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Awarded for Service to the Community
Entered on roll: 2007
Jean Heather Burgess was born in Queenstown and moved to Recherche Bay with her family when she was three years old. She spent most of her life living and working in the Huon Municipality. Her family, the Heathers, has a proud heritage with the region's timber industry, and has operated sawmills at Moss Glen and Cockle Creek. Jean married Sid Burgess in 1950 and had six children - five sons and a daughter.
Jean began work at her father's sawmill during World War II. At 15, she was racking the laths used in lathen plaster walls. At 16, due to the shortage of male workers through the war years, Jean started working in the bush. Under the supervision of their father Jean, her sister Nancy and brother George, would go into the bush and fell giant stringy bark trees to supply the mill. They used only cross cut saws and axes, with Jean taking the left-handed axe position.
The felled timber was extracted by a log hauler and carted along a tramway by tractor back to the mill. The family built the tramway which extended almost two kilometres into the forest. When not working in the bush, Jean worked in the mill. The flywheel for the mill is still at Cockle Creek, with an interpretative display which features articles on the mill and extracts from an interview with Jean.
As an adult, Jean was involved in many community activities. Her involvement with the Pensioners Union was long standing. She was Secretary and President of the Pensioners Union of Esperance. She was an active member of the Huon Eldercare committee and involved in Meals on Wheels and community transport. Through Jean's community leadership, the Tasmanian Government has assisted in the provision of a car to provide community transport in the region.
The Huon Valley community held Jean in high esteem because of her involvement in, and promotion of the area. She was a member of the Southern Spinners group that produced the interpretative tapestry on display at the Tahune Airwalk. She was involved in the Geeveston Streetscape project that beautified the town centre and restored pride in the town after harsh economic times. Jean also volunteered at the local heritage centre and was part of the Geeveston Green Jacket group, a voluntary non-profit group which provides a rostered guide/greeting service to the Esperance Forest and Heritage Centre. She was active in the Friends of the Community Bank Committee that established the first community bank in the State.
Jean had a deep knowledge of the area's environment and was an active member of the Huon Resource Development Group. She always displayed an optimistic outlook for her community and made a major contribution to the community's self esteem.
Jean passed away in February 2014.