Val Tilbrook's voluntary commitment to Clare

Val Tilbrook can usually be found with a book in hand or a document on her computer screen in the history room of the Clare Town Hall.
Val Tilbrook can usually be found with a book in hand or a document on her computer screen in the history room of the Clare Town Hall.

Volunteers are undeniably the core of any country town, selflessly donating their time and knowledge to serving the community on a day to day basis.

More than six million volunteers currently serve across Australia, ensuring public spaces are tidy, the poor and elderly are fed and local history is preserved and celebrated – plus so much more.

When it comes to serving the Clare community, countless people volunteer day-to-day but one name in particular appears continually across a range of organisations and many years: Val Tilbrook.

Mrs Tilbrook has served the Clare community since she was 15 years old, starting her journey of volunteer work by helping local sports from an administrative perspective.

She jumped on the opportunity to help her local tennis and basketball clubs, leading to her volunteering with local arts and history groups.

In 2004, Mrs Tilbrook was  Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council’s Australian of the Year. She received the Zonta Clare and District Woman of the Year in 2015, as well as numerous other awards during her years of service.

“I like reading, and I like books and I was always pretty good at arithmetic; I would just end up in my own head,” Mrs Tilbrook said.

“I remember one lady calling me a human computer but I’ve lost the knack now a little bit.”

Her passion for serving people is evident through her work history, but Mrs Tilbrook’s willingness to help quickly became invaluable and somewhat assumed by the community.

“If (there was) a meeting and they wanted somebody, they knew that I would be most suitable for the position,” she said

“Once a secretary always a secretary; but people don’t ask anymore because I’m getting too old.” 

Mrs Tilbrook said her volunteer work had never felt like work to her but rather the opportunity to use her skills to serve her peers and make new friends.

She recollected the smiles from people she had met and said that made it worth it; whether it was someone she brought a hot meal to or a local she assisted in uncovering their family history.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed all my volunteering (but) you might note that I volunteer for things that I like doing and that I’m really interested in, like history or anything to do with books,” Mrs Tilbrook said.

While most of her service had been within an area of interest to her, an undeniable drive ultimately pushed her along.

For nine years, Mrs Tilbrook served the region's elderly and disabled through Meals on Wheels.

She also took time out of her busy schedule to record audio tapes of the local papers like the Northern Argus so the blind could keep up-to-date on news and events.

These days Mrs Tilbrook continues her community service in an area she loves: local history.

She said preserving local history, newspaper archives, births and deaths notices and organising and promoting tourist events was only matched by the opportunity to help people discover something new and exciting about their ancestry.

She also voluntarily writes a fortnightly column for the Northern Argus about the rich history and ancestors of the region.

Volunteers are generally recognised through community awards and organisation awards such as the Australian of the Year awards.

Each year Australia also sets aside a week to celebrate National Volunteer Week, hosting breakfasts, morning and afternoon teas and luncheons for volunteers everywhere.

Volunteer Week is celebrated from May 8 to 14 to acknowledge their generous contribution to society.

Across the next four weeks leading in to National Volunteer Week, the Northern Argus will highlight some of our local volunteers and their ongoing commitment.