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Gracie Dixon volunteer role connects Emily with past

Gracie Dixon Emily
Emily Webster has a special connection to Bundaberg's Gracie Dixon Respite Centre.

Gracie Dixon was known for her caring nature and passion for helping seniors and now her great, great niece Emily Webster is volunteering to continue her legacy.

Bundaberg Regional Council’s Gracie Dixon Respite Centre was named in honour of the well-known local following community submissions.

Born Hazel Grace Dixon in Mt Perry in 1910, she was affectionately known within the community as ‘Auntie Gracie’.

According to Bundaberg Regional Libraries’ heritage research, Gracie moved to Bundaberg with husband Archie in 1942.

For 30 years Gracie volunteered to visit people in the Base Hospital, was instrumental in organising a Friendship Club which raised money for local charities and, in 1975, was named Bundaberg Quota Club’s Woman of the Year.

The Gracie Dixon Respite Centre was opened in January 1987 and named in her honour, as was a local street.

Gracie died in 1991.

Emily now volunteers her time at the respite centre to bring her closer to her family’s history.

A recently graduated occupational therapist, she has heard many stories about her great, great aunty Gracie.

“My grandfather's aunty was Gracie Dixon,” Emily said.

“My grandad's told me some stories about her and my grandma … they were pretty close with her when they were younger.

“They told me some stories how she would always take in homeless people or people that looked like they needed a bath and a feed and … she would look after them.

“There's a funny story grandad told me about how she took this one particular gentleman home to bath him, and he didn't have any clean clothes.

“So, she gave him her husband's new trousers he had never worn.

“Then the next day, her husband was looking for the trousers and she's like, ‘oh, my goodness’.

“I don't think she said anything, but she was like, ‘I gave them away!'.”

These stories inspired Emily to give back and find out more about her relative, which led her to request a volunteer position at the Gracie Dixon Respite Centre.

Staff have been able to share with her some of the things they know about Gracie, with some of her furniture, including an old grandfather’s clock, displayed in the centre.

“I've always had a connection with the elderly, and I wanted to give back somehow to the community.

“I knew some little stories here and there.

“But I think I've always wanted to come here and kind of find out more about how … her name has been so far spread.

“Everyone's told me more stories and it's been beautiful to kind of connect with like an ancestor that I never knew, but I feel connected to.

“I think it's really nice that everyone loved her so much and she was kind of a little famous in her own beautiful way.

“And I think that's so special that we have her legacy to remember. 

“She won't be forgotten.”

Gracie Dixon Emily
Gracie Dixon volunteer Emily Webster.

Emily has been volunteering at Council’s Gracie Dixon Respite Centre for about one month and is enjoying her time there.

“It's a safe place to come and be yourself and be looked after and give respite for their family.

“We do lots of singing, we do some cognitive games, which I think is so important for brain maintenance and keeping people active.

“We do some yoga to help work the muscles and joints and range of motion … we do have entertainers who come in and they have their morning tea and social gatherings, which are so important – that connection and quality of life.

“It's just such a cute centre that everyone can come, I just, I love all of it.”

Emily’s volunteer role at the Gracie Dixon Respite Centre has made her family proud and she plans to carry on her great, great aunty’s legacy.

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  1. Years ago I was a volunteer at the Respite Centre which I enjoyed but the people in charge didn’t like my ways. Instead of playing Yatzee and Snakes and Ladders with a small group of women, one of whom was almost blind, we had a lively conversation. The women loved it but the supervisor didn’t approve. Their idea of a sing-along always started with ‘Daisy Daisy Give Me Your Answer Do’ but there were many more songs of a later era (eg WWII and Vera Lynn) that would have suited their age group better. Eventually I was asked to leave.I have a horror of ever having to spend time in a place like that, playing indoor bowls and music bingo.

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