GROWING up on an Ecklin dairy farm taught Helen Paatsch many of the skills that have made her a selfless and tireless worker for the Colac community.
A volunteer for a number of community groups, Mrs Paatsch eventually became the Colac Otway Shire mayor and helped establish the Colac Otway Performing Arts Centre.
Her efforts have been recognised today, with Mrs Paatsch being awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her service to the Colac community over the past five decades.
“It teaches you to be resilient, growing up in the bush,” she said.
Mrs Paatsch said enabling others to achieve was a strong belief that had been a large driving force behind her involvement in the community.
“Lots of people get involved and give to the big charities … which is wonderful, but you really need to enable people around you to do things and to give kids opportunities to do things,” Mrs Paatsch said. “I think that’s really important, even if it’s just looking cheerful as you go up the street.
“To be part of a community is just really special, you know, to be able to contribute to a community.”
There is no slowing down for Mrs Paatsch who intends to throw herself into a number of community programs this year.
The South West Community Foundation, of which Mrs Paatsch is a founding director, takes up a large amount of her time. “The foundation is a particular passion of mine,” she said.
“Rural areas are doing it tough and Colac has quite a large percentage of the population up against it financially.”