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Awarded for service to Multicultural Affairs; Community Advocacy and Inclusion; Education and Training; and Volunteering
Born: 23 November 1937
Entered on roll: 2021
Since arriving in Tasmania in 1964, Margaret Eldridge has built community connections, improved cultural awareness, forged links between Tasmania and Asia and made others feel welcome.
In 1968, Margaret was an inaugural member of the Host Family Scheme and helped plan ‘Operation Welcome’ for the 1969 intake of international students. Margaret was a convenor of the Host Family Scheme for 16 years, and later an AusAID tutor and ESL teacher at the University of Tasmania and elsewhere.
Noting the isolation of women accompanying their student husbands who were enrolled at the University of Tasmania, Margaret helped create the International Women’s Group, by offering English lessons and helping partners establish their homes. Margaret has also shared her home with asylum seekers and is known as “Mum” to many in Tasmania and to generations of overseas students.
During the 1980s and 90s the Adult Migrant English Service (AMES) employed Margaret both for her knowledge of Asian cultures and her teaching skills and amongst other groups, she worked at Mt St Canice Migrant Hostel with the first Vietnamese refugees to come to Tasmania.
As an AMES educational counsellor and ESL teacher, Margaret taught English to Hmong people who had fled Laos to resettle in Tasmania in the 1980s and 1990s. As trust was built, the community shared stories and asked Margaret to write their history, which became a Masters’ thesis and the book New Mountain, New River, New Home? Margaret and Robin Smith also helped the Hmong set up their first stall at Salamanca Market and Margaret encouraged them to sell their handicrafts at the Red Cross Arts and Crafts Shop.
By being involved in the lives of migrants and refugees, Margaret has provided cultural awareness training to police, customs officers, the army, volunteers, health care professionals and other government employees, state and federal. Margaret offered cultural awareness sessions at the Royal Hobart Hospital to help midwives and doctors better understand the cultural requirements of migrants and the trauma experienced by refugees.
Margaret’s other volunteer roles include President of Friends of Chauncy Vale, fundraising for Motor Neurone Disease Research, office bearer for Oral History Australia, McAulay Reserve Bushcare, establishing and convening the Hobart Baptist Church Refugee Settlement Group, Tassienannas (protesting about children in detention) and establishing and helping to run the Waimea Heights School Sustainable Market.