Local legend to tell all

Local legend to tell all

Pat Hart is presenting at the Armadale Library tomorrow (Friday) from 10.30am.

When Pat Hart looks back on her life and all she has achieved so far, even she is astounded.

From white water rafting in Fiji and land sailing in Norseman, to pioneering the local landcare movement and achieving the nation’s highest honour for service to her community, Pat has led an extraordinary life.

“It’s certainly been an exciting journey,” she said, recounting how she was hand-picked to make introductions to the Queen during her 2011 visit.

Pat Hart with then Premier Colin Barnett, and Queen Elizabeth II.

But her origin story is a far cry from rendezvous with royals.

Pat came from ‘humble beginnings’ in Mosman Park.

That’s where her love for the river has flowed from; a childhood spent frolicking down in the bay.

Her official schooling finished at the tender age of 15. But Pat never stopped learning.

“My qualifications aren’t written on paper, but have been earned through life experience,” she said.

Even at 17, people could see something special in Pat, and she was elected as chair for the Mosman Park Netball Club.

That role marked the beginning of a life of leadership.

But Pat is very quick to point out this is no tale of ‘Great Men’ (or women, to be precise). Because victories are not a solo venture, but a team effort.

“I haven’t been working alone,” she said.

“My greatest skills are being able to see a need, and then bring people along with me. I love people and I’ve been very fortunate in my life to work with so many great people to achieve good outcomes for the community.”

Shortly after arriving in Armadale 50 years ago, Pat put those skills to work.

Together with a friend, the pair founded the Armadale Toy Library, after seeing a need for one in the community.

In 1993, Pat started the Armadale Rivercare Group.

In 1994 she helped set up, then chaired, the Swan Working Group which later became the Perth Region Natural Resources Management (NRM).

In 1997 she helped establish the Armadale Gosnells Landcare Group which she chairs to this day.

Then in 2001 she set up and chaired the South East Regional Centre for Urban Landcare (SERCUL).

Pat has recently been successful in helping to advocate for $10 million in federal funding for cleaning up the Canning River catchment – a multi-pronged project in which SERCUL, the Armadale Gosnells Landcare Group, Department of Conservation and Attractions, the Cities of Armadale, Gosnells and Canning, Town of Victoria Park and local Traditional Owners will team up to improve water quality and habitat.

Federal Member for Tangney Sam Lim, Federal Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek and Zaneta Mascarenhas the member for Swan announced the new $10 million plan to clean up our rivers. Photograph – Richard Polden

Perhaps the other thing Pat is particularly skilled at is never letting an opportunity slip away. In 1987 opportunity called on the telephone – it was the local fire brigade.

“A huge fire came up the valley the day after we moved into Roleystone – it was truly terrifying,” she said.

“But they always say to face your fear, so years later when they called looking for my husband, I volunteered in his place to knock on people’s doors to tell them the brigade was conducting a burn-off.”

That one little yes propelled Pat into a seven-year stint with the Roleystone Volunteer Bushfire Brigade, then as chair of the Swan Regional Fire Advisory Committee.

Pat served in the Roleystone Volunteer Fire Bridge from 1987 to 1994.

Another door opened a few years later when a fractious debate around the development application for the Araluen Golf Course left a vacancy on council.

Pat refused to let that door close.

“It just came to me that I should run for council,” she said.

“I like a challenge. And I believe that if you see something wrong, you can’t just ignore it or you become party to the event.”

Within the course of a week, Pat had nominated, been elected unopposed, sworn in, and had sat in on her first meeting as councillor for Roleystone.

The following year “it just happened” that she was voted in as deputy mayor.

“Life really does just take you on a journey sometimes,” she said. “One thing leads to another – but you have to leave yourself open.”

Pat served as Deputy Mayor for the City of Armadale from 1993 to 1996.

Pat became the first woman to ever chair a full council meeting at the City of Armadale in the mayor’s absence.

“It was such a male-dominated arena back then – I was one of only two women on council. My heart was beating so hard, but I just kept thinking ‘I’m doing this for women’,” she said.

“It’s really pleasing to see the representation of women in the City of Armadale now.”

Then in 2001 she was asked by the Environment Minister to become a member of the Kings Park Board.

She still marvels at being asked to sit alongside renowned scientists and lawyers.

Pat has either chaired, been an office bearer, or volunteered for a list of local and regional organisations as long as her arm. Listing all of her varied services to the community is well beyond the scope of this article.

Suffice to say, she well-and-truly earned her inaugural induction into WA Landcare’s Hall of Fame last December, and her Medal of the Order of Australia the year before.

Pat doesn’t like to rank her achievements – big or small, to her they are equally important. But the OAM does hold a particular weight.

“Yes, a highlight was the Order of Australia because it recognised everything I have worked towards in my lifetime here in Armadale,” she said.

“But you don’t work to get awards, you just work on things because you love it.

“I love the people here in Armadale and I love what we’ve achieved together. Because it’s only together we make a difference.”

Tomorrow, Pat will present a talk on her extraordinary life at the Armadale Library from 10.30am as a celebration of International Women’s Day.

Places are limited and bookings are essential. To book, call 9394 5125.