Sue Whelan’s three daughters couldn’t remember a time their mum wasn’t a councillor or working for various community organisations.
Mrs Whelan had an infant daughter, was pregnant with her second and some years off welcoming her third when she first ran for council in 1984.
It began a 33 year career on Queanbeyan City Council with service on the board of YMCA, Public Libraries NSW, the Australian Local Government Women’s Association and the Business Enterprise Centre.
Most of her life has been dedicated to helping her community and it was for this Mrs Whelan was recognised as the Monaro Local Woman of the Year by Deputy Premier John Barilaro on Thursday.
Mrs Whelan said her driving force was always to make things better for the community and to keep Queanbeyan on the map.
“I got involved in council originally because I didn’t think there were enough young women involved,” she said.
“I’m not the sort of person that sits there to keep a seat warm.”
It was this attitude that ensured Mrs Whelan never lay down when it came to an issue she felt passionate about. Among her list of greatest accomplishments on council she says she is proud of some of the fights against developers to ensure the city got the best outcome possible.
Mr Barilaro was effusive in his praise of the former councillor and her work in the city.
“Sue worked from 1984 until 2016 to ensure Queanbeyan prospered, and it is no coincidence that we have seen our city thrive during this period,” Mr Barilaro said.
“It is clear that Sue Whelan is truly dedicated to every cause that she undertakes and the Monaro is a better place because of her.”
Mrs Whelan remembers in the early days of her career often being the only woman in the room when it came to board meetings and she said she was pleased it was easier for women now to be involved at an executive level.
However she said there were still not enough women in local government which she said was vital as she believed women bring a different and valuable perspective.
Her message to young women everywhere was clear.
“There are women who think you have to be like the men but you don’t, you have to be yourself,” she said.
“Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
“It won’t be easy. But the rewards can be better than anything you ever imagined.”
She added she would always be happy to lend a hand to anyone that asked.