Many in the Great Lakes community would support the sentiment that not much renders Leigh Vaughan speechless, but that is just what happened when Leigh and her family received the news she was the recipient of a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to the arts and music education, to local government, and to the community.
For Leigh, who has worked tirelessly to promote and advance many causes in the Great Lakes region and beyond, the news was both unexpected and overwhelming.
“I was speechless in the first instance, and many would realise this is an unusual occurrence!” she laughed.
“Personally, it makes me feel overwhelmed and indeed humbled as there are many people in our communities who are contributing in so many different ways.
“To me, it gives me hope that more women will be recognised for all that they do in their communities.”
The list of services for which Leigh’s OAM has been awarded is extensive, with many years of hard work and dedication put into each position.
My mantra has always been that creativity is at the heart of any community.- Leigh Vaughan
Not only was Leigh recently re-elected as the chair of the Arts Mid North Coast board, an organisation she has been a board member of since 2002, she is also deputy chair of Sinfonia Mid North Coast, the community orchestra, a position she took on after she was the founding chair.
“This board meets regularly to support the players in giving concerts and all the myriad of things that need to be done,” Leigh explained.
Her involvement in Orchestras of Australia Network from 2001-2010, time as a councillor on the Great Lakes Council and years of contribution as a music and performing arts teacher are also on the extensive list of accomplishments for which the OAM was awarded, but the extent of her impact within the community runs deeper still.
“I am also chair of Tuncurry Memorial Hall Trust, appointed by the minister as the hall is on Crown Land,” Leigh said.
“We do our best to generate use of the lovely historic hall, built as a memorial to those who died and served in World War I. We have also managed to add the names of the local Aboriginal soldiers who served to the honour board.”
Leigh is also a member of the advisory committee for Charles Sturt University Port Macquarie Campus, director of the Company of Voices, a 22 voice adult community vocal ensemble she founded 22 years ago, and she recently stepped down from her position of chair of the Great Lakes Band committee.
“My mantra has always been that creativity is at the heart of any community. Support for the arts and creativity automatically makes any place more livable,” Leigh said of her many contributions.
“I have a strong motivation to pursue as much as possible while I am still able. A desire to work at building the community that we aspire to live in and leave to our grandchildren and future generations.”
Explaining she was humbled and shocked to receive the honour, Leigh was quick to attribute her drive and success to an amazing support network, saying she could not have achieved what she has without her family.
“My husband John is incredibly patient, and he makes me laugh, often at myself, keeping me grounded, and our children, who are all adults and have lives and families of their own, are all wonderfully supportive of my community involvement.
“My commitment to community service was engendered by both parents. They were always involved in community organisations and I grew up with the idea of community service. Dad had a life-long commitment to Legacy, he would have been proud, I am sad that he did not live to see it.”