Society. How did you first get involved and why is it that you continue to knit teddy bears?

At the time of the photo I have donated 1620 teddies to Caroline Chisholm Society, based in Moonee Ponds that helps young single and un-married mums with support.

Approximately 16 years ago I saw a small advert in a local paper from Caroline Chisholm Society, asking for volunteers or material aide. I knitted a few baby clothes and a few teddies and donated them.

I was asked could I continue to donate some more teddies so they can be put with baby bundles for new mums or as gifts for children, and parents that seek assistance. So I have continued knitting these teddy donations for the past 15 years. At the Caroline Chisholm Society I am known as “The Teddy Lady”. I very much appreciate that my mum taught me to knit as a child, so I can continue knitting and donating these colourful teddies for many more years.