She joined the Brownies in Malaysia at age six taking vows before God and the Queen to be ‘thrifty, work cheerfully and think of others before herself’.
Now 54 years later this Glenbrook grandmother has remained true to those vows and honoured with the medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia for her service to the Girl Guides.
Susan Wakefield is one of only two Blue Mountains’ recipients this year and will go to Government House in Canberra in April for the official ceremony.
“I’m a bit blown away,” Mrs Wakefield said. “I got a letter to say I was being considered and that it was going to the Governor General and then I didn’t hear for about six to eight weeks and thought the Governor General didn’t like me. I just decided it wasn’t going to happen and put it out of my mind but (husband) John was very excited.”
Mrs Wakefield has lived a full life. By the age of 14 she had lived in Malaysia, Australia and America — living through the effects of the assassinations of both Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.
“Dad was posted to the Australian Embassy as warrant officer in Washington DC in the sixties — I vividly remember Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King being assassinated,” she said. “The country was in absolute mourning, our school cancelled the car wash they had planned, people lined the railway line shoulder to shoulder from New York City to Washington DC so everyone could see Robert Kennedy’s casket.”
But with all the travel she did as a child and later as an adult, the one constant in life was her association with the Guides.
“I’ve been really lucky, guiding has been really good to me. I was a fairly shy child. I hated going into shops and having people ask me what I might want, guiding gave me those skills you need in life, helping me to be independent and reliable.”
Mrs Wakefield’s posts in the Guiding movement include roles as the international commissioner for Guides Australia, international advisor for NSW, as well as numerous regional and district positions. She has also represented Guides Australia at international events in Europe and Asia and been heavily involved in Rotary, just hosting the couple’s 19th exchange student. She is president of the Lower Blue Mountains club and still works full-time.
“Good heavens, I’ve met some amazing young women and there are some amazing young women that guiding can help,” she told the Blue Mountains Gazette.
The couple are committed to service and rarely have a night together at home taking it easy.
Her husband John was awarded the same honour back in 1995 for his services to policing while he was working as a Detective Senior Sergeant at Merrylands.
Mrs Wakefield said the Guiding movement had changed over the years, recently dropping the pledge to God and Queen — “it should have been optional, not done away with completely” — but the commitment to service by the organisation remains.
Mrs Wakefield wished more people were committed to volunteering and has no regrets that their lives are still being spent helping others.
“I personally have had a ball with the Guides. Guiding is growing but there’s a lack of people prepared to be leaders. I don’t understand how people can’t want to give something back to the people in the community. We are the people we are because of where we live and we are incredibly lucky, you only have to take a trip to India or Papua New Guinea to realise that.”