Rilla Witt and Carolyn Tillman
Rilla Witt and Carolyn Tillman

Mother and daughter first to win prestigious Rotary award

RILLA Witt and Carolyn Tillman have become the first mother-daughter pair to win a prestigious Rotary award for their valuable contribution to the Dalby community.

The pair were awarded the Paul Harris Fellows Award from the Rotary Club of Dalby, thanking them for their work and commitment to the Dalby community.

The award is normally given to a Rotarian, however their contribution and work volunteering in the community secured their recognition.

Mrs Witt said Rotary president Jean Bach asked her daughter to bring her along to the changeover dinner on Tuesday night as a special guest, and said she would never have guessed she would be the recipient of the award while Mrs Bach was reading the criteria.

“I was sort of looking around the room thinking ‘I wonder who it is’?,” Mrs Witt said.

“Then she said my name and it was such a lovely surprise.”

What was a surprise to Mrs Witt was an even bigger surprise to Mrs Tillman, who was called upon shortly after to receive the same award as her mother.

“Jean spoke really beautifully about mum, and then she said ‘the next lady to get an award must have walked around in her mother’s shoes when she was a little girl because she’s followed in her footsteps’,” Mrs Tillman said.

“I was really surprised.”

Mrs Witt’s involvement with the community has been ongoing from a very young age, and she continues to offer her services to many facets of the community.

Mrs Witt is well-known for her involvement in the Dalby Eisteddfod, which began in 1971.

Mrs Witt was a committee member before she served as secretary for over 20 years.

She also contributed to the St Joseph’s church community as liturgy co-ordinator and is still heavily involved in the church.

For four years, Mrs Witt co-ordinated a bus which took the elderly to doctors appointments and shopping, with the help of Ningana.

She was also president of U3A for four years and served on the committee for 12 years, and regularly attends the Domestic and Family Violence Awareness group on behalf of U3A.

She said her heavy involvement was a sort of thank you to the town that has given her so much.

“I’ve been here in Dalby since I was four years old, I grew up here, got married, had children, and I just feel so much a part of the place,” she said.

“I love Dalby and I feel it's a good thing to do if you’re able, to help out. Dalby has so many wonderful volunteers and I just felt like being part of it, and meeting up with people.

“I feel it’s good for me and good for the people in town.”

One of the most rewarding parts of her work has been to see her six children follow in her footsteps in their dedication to their community, particularly for Mrs Tillman.

She has served on council for over 20 years, and continues to contribute to the art and cultural life in Dalby and the wider Western Downs.

She has also been heavily involved with Ningana and the Dalby Eisteddfod.

She previously drove Ningana residents to Toowoomba for swimming lessons.

Like her mother, Mrs Tillman has lived in Dalby her whole life and believes the best way to give back is to lend a helping hand wherever she can.

“I’ve done stuff with council for a very long time and I really find that rewarding because it’s really nice for people to come to you with a problem that is really important to them, and you can actually do something about it,” she said.

“It feels really good that you can fix their problems.”

Mrs Tillman said her most influential role was during the 21 years she spent running a junior choir, working with children and helping to build their confidence.

“I would get mum saying to me ‘how did you get Johnny on the stage’, and I’d say ‘I never have a doubt that they can’t do it’,” she said.

“Over the years I had some really, really, really quiet children, girls and boys, and they just really wanted to be in a choir but in the background.

“They eventually excelled and were able to do amazing things.

“We just don’t see it as a chore.”

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