Portrait of a remarkable woman

IT took two years for Traralgon’s Lorraine Bartling to come around to the idea of a book being written about her.

But her reluctance to seek recognition was eventually outweighed by a realisation that her story could send a crucial message – that women can succeed no matter what their background.

“They’ll use it for young people to know that you don’t have to be smart or from a wealthy family, if you really have a goal in life, you can succeed,” Mrs Bartling said.

A brainchild of community welfare organisation Quantum Support Services, the book ‘Lorraine’s Story: A portrait of a remarkable woman’, details Mrs Bartling’s life from what she describes as an “ordinary background” to a career in health, welfare and local government, along with an overwhelming sense of social responsibility.

Growing up in the small West Gippsland farming community of Ellinbank, Mrs Bartling was introduced to volunteerism by her parents, who gave their time to the local fire brigade and the Red Cross.

“My mother always talked about ‘it’s much better to give than receive’,” Mrs Bartling said. She has carried this attitude into her every-day life. “I’m not one to sit and drink coffee. I’m much better if I’m doing something and looking to a vision for the future,” she said.

Mrs Bartling began working life as a nurse in the 1950s and a decade later moved into the welfare sector, which led to her involvement in the construction of Traralgon aged care facility Yallambee.

“It’s always been a highlight that I’ve been involved in that because I think it’s so important for our aged people to be well looked after,” she said.

Mrs Bartling married Ken Bartling in 1980 while they were both working for the Traralgon Council. Mrs Bartling was later elected as a councillor and served two years as mayor, only the second woman to hold the position. She also served as mayor for the amalgamated Latrobe Shire.

The vast subsequent charity work Mrs Bartling undertook and involvement in various committees earned her an Order of Australia Medal.

Upon launching her biography on Friday, International Women’s Day, Mrs Bartling said she believed women had “come a long way”.

She said the secret to progressing further was to know how to “gain the respect of men”.

“It doesn’t matter in what environment, but certainly on boards and things, to go in – even though you might have a very strong agenda – go in and just take it quietly and get that respect because it’s so important, because once you lose that, you won’t get anywhere,” Mrs Bartling said.

“I’m not a great believer, I have to admit, that we should have quotas of women on councils or in state parliament or federal parliament. I believe that whatever the gender is, it’s important that the person is the right person to be there.”

She said for the Latrobe Valley to move forward, the community needed to “leave the parochialism on the football field and work together as a team”.

Mrs Bartling’s biography has been jointly funded by Quantum Support, Latrobe Regional Hospital, Yallambee Aged Care Services and Latrobe City Council. Proceeds from the book will go into a Latrobe City trust fund for nurses and social workers to further their qualifications.