Continuing the Trefoil Guild’s celebration of Remarkable Women of Guiding for the centenary year, this month the spotlight is on Paddy Firstenberg…
Paddy’s love of Guiding began in Ireland where she joined the movement as a Brownie in Tipperary.
As an adult she became a nursing sister and later married Dr Firstenberg. In the 1950s they heard there was a shortage of doctors in Australia. They decided to immigrate with their two young children. They established a new home in Rivervale, Perth. Australian life and the community became a new pathway for the family. In 1960 Paddy was approached by Sylvia Perry, the State Commissioner of Girl Guides Western Australia, to take on the role of Rivervale/Redcliffe District Commissioner. Later she became Division Commissioner for the East Lee Steere Division.
Paddy became immersed in guiding, admiring Sylvia Perry‘s vision for the association. The number of Units grew in the Division and they became very active. Girls came from many different backgrounds.
In the 1970s she was elected to the State Executive of Guiding, where she was able to help in the decision making for Western Australia. As chair of the State Public Relations Committee she helped in and organised many promotional and exciting activities for girls across the state. For her work Paddy received an Emu Award from guiding and in 1979 a Community Service Award from the City of Belmont area.
She held the position of State Commissioner from 1976-1980. This gave her the opportunity to grow guiding further. She travelled to many places across the state promoting Girl Guides, particularly in the Pilbara, which was opening up as more people moved into the mining industry. During her time as State Commissioner Paddy remembers receiving her MBE Award from the Queen at Government House and later she and Dr Firstenberg attended a reception aboard the Royal Yacht.
In the 1980s Paddy‘s expertise proved important to the organisation. She was asked to chair the Committee of Public Relations for the state and the Guide House Committee. She also became Australian Public Relations Adviser and Australian Promotions Adviser.
In 1982 Paddy received the Red Kangaroo Award, one of the highest award in Australian Guiding.
In this decade she also joined the National Council of Women Western Australia. She saw the need to continue to help the advancement of women, their families and the community. She was part of the standing committee for 9 years looking at women’s health issues. In 1994 Paddy became President. Her vision that the history of NCWWA should be written down came to fruition in their book ‘The Spirit Lives On.’ For her work, she was elected Honorary Life Vice President of NCW of Australia and she was awarded the OAM for her service to this organisation. Today Paddy remains a member of NCW.
In 1996 as a member of the multicultural association she was awarded State and National Life Membership of Pan Pacific and South East Asian Women‘s Association.
Paddy‘s support for Guiding was acknowledged when Western Australia granted her Life Membership in 1991 for outstanding service. She was an inaugural member of the Women of Distinction and a member of the Honorary Australian Associates.
She was a foundation member and President of the Burswood/Bentley Trefoil Guild where she is currently a member. During this time she has helped build the membership and promote Trefoil and Guiding. In 2010 she received her 50 year Long Service Award from Guides Western Australia.
By Ann Miller
This is the first I have seen this information. I am so happy Paddy’s name is listed. I was Paddy’s assistant together with Gwen MacFarguahr and Joy Cooke during the five years Paddy was the State Commissioner. It was an honour and a privilege with Paddy as our leader. Thank you for recognising a great leader.
I really enjoyed the article in the West Australian recently, what a remarkable woman and how proud I feel to know I am part of the same guiding movement, she depicted everything about guiding that I and many others stand for. Rest In Peace Paddy your spirit remains part of the Girl Guide Movement.