WELL DONE: Donna Suter was presented the Community Champion Award at the Fraser Coast Regional Council's September meeting by the mayor and councillors. The award was given in recognition of Donna's service to the Maryborough community.
WELL DONE: Donna Suter was presented the Community Champion Award at the Fraser Coast Regional Council's September meeting by the mayor and councillors. The award was given in recognition of Donna's service to the Maryborough community. Boni Holmes

Donna keeps 'grey matter working' by volunteering

MADONNA Suter, better known as Donna, said the only way to keep her "grey matter working" was her volunteering in the community.

She was born and bred in Maryborough and lived on a dairy farm with parents, four siblings and uncle's family. Donna started employment in the forestry department after finishing her junior certificate at St Mary's Catholic School.

She married Kenneth Suter in 1954 and has been working with and in the community since 1972.

Donna has a life membership with the Granville Hockey Club, received the Australia Day Citizen Award in 1992 and more recently was presented with the Community Champion Award by the Fraser Coast Regional Council at September's meeting.

"I have been around a long time and when I start looking at things, I think, what have I done," she said.

"I was very surprised to receive the award," she said.

Donna worked with Gilbert Alison, who served as a Liberal Party of Australia member for the seat of Maryborough from 1971-77 and again from 1983-89.

Gilbert Alison was also the chairman of the Committee of the Ageing and asked Donna to do the bookkeeping.

"I had two small children at the time and said I would take up the position if I didn't have to go to the late night meetings - so I have gone on from 1972.

"And I have been on the executive ever since."

Donna said she had seen tremendous changes.

"I have been a single mum since 1961, I was widowed when my husband died from Leukaemia.

"I have seen tremendous changes throughout my life from rearing kids, employment and volunteering.

"One of the most humorous stories was in 1969 following the pension eligibility changes I decided to seek full time employment.

"A position came up at Hyne and Son which I felt would be suitable in view of my work in the forestry department.

"But on asking my age and admitting to 38 the interviewing gent said 'Oh, you are over the hill'."

"Needless to say I gave up the idea of working for Hyne and Son.

"At that time Gilbert Alison offered me employment in his accountancy firm where I stayed for the next 20 years working in his practice and then transferring to become his parliamentary secretary during his terms in state government."

Donna mentions she was the first official electorate secretary in the Maryborough electorate and the first to trial computers in country state members' offices.

She became very active in community affairs firstly as treasurer of the Maryborough and District Committee on the Ageing - a position Donna held for 44 years, and then accepting nomination as secretary - a position she still holds.

For many years she was caretaker, booking officer, volunteer Oracle reader, in fact, general factotum at the Maryborough and District Senior Citizens Centre.

"I was very instrumental in U3A being auspice by MaDCotA in the mid eighties and am very proud of the success of this organisation," Donna said.

"I also joined ESA International Alpha Zeta branch of Maryborough in 1987 and held all executive positions as well as rising to state president of ESA in 2001.

"I joined the Point Lookout Croquet Club and enjoy playing this sport as often as possible - I also play a very active role in the administration of this club."

Donna believes her community and giving nature comes from her heritage.

"My great grandparents were early settlers in Tinana and you can look around and see the donations from the Barbeler family," she said.

"I watched my mother on the tuckshops and help with the Catholic ball, she was always was the one in the sink washing up.

"My mum and dad were on a dairy farm and dad provided all the milk and cream to the nuns and brothers - and I think that has come through me.

"It was the way I was brought up."

Donna said she loves people.

"I don't talk a lot when I am out, but I listen and hear a lot and I learn a lot."

Donna's other community activities include:

* Treasurer of Granville Hockey Club - awarded life membership in 1984.

* Organised the St Mary's Catholic Debutante Ball for approximately 15 years.

* Secretary of the Bicentennial Committee in 1988.

* Secretary of the Queensland Eisteddfod in 1992.

* Assists annually at the local Maryborough Eisteddfod.

* Member of the Maryborough Senior Citizens Club.

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