Huon Valley News

A lifetime of volunteering

Nominations have recently closed for the 2024 Huon Valley Community Awards, with the recipients to be announced during National Volunteer Week in May.

Ahead of the awards, we want to celebrate some of our region’s most dedicated volunteers. Often, they’re working tirelessly behind the scenes to make their community a better place.

Maggy Tomkins is one of them – she was the worthy recipient of the Outstanding Volunteer Service Award (more than 10 years) in last year’s awards. 

This is her story.

Volunteering has woven a thread through most of Maggy Tomkins’ life.

She first began while at school and then in university, in the 1970s.

“I’ve volunteered for ever… for years and years,” she says.

“I’m one of those people.”

At the time she began the volunteering journey, she didn’t know it would take her around the world.

Finding the passion and caring for others

As a young adult, Maggy trained to be a nurse, before moving to the UK for work and volunteering with an HIV support service, in the 1980s.

Amidst a surge in cases there was low public awareness about the virus, and Maggy wanted to help reduce the stigma.

Through that work, she discovered a passion for teaching and obtained a Diploma of Education.

Maggy began working for an HIV clinic in Sydney in 1990, where she trained teams of information line volunteers.

She also traveled around New South Wales as a nurse educator.

Sharing the knowledge

Maggy went on to work for the HIV clinic in a variety of roles for more than 30 years.

During that time, she worked on HIV training projects across the Asia-Pacific, including Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and the Solomon Islands.

Through these teaching roles, Maggy helped to empower local communities at a grassroots level. As she puts it, she was “training the trainers.”

After that, Maggy took a year off to complete a Fulbright Scholarship to the United States and spent a number of years teaching during the summer in the US state of Connecticut. She even taught online before retiring just last year.

Creating community

Maggy and her husband Chris moved from Sydney to Castle Forbes Bay in the Huon Valley 19 years ago.

“We both wanted to move out of town, and we had thought of the central west of New South Wales,” said Maggy.

“Then we did our first trip down here and thought let’s move here!”

“We’d been due for a holiday, and there was the scenery, the food. It’s not cut off from culture. We could do everything we wanted.”

They began volunteering straight away.

A huge contribution

Fast forward to 2024, and along with Chris, Maggy is now a much-valued local volunteer.

She has been involved for many years with the Castle Forbes Bay Landcare Group, including as Secretary.

The group has regular working bees and looks after a number of sites around Castle Forbes Bay, including the cemetery grounds (pictured), the Yellow Boot Walk, and Harwoods Common.

The Common is a 2.5 acre plot of formerly swampy land owned by Council.

The Landcare Group has been working for many years to rehabilitate the site, including a track to a waterfall at the top of the block.

Talks have been underway about the land’s future as a community space.

Then there’s the Castle Forbes Bay Recreation Ground, gifted to the community as a cricket ground in the 1920s and overseen now by a group of local trustees.

When the cricket club moved to Franklin in 2019, it became the Castle Forbes Bay Recreation Club.

Maggy is a founding member.

Run by a community committee, the Club has 45 paid-up members and triple the patronage for club functions, such as quiz nights, garage sales, charity events and an annual three-day art exhibition and music event.

It also hosts table tennis and games nights, while the ground is used for archery, dog training, croquet, dog walkers, a safe place in emergencies and even school camps.

Volunteer power

Of course, none of these things happen on their own.

“The people who do it are very dedicated,” says Maggy.

“The same people volunteer for everything and it’s hard to say no. Richard (Clauson, fellow volunteer) and so many other people do a lot.”

Maggy says while the current group of volunteers are fantastic, more are greatly needed – including people from different age groups.

“Maybe two thirds of the people who do Landcare are retired, and they probably do it for the socialising as much as anything else,” she says.

“We’re getting older and it’s physically harder.”

Maggy says it’s important volunteers are treated differently to other workers, and extra care is needed to ensure they don’t become overloaded.

“The key is to delegate!” she says.

She’s encouraging locals and people from outside the area to get involved.

“When we moved here, it was [a way] to get to know people,” Maggy said.

“Now when new people come to Castle Forbes Bay we try to get them involved.”

To find out more about how you can volunteer with the Castle Forbes Bay Landcare Group, or the Castle Forbes Bay Recreation Club, contact Richard Clauson:


Volunteering is a great way you can give back and expand your horizons. 

For more information, visit our Volunteering in the Huon Valley web page.