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The Independent Voice of
Central West Queensland since 1923
Central West Queensland

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11 August, 2020

Blackall's 'lifeblood' awarded OAM

REVEREND Beth O’Neill has been presented with her Order of Australia Medal (OAM), honouring her service to the Blackall-Tambo regional communities.

By Hamish Hart

Rev. Beth O’Neill believes her OAM is not just for herself, but for all the people of Blackall.

Described as the “lifeblood of Blackall”, Rev. O’Neill was announced as a recipient during this year’s Australia Day honours.

She received her medal July 14 in an individual, Covid-19 regulated ceremony at Government House with Queensland Governor, His Excellency the Honourable, Paul de Jersey.

“It was great to receive the honour,” Rev. O’Neill said. “Due to the virus, the awards were individually presented. It would have been nice to be there as a group but the way it was done made it special as I had time to talk to the Governor about him visiting Blackall.”

Rev. O’Neill made her way to the Blackall district in 1966, moving from Darracourt Station where she worked as a governess for the Adams family. She operated a drapery business for 20 years before becoming involved in the local Anglican Church.

The former governess was made a deacon in 1991 and the Anglican Parish of Barcoo’s honorary priest in 1993, a position she holds to this day.

Rev. O’Neill became well-respected in the region due to her kind demeanour and positive morals, leading to her reign as a Blackall-Tambo Shire councillor for 13 years from 1991-2004.

During her time as Barcoo Parish priest and shire councillor, Rev. O’Neill assisted in establishing the Barcoo Family Care in 1993. Now known as the Blackall Neighbourhood Centre, the community organisation offers services to local youth and elders through group programs and individual sessions.

“Locals didn’t have a place to go for assistance,” she said. “It was a very important group we set up through State and Federal funding, which helped to employ full-time workers. Cooktown and Goondiwindi were chosen as pilot programs for Family Care.”

Rev. O’Neill has been a member of many committees in the Blackall region including the ambulance, hospital and aged-care facilities, and she says she owes her OAM to the people on all these boards.

“It’s not about one person, it’s about the actions of a whole group,” Ms O’Neill said. “No award is individual and you need to work together.

“No one person can do a great deal on their own and I believe the award recognises the Anglican Church and the entire Blackall community.”

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