- Honour Roll
"I certainly think we developed an awareness in women of the importance of local government for the community and the importance of women playing an equal role" - Gwen Goedecke
As a child growing up in Seddon during the Great Depression, Gwen Goedecke learned first-hand the extraordinary impact local government could have on people's lives.
"In those days in Footscray, 1929, the poverty was shocking," Gwen said. "But in that terrible Depression, Footscray Council built the baths where we all learnt to swim. They beautified those magnificent gardens in Footscray. They created the Yarraville Gardens out of another eyesore that was a swamp and a chemical dump."
In Gwen this implanted an admiration for, and confidence in, local government. It also ignited a desire to ensure female representation at all levels of decision-making. Her achievements included membership of the Union of Australian Women from 1955, advocating for equal pay, better childcare and greater representation for women at all levels of government. Gwen was also the second ever female councillor on the Sunshine City Council where she served from 1984 to 1987.
"I got so fond of the western suburbs growing up here as a child," Gwen said. "I was proud to be part of a community effort to make the place a bit nicer. There was an incredible stigma about living in Footscray, when you need to be proud of where you live. It gives you strength if you recognise social and environmental needs and start to do something about it. It gives you that purpose in life and it gives people collectively some dignity."
Gwen was a founding member of the Sunshine International Women's Committee in 1974 and later became Secretary. Her work in this organisation enhanced and informed local women's participation in public life. She was a member of the Footscray Local Governance Association, a campaign to encourage more women to stand for council.
Gwen was also a founding member of the Footscray Centre for Working Women in 1974 where she was instrumental in helping many migrant women working in local factories obtain appropriate advice, information and assistance. Gwen was the 2006 Dame Phyllis Frost Woman of the Year, in recognition of her significant contribution to the status of women. In 2001, she was awarded the Centenary Medal for services to the community.