The late Jill McLeod was one of those rare people whose actions emphasised the beneficial impact cultural and arts activities can have on a local community. All of her activities were undertaken with improving the Braidwood economy in mind.
Like many others, Jill and her husband Wally initially bought their property at Mongarlowe as a weekender, only moving there permanently when retiring from their Canberra business. Jill loved her home out in the bush and stayed on after Wally’s later death and her own growing ill health.
Arguably, Jill’s greatest achievement was the founding, with June Weatherstone, of the annual Braidwood ‘Quilt Event’ and subsequently establishing Braidwood Quilters Inc. Even now, more than 20 years after it began, several thousand people annually flock to Braidwood for the quilt event.
But quilting was not just a one-off. Jill’s other achievements make a formidable list. She was a founding member, secretary and later chair of Tourism Tallaganda; a member for eight years of the Capital Region Area Consultative Committee; member and president of Braidwood’s then Chamber of Commerce; and a member of the semi-formal, council-backed, Economic Development Working Group. This group was instrumental in obtaining Federal and State funding for the ‘Making it Happen’ project – a key turning point in Braidwood’s cultural and economic development.
Among other things arising from that project was the foundation in 2002 of Braidwood Regional Arts Group Inc (BRAG), whose mission was to bring together local artists, craftspeople, musicians, poets and writers to “Make Braidwood a centre for creative and cultural excellence”. Jill was a founder member of BRAG, vice-president and a committee member until 2014.
The 2005 establishment of ‘The Two Fires Festival’ in honour of poet Judith Wright saw Jill join the organising group and undertaking publicity.
As well as all these, Jill was a committee member and bookings officer of the Braidwood National Theatre 355 Sub-Committee; a founding member and secretary of the Braidwood Film Club and a regular broadcaster on Braidwood Community Radio. She was a firm believer in the importance of local radio, loved her regular program and kept it going after giving up everything else.
Jill was always helpful, supportive, and indefatigable!
In 2015 her contribution to Braidwood’s life and community was recognized with the award of the Order of Australia Medal.
Finally saying farewell to Mongarlowe and Braidwood, she died at the Adelaide home of her daughter, Helen.
Our condolences go to Helen, her husband and their two daughters.
There will be a memorial gathering for Jill McLeod at the National Theatre in the afternoon of Saturday August 11.