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Margaret gives back some of the blessings received in her life

2019 Victorian Premier's Award for Victorian Senior of the Year recipient Margaret Young has volunteered for over a decade in palliative care.

Margaret Young with family guests and Minister Luke Donnellan
Margaret Young with her family, and Minister for Ageing Luke Donnellan

Margaret Young was presented with this award on Tuesday 22 October 2019 at Government House. Her son Stephen Young delivered the following speech on behalf of Margaret as she can no longer speak.

Your Excellency,
Good morning and thank you for this honour.

I love speaking in public. I have been known to wrest a microphone from a colleague and, as an ex-TAFE lecturer, I could speak for 3 hours non-stop.
But that voice has been taken from me by motor neuron disease and now I must use another’s voice, but I still have a lot to say.

At my secondary school, the Principal would regularly say, ”Girls, from those to whom much is given, much will be required.” I confess I thought he was an old fossil. Now I find that I am of the same mind.

When I retired, I decided to volunteer and work for and with people who are frequently marginalised: people with disabilities, people who are financially disadvantaged and people who are dying. So I volunteered at Vision Australia, The Smith Family and at Eastern Palliative Care (EPC)

Volunteering is often seen as selfless, and indeed one does give a lot of oneself to it. In that regard, I guess I was echoing the philosophy of my school Principal: that is, giving back some of the blessings I have received in my life.

But there were other important aspects: I wanted to be challenged; intellectually and ethically. I did not want to be on the margins of society. I wanted to be engaged and still involved. And I have been.

To single out one of my volunteering roles – sitting with people who are dying is often challenging and sad, but I have found during my 11 years of being a home visitor, that most people in palliative care are getting on with life, often with enthusiasm and joy. I have also found that it is a privilege to be invited into a dying person’s life and to walk a little way with them.

And now I find myself in the same position. A friend asked me the other day “in your situation, where is the gold?” this was a searching question.

Indeed, there is gold to be found: in family, friends, nature, music, art, literature and in my continuing volunteering.

Thank you.

Reviewed 08 August 2022