Joan Griffiths was awarded Citizen of the Year for her remarkable contributions to the Narrabri Shire community, volunteering with multiple organisations.

The highly active community member was presented with her award by mayor Darrell Tiemens and Australia Day ambassador Clyde Campbell AM on the shire’s Australia Day celebration, and when her name was called by ceremony MC Jesse Weeks, she was both surprised and appreciative of the recognition.

“I was a bit overwhelmed and humbled by it, but very proud at the same time, I’m only a spokesperson in the world of all the organisations that I belong to, and without the other volunteers not much happens – it’s really their award as well,” said Joan.

“I really enjoy what I do, if I can help other people, it makes me feel happier.”

Our Citizen of the Year has received recognition for her various contributions in the past, including Senior Citizen of the Year, and the Motivation and Friendship Award while a member of Narrabri Self Improvement and Help to Others (SIAHTO) in 2023.

In total, Joan volunteers for seven different community groups, and where one may wonder how she finds the time, she believes that when something is important, she makes the time.

“You make time for what you want to do – my mother always told me that – and I’ve always liked to be busy, it helps with a lot of other things as well,” said Joan.

On that note, she can’t remember a time in her life that she didn’t volunteer, and credits both her mother and father for passing on the passion to have an active presence, helping her community.

“By volunteering you really do become a part of the community, and all these great organisations couldn’t operate without volunteers,” said Joan.

Among the organisations that Joan volunteers for is Shared Table, where the team’s essential efforts have made a considerable impact, providing cooked meals and hampers for the Narrabri community every Friday, last Christmas, providing a record 177 hampers to families and individuals in need.

“Shared Table helps so many people in the community with the food donations that we receive, particularly from supermarkets, and that food would otherwise go to waste,” said Joan.

As well as Shared Table, Joan is a member of the Narrabri Carers and Caring Group, Namoi Women’s Shed, Meals on Wheels, Dementia Friendly Town Committee, and Carers Morning Tea Group.

Going through her late husband Don’s journey with dementia inspired her efforts to offer more support to those living with and caring for those with the condition.

As a passionate advocate for Parkinson’s and dementia, she helps deliver monthly health information sessions for the and Parkinson’s Support Group and Dementia Awareness Group, through which she organises the Memory Walk to raise awareness and funds for Dementia Australia.

“I’ve got family that have Parkinson’s and that’s close to my heart and the Carers Group started because there wasn’t anything like the group available through the hospital,” said Joan.

“It’s a social get-together to help people through networking and social interaction and friendship is good for the brain.”

Joan grew up in Armidale before moving to Narrabri over 40 years ago and credits her 30 years of working at the post office for meeting so many people in town.

“Narrabri is such a great community – my husband Don and I came here nearly to give Narrabri a trial and though Don has passed on, here I still am, 40 years later,” said Joan.

“It’s such a friendly and helpful community, if somebody is struggling, people do help one another out, and try to look after each other as best we can.

“There are so many community groups in Narrabri doing good things – I’m sure anyone would be welcome to join and get involved.”

Besides her extensive volunteering efforts, the 73-year-old is known for being very physically active and is a member of the Bushwalking Club and a facilitator of Narrabri Parkrun.

“I love bushwalking, and when I joined the club 15 years ago, I really had to become fit to make sure I could do the walks,” said Joan.

“If I want to do a walk that’s difficult, I will make sure I up my fitness level so I can do it.

“Bushwalking really helps with mental health, I love heading out for an adventure in the beautiful Kaputar and away from all the stresses of life.”

Last year, Joan really got out of her comfort zone, going on an overseas trip to Nepal, where she got to experience a whole other culture and sense of community.

“Nepal was amazing, it was one of the best experiences of my life – going into a country with my own personal tour guide and living like a local – and seeing how people are so happy with very little and consider family to be everything,” said Joan.

“You don’t have to have a lot, it’s an appreciation for the basic things, even the children didn’t have a whole lot of toys.”

While Joan is really pleased with her volunteering efforts, she feels that she still has a whole lot more adventuring to do.

Next, she wants to go back to Nepal and do some real hiking, but in the meantime, she’s looking forward to more local bushwalking and time giving back to the community.

“Volunteering is such an easy thing to do, it doesn’t cost you anything,” said Joan.

“You don’t need a lot to give back and help someone.

“You don’t even need money, only your time and energy.”

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