Richly deserved

Castlemaine resident and respected beekeeper Eileen McDonald has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the community of Mount Alexander Shire, and to apiculture.
The mother of six and passionate apiarist said she was shocked and a little embarrassed when she first got news of the award.
“Being named the Mount Alexander Shire Citizen of the Year (2017) was a huge thrill, but this is just a whole other level!” she said.
“I’m really chuffed that people would think enough of my contribution to nominate me.”
Eileen’s husband Bob said the nomination was a group effort by family, apiculture colleagues and other members of the community and they were delighted Eileen would receive the recognition she so richly deserved after so many years of dedication and hard work for a range of causes.
Born and raised in Castlemaine, Eileen McDonald (McKendry) has dedicated her life to community service and to the beekeeping industry she is so passionate about.
Eileen was introduced to apiculture by her husband Robert ‘Bob’ McDonald and the young couple, and then subsequently their family, travelled far and wide tending to their bees and harvesting their honey.
Once it was time for their eldest child to start school, Eileen and Bob set down roots at McKenzie Hill on the fringe of Castlemaine and in the intervening years built a highly successful apiculture enterprise.
Bob was often away for weeks at a time tending bees at locations as far away as northern New South Wales and in the meantime Eileen threw all her energy into raising their six children, five boys and one girl.
This involved volunteering in various capacities including fundraising and school council at the Winters Flat Primary School over a 19-year period and the Castlemaine Technical College over a similar timeframe. Eileen also volunteered at the Castlemaine High School for a stint.
“One of our sons Laurie attended the High School and said ‘you probably don’t have time to be involved in the high school mum’. But of course I made the time,” she said.
Eileen has also filled numerous roles with the 1st Castlemaine Pioneer Scout Group over a 23-year period and served on the Victorian Apiarists Association executive, Bendigo Branch of the VPA and Crop Pollination Association Inc – including in the role of editor of the Beekeeper Newsletter.
Eileen and Bob opened their home to numerous foster children and in later years Eileen volunteered as a parent representative on the regional Integration Committee – advocating for families fighting for funding and support for children with disabilities.
“This was a really challenging role. It was meant to be a monthly commitment, reading applications and providing input, but soon we were meeting fortnightly. I always felt for those families struggling for support. There was never enough funding to go around,” Eileen said.
When the committee was disbanded Eileen said she felt she had a “hole in her heart” and her work was unfinished.
“I wished there was something more I could have done to support these families,” she said.
A few years later Eileen was reading our sister paper the Castlemaine Mail and noted an article about the Mount Alexander Shire Accommodation and Respite Group searching for land to build their respite house to support families caring for those with disabilities.
“I said to Bob. This is it! This is how we can help,” she said.
“I was worried the block of land we had to offer at McKenzie Hill was a little far out of town, but we reached out to MASARG and they were thrilled.
“We are so happy that we could help make their dream a reality. It is so wonderful to see that finished home sitting up there on the hill. My heart is now full.”

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