LYN Coulston puts listening right at the top of her skill set.
It is the key, she says, to helping ordinary people in rural communities achieve their goals.
The rural leader from Shelley has been recognised for her commitment to the Towong community with a medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in today’s Queen’s Birthday honours list.
A former Towong mayor, Mrs Coulston has dedicated the past 30 years to a range of community roles.
These include her long-time membership of the North East Catchment Management Authority, of which she’s the chairwoman.
Her other roles include chairwoman of the Victorian Blackberry Taskforce and secretary of the Upper Murray Farm Tree Group.
The Towong citizen of the year in 2006, who won the Victorian Rural Women’s Award in 1998, said the OAM was “a great honour”.
“But it’s also quite a surprise,” she said.
“When somebody thinks that what you’ve done is worthy of an award it makes you stop and think about how this has all gone over the last 30 years.”
Mrs Coulston said a lot of what she had been involved in — and envisaged she would continue for years to come — was simply “part of life”.
“In a lot of rural communities it’s about keeping things going, keeping things open and to maintain and hold onto assets,” she said.
“That is a huge challenge for rural communities, and that’s been the case now for a long time as governments step out of that space.”
Mrs Coulston said she enj-oyed helping people learn how to play the role of effecting change, something she experienced as a Towong councillor from 2000 to 2005.
“You listen to what people are saying and facilitate them to actually achieve what they want, rather than saying ‘we’ll do it’,” she said.
“In a lot of cases people don’t realise they have the power to do it.
“It doesn’t come back to money, it’s actually knowing what you want.
“Once you can do that you know you can look for the means of achieving it.”
Mrs Coulston said her only wish was that her award could be “for everyone” in the community.
“That’s so the people who are all out there doing this work can be recognised.”