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This story and photographs initially appeared as a press release from Dr Joe McGirr and have been reproduced with permission. 

Pastoral care co-ordinator Reverend Leonie White has been named as the 2022 Wagga Wagga Local Woman of the Year.

Independent Member for Wagga Wagga, Dr Joe McGirr, made the announcement during an International Women’s Day 2022 event on Tuesday 3 March, held jointly by Dr McGirr and the Wagga Wagga Women’s Health Centre.

Dr McGirr paid tribute to Reverend White’s dedicated service, which dates back more than two decades.

‘It is during the hardest times, whether it is for individuals or the community, that Leonie’s compassion shines,’ he said.

‘She is dedicated to helping patients, and their families and hospital staff, and to the wider community. Even the challenges presented by COVID-19 have not prevented Leonie from being available when she is needed.

‘It is a pleasure to present this award in recognition of Leonie’s long history of service to her community.’

Reverend White, an ordained Anglican deacon, has worked in pastoral care at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital for more than 20 years, initially as a volunteer, then as assistant to the co-ordinator of pastoral care before she was ultimately appointed as co-ordinator.

She also serves as Anglican chaplain at Wagga Wagga’s Calvary Hospital.

A part of the Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network, Reverend White also volunteered her time during the Black Summer Bushfires.

More recently, Reverend White has been confronted with the challenge of providing pastoral care during the COVID-19 lockdowns, which prevented many volunteers from being able to visit the hospital.

This has meant that Reverend White is sometimes the sole pastoral care worker available to patients, but she has continued to be available to patients, as well as staff, when she is needed.

Reverend White says she was surprised and humbled by the presentation of the 2022 Wagga Wagga Local Woman of the Year award.

‘I never take for granted that I am allowed into the most vulnerable places and times in people’s lives – I treasure the opportunity to serve the community that I love in this way,’ she said.

‘I come from a family of those that serve; from nurses, missionaries, Rural Fire Service, teachers, researchers, farmers, and those that create beautiful things to lift people’s spirits and those that in their everyday lives do the best they can in the place that they find themselves with courage, compassion and care. I have the most amazing team to help me in normal times.

‘I am privileged to live in a caring and supportive community in the Eunony Valley, where love of the land and the environment is strong and where a helping hand is never far away.

‘My role can be one of daily challenges and sadness, but there are also moments of great joy when someone recovers from a serious illness or accident and goes home.

‘There have been many memorable occasions where the pastoral care team, some 45 of them, has made a difference in someone’s life. We see our role as companions on the way to healing.

‘Some of my team have volunteered because of the care that they received when loved ones had been ill.

‘My care of staff is one of ‘presence’, an encouraging word and a smile – they know that I am there if they need me.’

For Rev White, one of the highlights of her time as co-ordinator at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital, was seeing the completion of multi-faith space.

‘Prayer has always been a big part of my life – like breathing. Sometimes it is on the run and sometimes in the peace of my garden and, of course, in my beloved Anglican Parish of Wagga Wagga church of St John’s,’ she said.

‘The award to me is a celebration of the leadership role women have in the community – it celebrates all women’s contribution not just mine,’ she said.

‘Many women daily juggle work, family and community, some like me are appreciated in the workplace, at home and in the community – not all get the recognition that they deserve.

‘They get up each day and face the world they find themselves in and do the best they can with what they have and it feels like a thankless task.

‘This award is in recognition for all their effort and struggle. This award says ‘you matter’.’

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