An 89-year-old war widow, Dorothy Clarke, has found solace and support in the Australian War Widows Queensland (AWWQ) Transport Assistance Program, which has been supported by grant funding from the Eastern Star Foundation for a third year, this year. The $50,000 grant has allowed AWWQ to continue to positively impact the well-being of war widows across the state.
Dorothy, who described the program as the best thing since sliced bread, said it had been instrumental in enabling her to continue attending meetings and events, fostering meaningful connections with fellow war widows.
Dorothy’s early life was spent on a farm north of Gladstone, where she cherishes memories of cultivating paw paws, pineapples, tomatoes, and cucumbers. After attending a small bush school for her primary education, she completed her high schooling in Gladstone. She later moved to Brisbane for her adult years, where she and her late husband, who served in the Navy during the Korean War, raised their only daughter.
Following her husband’s passing 30 years ago, Dorothy’s first encounter with AWWQ was when she attended a luncheon at Kedron Wavell Services Club. She participated in the AWWQ events for several years and gradually began attending meetings.
Dorothy says that she now keenly looks forward to the monthly meetings to connect with fellow war widows who have become her friends over the years.
“Each month, guest speakers provide useful and interesting information to the ladies, and I have found some of the talks invaluable,” said Dorothy.
Finding it increasingly difficult in more recent years to attend meetings and events, Dorothy was delighted to learn about the grants from the Eastern Star Foundation over the past few years which have helped to fund the AWWQ Transport Assistance Program. She can now get to and from meetings in a cab, which is usually shared with two other war widows living nearby. Dorothy has also enjoyed using the AWWQ minivan purchased as part of the grant.
“Public transport became challenging for me, especially with my walking stick, and I felt unsafe walking alone to the train station due to the increased risk of falls,” says Dorothy.
“I have also been on three outings in the AWWQ minivan, and it’s been most enjoyable.
“Travelling with friends is fun, and we always have a natter along the way. The trip is comfortable, and the driver is helpful, assisting us on and off the bus. I love the minivan as I never feel rushed while boarding or exiting the bus, and we always arrive on time.”
State President of Australian War Widows Queensland, Judy Smith, says that with the support of the Eastern Star Foundation, AWWQ has been able to make a tangible difference in the lives of war widows.
“This initiative has fostered social interaction and allowed members to forge meaningful connections within the organisation, enriching their lives and combating social isolation,” said Judy.
Eastern Star Foundation Chair, Elizabeth Watt, said that the program aligned well with the Foundation’s mission which was about financially supporting initiatives that helped the aged to remain independent, participate in their community and have a support network.
“We are delighted to have been able to support this initiative for a third year, supporting war widows with their independence and to maintain their friendships,” said Elizabeth.
Thanks to the AWWQ Transport Assistance Program and the Eastern Star Foundation’s ongoing support, war widows like Dorothy Clarke have found a lifeline to engage with their community, attend events, and build lasting friendships.
“There is no doubt the transport assistance program encourages members to attend meetings as it is simple, comfortable, and safe,” Dorothy says.
The impact of this program on the well-being and quality of life for war widows across the state cannot be understated, and it continues to make a positive difference in their lives today.