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News & Events
Don’t be afraid of life. ‘It is for living’ is Helen’s mantra
July 22, 2021
If Helen Besley had to advise her younger self, she is under no doubt what she would say.
“I would advise her to go for it and trust life. You are the creator of your life so have the courage and faith to make the most of it and learn from it,” she says confidently.
It is a mantra that she has followed over the course of her full and satisfying 80 years.
“I’ve been fortunate in so many ways. There have been tough, challenging times too of course but these are the experiences that provide valuable learning.”
Helen moved into Rushall Park almost five years ago with her husband, John. He was the one who had visited the village to see a friend. Then together they came to an open day and about the same time put their names on the wait list.
“We weren’t ready at that stage but we did know that Rushall Park was the right place for us to move into when the time came,” Helen said.
Before moving into the former home of Anne Jeffery, one-time secretary to OCAV’s superintendent, Helen and John were living in Hurstbridge close to the bush which she loved and cared for.
“It was a lovely environment and community to live in. We loved our home but gradually we realised it was getting too much,” she said.
Moving into Rushall Park was absolutely right for them. Although Helen took a while to settle in, she now thrives on the experience of being part of the community, enjoying village activities, and living within its beautiful gardens and history.
Helen was born in Melbourne, she moved to Adelaide during the war with her mother who needed to return to care for her bedridden grandmother. During the war her father joined the air force and maintained planes in Mildura and Townsville. She was the eldest of a family of six. After completing year 12 she enrolled at Adelaide Teachers College and Adelaide University majoring in English and History and gaining a Dip Ed.
Her first teaching position was at a country high school in the Upper Murray which she describes as ‘eye-opening’. Three years later she journeyed to Malaysia, visiting university friends and teaching for a few months, before returning to Melbourne to teach at PLC Burwood. Over the next four years she met and married John, a teacher at Melbourne Grammar School. She resigned that position to have the first of their two boys.
A few years later, Helen returned to part-time work tutoring overseas students at home. This was the start of a new stage in her life. She moved into teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) at AMES (Adult Migrant Education Services) and a few years later was appointed to a position at Prahran College of TAFE. Initially she supported students from non-English speaking backgrounds, then combined that with teaching communication skills units. After nearly 17 years at TAFE she accepted a government package to resign. It had been a time of exciting and challenging experiences.
Not ready to retire and never one to look back, Helen continued to look for opportunities to find training elsewhere. A private provider offered her work training staff in aged care facilities. She found herself training volunteers in Community and Support Services before becoming a volunteer support worker at Diamond Valley Community Support in Greensborough. Her connection to DVCS has lasted 20 years and been challenging and rewarding.
Volunteering created another opportunity for Helen. Community Information and Support Victoria asked her to take on a part-time training position to provide Emergency Relief training to volunteer emergency relief and community workers. The role offered her 12+ years training people who were giving service to their communities throughout the state.
“It was the job which brought together all my skills I had and further developed during my career, and I had the privilege to enable other wonderful people to develop their ability to work within their own communities.”
“I look back on those days, and that job was a highlight,” Helen added.
Today Helen remains active. She continues her exercise regimen, swimming, attending physio classes, and dancing when possible. She also follows her own spiritual path and gives support to her large family and friends. Over COVID she has missed seeing her grandsons in Sydney and volunteering in the agency.
“There is always plenty to be getting on with in and around Rushall Park, and handling my other responsibilities,” Helen said.
“I have always followed my dreams and tried to be the best I can be. Learning from difficulties are stepping-stones to wisdom. At least that is what I have found. And I have been truly blessed.”
Sanctuary is how artist Gillian Coates describes her home at Currie Park, OCAV’s village in Euroa. “When I go to Melbourne and I am heading back to Euroa, I can’t wait to get home to the peacefulness of this place. It is like a sanctuary for me."