Yvonne Evans

Yvonne Evans has dedicated more than 35 years to working for community groups.

Honour Roll

"If you tell me I can't do something because I'm a woman, I'll show you. It comes from years of being told I couldn't have the job because I was a woman, and the lack of recognition of the skills and talents I had because I had done voluntary work. The thing that drives me at the moment is gaining recognition for the skills women learn on the job, especially in volunteer areas" - Yvonne Evans

In 2000 the Alpine Shire Council Mayor told Yvonne Evans that the neighbourhood centre she had just started managing was an eyesore that should be bulldozed. Three years later, the same mayor had to ring Yvonne to tell her the Mount Beauty Neighbourhood Centre had just won an Australia Day award for Organisation of the Year. It was a feat the centre repeated in 2005.

Her work for the Mount Beauty Centre moved it from the threat of foreclosure in 1999 to an award-winning centre that boasts a membership of 1,772 in a town of 2,400 people. The turnaround all started with Yvonne, the centre's then-84-year-old-chairman, and a few tins of paint. After a refurbishment and 16 successful grants submissions, the centre was offering internet access and courses including computer training.

Yvonne then decided the centre should become a registered training organisation, to broaden the range of courses and put an end to townspeople having to travel 100 kilometres to the nearest registered provider.

The centre now works in partnership with Wodonga TAFE, which supports Mount Beauty neighbourhood centre to deliver programs. "We worked really hard to get a good reputation. We go the extra mile for our students."

Alongside the TAFE courses, two of the centre's most popular courses are the 'Secret Men's Business' and 'Saucy Sheilas' hospitality and cooking programs, which were developed by Yvonne. Those courses helped the centre win a 2008 State Government Award for innovation in adult and community education.

"What I see now is we have a centre that members of the community of Mount Beauty stop me in the street and tell me how fantastic the place is and how proud they are of it." Yvonne is now working on a project to benefit coordinators of neighbourhood houses around Victoria. "Coordinators are often women who are underpaid and overworked, and I think their skills and talents go largely unrecognised. It is my goal through this project to change that.”