Kay Clarke, a Kempsey resident for more than 50 years, was remembered and honoured with a tree planting ceremony at the Kempsey Neighbourhood Centre on Friday, June 16.
Attendees to the ceremony heard that Mrs Clarke was a special woman who cared and helped others her entire life, before passing away on May 22 aged 73.
Family and close friends gathered to share stories of Mrs Clarke.
“She was often the unsung hero, she was very humble and did so much for others,” Mrs Clarke’s daughter Geraldine said.
Mrs Clarke moved to Kempsey in her early twenties to begin her career as a high school teacher at Kempsey High School.
She met Tony Clarke soon after and the two married when she was 25 and they had six children together.
Mrs Clarke was heavily involved with the community and played a pivotal role in the early days of the Kempsey Saints Football Club.
She remained on the committee while her sons played for the club before her focus turned to family matters.
One of Mrs Clarke’s sons was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at age 18, with Mrs Clarke developing a passion for mental health after his diagnosis.
She became the founder and group leader of the Macleay Valley Mental Health Carers Support Group which assisted and supported other families in the community whose loved ones were experiencing similar circumstances.
The group worked tirelessly with local families and they were able to lobby the local
health department to provide a mental health nurse to work in the courts.
This ensured people who were facing a charge but suffering from a mental disorder were given appropriate treatment while they were imprisoned.
Mrs Clarke’s drive to support suffers of mental health continued and she and the support group lobbied the government for a new mental health unit in Kempsey.
The bid was successful and the redevelopment of the Kempsey District Hospital was completed in 2015 with an entire specialised ward.
Mrs Clarke’s goal was to ensure that people with mental illnesses were given a chance to live as normal a life as possible within the community.
She received many acknowledgements and one of her prouder achievements came last year when she was awarded the NSW Senior Carer of the Year award.
Mrs Clarke was still the leader of the Macleay Valley Mental Health Carers group and volunteering for St Vincent de Paul Society, Kempsey and with Tex Help Service at the time of her death.
Some of Kay’s accomplishments
• Lifetime Member of the Schizophrenia Fellowship of NSW and she is very proud to be associated with people who experience mental ill health issues.
• In 2010 Carers NSW rolled out a course to train carers as Carer Representatives. Kay successfully completed this training and since 2010 continues to sit on many NSW Carer Representative Committees.
• Due to an incident which resulted in the fatality at the Kempsey Mental Health Unit on July of 2001, Kay and the Macleay Valley Mental Health Carers Support Group lobbied the government for a new mental health unit. This resulted in the hospital installing a new 10 bed mental health ward Kay was a strong advocate and committee member for the redevelopment of the Kempsey District Hospital which was finally completed and re-opened in 2015.
• 1994 -2002 member of the Mental Health Consumer Consultative Committee
• 2002 -2008 member of the Community Participation forum for MNC Health
• 2007 Founder of the Macleay Valley Mental Health Carers Support Group and remains the group leader / facilitator
• Member of the Family and Carer Mental Health Reference Group
• Member of the New Horizons Mental Health Reference Group
• 2011/2015 - volunteer driver for Hastings / Macleay community Transport
• From 2011 onward - volunteered at St Vincent De Paul Welfare section, assisting vulnerable people with payments of bills, food vouchers, clothing and medical appointments.
• 2015 onward – Carer Represented of the IMHPACT group; this is a core group of fourteen stakeholders who have overseen the development of the MNC Mental Health Integrated Care Collaborative.
• 2000 onward - Kay volunteered her skills and time in assisting others by doing tax returns for low income people at the Kempsey Neighbourhood Centre.