Mrs Bau Earle was presented with Uniting Care’s 2019 Moderator’s Medal for outstanding dedication and commitment to the community.
This is her story.
The buzzing conversations in the hospital foyer, the scent of fresh flowers, and the warmth of helping others; Bau Earle recalls fond memories of arranging flowers in the hospital foyer with her mother, who was the convener of the first trolley service at the former St Helen’s Hospital.
Helping others came naturally to Bau, the second of three daughters born to Reverend Norman and Mabel Deller during their 15 years of missionary work in Fiji. But Bau’s involvement with the hospital would come to mean much more, when her 14 year old daughter Robyn became terminally ill in 1965.
“It was a pretty tough time. It was quite a shock to find out that Robyn had ovarian cancer. It was only three months from when we were told she had cancer until she died,” said Bau.
“Robyn had the most beautiful voice and sang at her speech night in City Hall the year before she died. She knew when she was going and she said goodbye to me and my husband Edwin, who was a wonderful support.”
Bau said her two youngest, of five children, were only two and three at the time Robyn passed away.
“I think God sent me those two girls to help me to get through that time.
“St Helen’s Hospital was just wonderful. Robyn loved the nurses and they all loved her. Part of my life was in there.”
This tough time in Bau’s life, led to a legacy of more than 40 years of volunteering with The Wesley Hospital; with Bau joining the former St Helen’s Women’s Auxiliary in 1967, the forerunner of the Wesley Women’s Auxiliary.
“The Wesley Hospital began operation on 1 March 1977 and on that day all patients from St Helen’s Hospital were transferred by ambulance to the new hospital.
“After helping mum with flowers at St Helen’s, it was the most natural thing for me to take on the flower arrangements at The Wesley.”
The role of flower convener involved the coordination and scheduling of 60 volunteers responsible for attending to patients’ flowers.
“There was a flower room with a trolley with spare vases; and three days a week, six people would go around the patients’ rooms topping up the water or rearranging the patient’s flowers.
“The coffee shop had 103 volunteers. Some members made sandwiches and hamburgers and others served on the counter; they had to add up with pencil and paper unless they were good at maths. Some time later we acquired a cash register.”
The walls of the hospital were adorned with paintings that were sold on commission, and visitors could purchase a homemade gift which had been donated or sold on commission.
“The trolley was very popular and went around each day, mostly stocked from the coffee shop. As well as toiletries and nibbles, it would sell stamps and post letters for patients,” said Bau.
Bau recalled 1984 being a very special time, when she was appointed as President of The Wesley Hospital Auxiliary.
“We continued to work hard to raise funds by having musical evenings, afternoons and mornings, and the same as we do now, fashion parades and stalls.”
This was followed by membership to the Hospital Board in 1985.
“It was the most interesting time to be a member because of the decisions that were being made about the extensions, and I was a part of that: the first medical centre, day surgery, emergency centre and breast clinic, to name a few. They were very special years to me. I did it for ten years and thought it’s time for someone with new ideas,” said Bau.
Through Bau’s encouragement and motivation, the Auxiliary held numerous events and fundraising activities resulting in significant donations to the hospital for the purchase of life-saving equipment.
“Over the past ten years we have raised over a million dollars to purchase equipment for this hospital. That’s our main purpose. We like to give it where it’s really needed. Most recently we’ve given the cooling caps for Wesley patients having chemotherapy. We actually gave the Breast Clinic their first mammogram machine,” said Bau.
Having stepped back from leadership roles, Bau remains an active member of the Auxiliary. Her commitment and dedication to The Wesley Hospital have been unwavering for over 40 years.
“I’m so proud of that hospital. I was in emergency a few weeks ago and was cared for in an emergency cubicle funded by the Wesley Auxiliary! I’m very proud to be a part of that Auxiliary and it’s still going strong. We have 20 members now; we’re a good group and we work hard.
“I would say the reward for volunteering is amazing. You receive much more than what you give. Every one of the volunteers at The Wesley would say the same thing – they love it… the companionship,” said Bau.
“I’m 90 now and I just want to keep going. I’ve certainly been involved in the hospital for a long time and I hope I can continue to do so."