Betty McLean, the fighter for those in need |PICTURES

EDITORIAL: Betty served the community

BETTY McLean, was one of Albury-Wodonga’s most influential women in the late 20th century.

By nature a battler and a stirrer, Mrs McLean fought tenaciously for years to improve the lot of disadvantaged women on the Border.

She did so not only by serving on numerous community committees and being a city councillor, but through running with her husband the district’s first women’s refuge, working in op shops and raising money for several causes.

Close friend Jean Whitla yesterday described Mrs McLean as a clever woman who saw a need for social justice and did it.

“She was the most extraordinary woman who had such great compassion and integrity,” she said.

“If she ever saw a need for something, she would work to get it.”

Mrs Whitla recalled when her friend and her husband, Bob McLean, started a women’s refuge.

“Her perseverance to improve the lives of others was just remarkable,” she said.

“Wodonga has lost its social conscience.”

Mrs McLean died at Westmont Homestead, Baranduda, on Friday. She was 90.

She had an unsettled childhood in a broken home and part of the time was spent in boarding schools.

In 1944, she married a young army officer, Bob McLean, a move that ended her plan to be a nurse.

The couple raised three children, Robyn, David (deceased) and Vicki.

Bob rose to the rank of colonel and was area commander for Albury-Wodonga.

Postings took his family to various parts of Australia and to England in 1950-52 and 1969-70.

The McLeans had first moved to Wodonga in 1964 and returned for good in 1972.

It didn’t take long for both to become pillars of the community, Colonel McLean at times chairing the Wodonga hospital board and serving on the Albury-Wodonga corporation.

Mrs McLean, while raising a family, became involved in the Country Women’s Association and Red Cross.

In 1974 she and Colonel McLean opened Albury-Wodonga’s first women’s refuge in their home — her pioneering role now recognised in Albury’s Betty’s Place refuge.

Mrs McLean served with passion on Wod- onga Council from 1977 to 1993.

She took a special interest in promoting the welfare of women, children and disadvantaged or disabled people, often in company with fellow councillor Pam Stone.

She frequently made the point that not everyone had a car or could afford certain council charges.

For years, she chaired the health, welfare and community services committees.

Her civic role also led her to serve in other organisations such as the Upper Murray Regional Library and groups covering matters as diverse as kindergartens, public housing, scouting, the ABC, abattoirs and family planning.

Mrs McLean, in fact, convinced Wodonga hospital to start a family planning clinic after a male-dominated council had refused to auspice one.

She didn’t just sit on committees but worked in opportunity shops, washing and ironing clothes and sorting goods for the Society of St Vincent de Paul or Upper Murray Family Care.

The McLeans were regular swimmers at the old Stanley Street pool.

She fought successfully to defend it from redevelopment while she was a councillor.

Mrs McLean and Marie Cardwell were responsible for creating the Vermont Court hostel next to the hospital

She was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1989.

After her retirement from the council, she continued to serve as a watchdog from the gallery until ill-health kept her home. She continued her involvement with the CWA, neighbourhood houses, show society, historical society and the senior citizens’ club.

After her husband’s death in 2007, Mrs McLean became a resident of Vermont’s successor hostel, Westmont.

Mrs McLean is survived by her two daughters, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A funeral will be held at Conway’s Funeral Home in Wodonga on Friday at 11.30am.

- “Bob and I have always been busy people. Gives us something to talk about.”

- “They (the CWA) are a radical group when you get to the heart of it.”

- “As mayor you have to give (out) council policies that you do not always agree with and I could no sooner do that than fly over the moon.”

- “Bob has always respected my right to be an individual, even though he must have wanted to cut my throat a few times.”

- “I come up for re-election next year (1990), but my kids keep saying I’ll die of cancer first. It’s the cigarettes.”

- “I wasn’t going to kow-tow to any man (on explaining why she refused at six years old to kiss the ring of Archbishop Daniel Mannix while at a Catholic school, although not a Catholic).”

- “Women have had a pretty raw deal through life. We (the Albury-Wodonga Women’s Electoral Lobby in the 1970s) woke up a lot of people.”

- “I follow the principle of doing to others as you would like done to yourself.”

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