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24 June, 2021

Margaret Zell receives OAM

Margaret Joan Zell (nee Law) has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the general division, announced in the 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

By Supplied

Mrs Zell’s commitment and service to the community of Tooraweenah has not gone unnoticed, and she is extremely deserving of the honourable title.

Mrs Zell began working as Dr Roberts’ receptionist when she was 18, and maintained the position until her marriage to Donald Zell at age 21 on February 5, 1955. Following their marriage, she moved to live with Mr Zell on his family’s farm at ‘Yoothamurra’, Tooraweenah. Mr and Mrs Zell have been married for 64 years. Apart from the few years prior to her marriage and after her parent’s retired, Mrs Zell has lived her entire life in Curban and Tooraweenah within the Gilgandra Shire boundaries.

Mrs Zell became very involved in the Tooraweenah community following her marriage. Her first involvement was with the Presbyterian church, where she attended with her mother in-law Winifred Zell, and her sister’s in-law Mary and Kath. Mrs Zell remained actively involved with the church until her illness prevented her from driving. She was on the rotating rosters for things like cleaning the church and preparing for communion.

In later years Mrs Zell taught Scripture at the Tooraweenah School and was made an elder of the church. When her children, Donna and Glen, began at the Tooraweenah Public School, Mrs Zell met many more members of the Tooraweenah community. Mrs Zell was involved with the Tooraweenah Public School P and C, and volunteered at the school for many years. She was involved in the school tuck shop, fundraising activities and even drove the school bus after the driver, Mr Dicks, passed away suddenly.

She purchased a bus and drove the Yoothamurra bus run for the Department of Education until Glen went away to boarding school. She then sold the run to Bobby Gale. Mrs and Mr Zell played tennis at the Tooraweenah tennis club and were involved in their working bees and fundraising activities to support the club and maintenance of the clubhouse and courts. Mrs Zell was a leader of the Brownies group that met with the Scouts, Cubs and Girl Guides at the Tooraweenah show ground in the 1960s. She volunteered in this capacity and did the required training to ensure that the group would keep operating.

Mrs Zell was also an active member of the Tooraweenah CWA for decades. She served in many executive positions for the branch over many years. She loved to cook and was actively involved in the CWA’s many catering jobs, including at the Tooraweenah show and Tooraweenah endurance ride. The local CWA was also the organisation that provided catering for other activities such as clearing sales. These were the main fundraising activities for the group, and they donated most of funds earned back into the local Tooraweenah community.

Her love of cooking led her into entering baking competitions within the CWA. Mrs Zell became a cookery judge and travelled to many other CWA branches to judge cooking competitions. She also was invited to be a cooking judge at other local shows. Mrs Zell has won many regional cooking competitions with her cakes and got to the CWA state bake-off at the Sydney Town Hall for the sponge baking finals. To her surprise, her sponge won the state competition. Alongside her simple sponges, Mrs Zell also decorated elaborate birthday cakes and wedding cakes for family and friends.

She was a founding member of the group who worked tirelessly to establish the Castlereagh Rural Financial Advisory Group in the district. The office was established in Gilgandra to support rural people to access independent financial advice. She worked on the committee for many years to ensure its viability and to make all the necessary Government applications for ongoing funding. A second office was also established in Coonamble. Mrs Zell worked for years establishing networks with other rural financial advisory groups as they were subsequently established around NSW and interstate.

Mrs Zell was also one of the founding members of the Toora Bungles newsletter for the Tooraweenah community. These ladies saw a need for the small community to have their own newsletter to assist with community cohesion and local support. She was one of the original editors and took her turn on the roster with typing the monthly newsletter and having it copied, folded, and delivered for distribution to community members. This was all done in a voluntary capacity. Mrs Zell kept doing it until the updated computer software packages got too much for her and her old computer as she got older.

Alongside her many volunteer positions, Mrs Zell was also the recipient of numerous awards that recognized her achievements.

• In 1993, she received an appreciation award for contribution to the Rural Women’s Satellite Conference.
• In 1994 and 1996, she was given the Australia Day Citizenship Award, along with a letter of commendation from Gilgandra Shire Council.
• In 1995, she was awarded Gilgandra shire certificate of appreciation for many hours of voluntary work since the inception of the Castlereagh Advisory Centre.
• In 2001, she was awarded the Centenary Medal for service to the local community.
• In 2010, she was the runner up for Gilgandra Senior Citizen of the Year and received a letter of Commendation.
• In 2019, Mrs Zell was put on the Hidden Treasures Honour Roll.

Mrs Zell always kept in touch with people who were going through tough times. She would visit those who were in hospital or kept in touch by phone. She valued her local community and was always there to help when needed. Mrs Zell carried out all these roles in the true spirit of volunteering, gifting thousands of hours to make life a little easier and more rewarding for others.

Compiled by Jill Blackman

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