Shepparton’s Bridget McNamara humbled to receive OAM

By James Bennett

Bridget McNamara's father Raymond O’Dwyer was the leading pioneer of the West Corurgan private irrigation scheme. His goal was to build a water system that would help build a stable community at Corowa in NSW.

Evidently Mr O'Dwyer's will to help people and his vision for the future rubbed off onto his daughter, who made it her mission to help maintain a stable community in Shepparton.

It was this dedication to her community that resulted in Mrs McNamara, 90, being named on the Governor General’s Australia Day Honours List, as one of just two Shepparton people to receive an Order of Australia Medal this year.

“I’m incredibly humbled and feel very honoured to be recognised with this award; it’s a complete surprise,” she said.

“I was raised in a family where a strong sense of community spirit was encouraged and valued. It’s something I feel is very important today more than ever.

“I have jumped in to help out whenever I have seen the need. Community groups always want volunteers, and I have always enjoyed helping.”

Mrs McNamara said when she received the email telling her the news, it was late on a Monday night last year and she thought someone was having a joke with her.

She said she was slightly embarrassed by the recognition, as she could name many others who were worthy of the accolade.

But she doesn’t plan to slow down the volunteering anytime soon, and still makes up the tables for Hospice and church functions.

If there’s a clue to one of Mrs McNamara’s favourite hobbies, it comes from her name.

She’s played Bridge for 40 years and she said it was part of who she is.

Three days a week, the great-grandmother plays at Shepparton Bridge Club.

“It keeps your brain working. We have usually about seven tables (of four people). I say I’m a middle of the road player,” she said with a laugh.

Mrs McNamara grew up on a cropping and livestock farm at Savernake, north of Yarrawonga in NSW, before moving to Shepparton in 1952.

She married Brian McNamara, who is best remembered in Shepparton as an auctioneer for McNamara Real Estate. He died 18 years ago.

“My father was nearly involved with everything going on in the district,” Mrs McNamara said.

“So as young people growing up, naturally we were involved in charitable schemes, even in those days.

“I still remember when my father was working Corurgan. I was a teenager when he started before it opened in 1969.

“It made such a huge difference to that area because it was really dry and suffered through droughts.”

Mrs McNamara is a former special minister of the Eucharist at St Brendan’s Parish, and an emergency minister for the church.

She is a Probus Club member, supporter and volunteer of the Greater Shepparton Lighthouse Project and a former Meals on Wheels volunteer.

“I did Meals on Wheels because it was needed in Shepparton,” she said.

“I did it for quite a few years before 1967 (then) Brian and I went into business, so I couldn’t do it.

“Once I came back home I did it again for a number of years.”

Mrs McNamara spent time as a committee volunteer for Shepparton Golf Club and Lawn Tennis Club.

She loves tennis and tips Rafael Nadal to win the men’s Australian Open and is cheering on home crowd favourite Ash Barty for the women’s.

Mrs McNamara said she had seen Shepparton grow.

She’s fond of the town and can’t think of anywhere else she’d rather live.