Half-century of service
Alwyn Merle Gillett was born on the 9th of December 1927 in Ballarat. She was raised on a dairy farm as the only girl with four brothers at Cherry Tree, via Sebastopol. Alwyn attended Sebastopol State School and Ballarat High School. Alwyn married Harold William (Dick) Searle on the 2nd of February 1952. They lived in Sebastopol and had four Children; Colin Maxwell, Glenda Lorraine, Lesley Marion, and Murray William.
She then embarked on a lifetime of community involvement, with a wide range of organisations gaining the benefit of her talents. These included Better Hearing Ballarat, Lakeside Auxiliary, Meals on Wheels (Ballarat South), Meniere's Support Group, Woady Yaloak Historical Society, and the Ballarat Highland Dancing Guyild (member and president). Alwyn has provided transport for cancer patients and helped to plan the building of Jessie Gillett Court, an aged care facility in Sebastopol named after her aunt.
Alwyn was named Citizen of the Year and Senior Citizen of the Year in 2004 but declined nomination for 2005 Australian of the Year awards. Another major area of interest for her has been local history and the environment.
Dick, at the age of 43 in 1968, whilst cutting in the forest at Mt Lonach (Vic), near Mt Cole, he had a nasty accident and suffered severe head injuries which resulted in him losing a lot of shoulder strength which forced him to retire from his favored sport of competitive wood chopping. Dick worked in the bush for 53 years and his two sons Murray and Colin followed in his footsteps. On September 27, 1991, Dick received news from the Stockman's Hall of Fame at Longreach that he had been listed as an "Unsung Hero" in recognition of his pioneering work ethic, his respect and passion for the Australian bush and the many stories that he enjoyed sharing with the younger generation. On Australia Day 1992, he was awarded Sebastopol Citizen of the Year. Dick Searle died peacefully at his home on 1st February 1998 aged 72 years.
Thanks to a family history of wood cutting and conservation, Alwyn has been actively involved with the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame and Outback Heritage Centre at Longreach, Queensland, as well as the Axemen's Hall of Fame at Latrobe in Tasmania. She has also been involved in the research and development of a national memorial at Eden, in NSW, for bushmen and axemen who have lost their lives through accidents over the past 100 years.
In 1997, Alwyn was included in the Australian Axemen's Hall of Fame, and, in 1998, she and her grandson, Matthew, received the first medallion issued by that body in honor of the late Dick Searle, Alwyn's husband of 46 years.
In her nominator's words, "over the last 50 years, she has worked tirelessly and cheerfully to make Ballarat a great place for all who live here."
Alwyn died on the 22nd of September 2015 aged 87. She is buried at the Ballarat New Cemetery Lawn K Row 3 Grave 39 with her beloved husband Harold William (Dick) Searle.