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Community & Business

14 July, 2023

Gilgandra PROBUS Club - June 14, 2023

Author Jen Cowley OAM, guest speaker at June meeting

President Pat Thompson welcomed members to the June meeting, introducing Linda Wykes as temporary secretary, while Anne Smith recovers from surgery.

Mrs Thompson also presented member Betty McGrath with her badge. Tour director, Denise Quealy, as well gave a report on the visit to the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) base at Dubbo earlier in the month, where morning tea, lunch, and an escorted tour, were thoroughly enjoyed by all.

After morning tea, Phillip Yeo, introduced the guest speaker from our southern suburb of Dubbo, who had grown up in the Tooraweenah area – the renowned author and journalist, Jen Cowley OAM.

Mrs Cowley said returning to Gilgandra, felt like coming home and that everything felt familiar and comfortable, even though she has travelled extensively through her life and career, she still considers the central west region to be home. Mrs Cowley commenced her education at Coonabarabran, studied at University in Armidale, she then worked as a research and media officer for a federal politician. In her writing, she enjoys giving a voice to everyone.

Seven of her books have been written with proceeds going to the community and, even though she was paid for her work, one day the plan is to write a book where she will make money out of it.

Her very first column was at the age of 14, when she sought to write a column in The Gilgandra Weekly named Tooraweenah Times, noting that it is very important to keep local newspapers alive. She then went on to write articles for and edit The Daily Liberal, follow- ing which she wrote and edited the Dubbo Weekender, which was inserted in the Dubbo Photo News for 10 years. She has a lovely and supportive husband in Steve, who being a pho- tographer, complements her writing.

The death of her father and her brother, at an early age from a heart attack, profoundly affect- ed Mrs Cowley, and this is where she com- menced her long association with the Dubbo

based NALAG (National Association of Loss and Grief) group. The immediate support of the Association, assisted her immensely. When her sister-in-law died, leaving two little girls in 2015, when the attitude was to shield children from death, the idea came to write the book “Grandpa’s Hat”. This was written in memory of her brother and sister-in-law and to thank NALAG. The book was published in 2015 with the support of the four Rotary clubs of Dubbo and Coonabarabran club. Mrs Cowley is also a member of Rotary which has seen her travel to assist overseas countries — however that is another story.

Mrs Cowley has continued to say ‘yes’ to projects rather than ‘no’, which has resulted in travel and pushing her out of her comfort zone in leaps of faith. She is always keen to give back to the community she works with, and trusts that whatever she completes, leaves a mark for that particular community.

In 2016, Mrs Cowley really went out of her comfort zone to undertake two projects. In April, she lived and worked with a remote Northern Territory Aboriginal community on a book of stories and photographs reflecting life there, and then in September, she produced a similar book in the central desert region of the top-end. The proceeds of these books is being reinvested in their respective communities.

A further book written was, “That’s the Spirit”, a project prompted by, but not about drought. This book is familiar to many of us as numerous locals were featured as part of the many positive people doing positive things to keep small communities alive, as they’ve done for many generations and will continue to do so.

Her latest book “Three Days in May”, records 150 years of the Dubbo Show, which she amazingly completed in 18-months. Mrs Cowley wanted this book to be more than a time line of events, rather the voices and stories of people over the years.

She reflected on many items, too numerous to mention, together with changing attitudes over the years. Following questions, she was thanked by Marg Schier and presented with an appreciation certificate on behalf of PROBUS. 

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