Getting to know our volunteers –
Ruth Bentley is the Membership Officer for BREAZE and has been since joining in 2007. This volunteer role suits Ruth because she can pick and choose time to work on the list in-between juggling her family of six, four children, husband Rob and of course Ruth.
Q&A by Tarn Kruger with Ruth
Q: Where did you grow up?
Ruth: I grew up in Warragul in Gippsland Victoria. We came to Ballarat about 19 years ago for my work with CBA.
Q: What is the one best thing for you about living in the Ballarat region?
Ruth: I like the fact Ballarat still has a country town feel about it. It is great for sport and shops, the things kids like and need and the choice of schools is great. It is good for family life and is still close to Melbourne and to be able to visit other family.
Q: Tell me about your involvement in Breaze and the main activities you have been involved in over the years?
Ruth: We joined in 2007 in the first few months after BREAZE started and they were looking for someone who knew how to do spreadsheets. Originally my husband started doing it and I then took over and have been doing it ever since. I am not a person who likes to be out the front, I am more a person who likes to be in the background. We have gone along to BREAZE activities over the years and we got solar hot water and the panels years ago too. Rob has also done a few of the open days [Sustainable House Day] showing people around.
Q: Have you a favourite destination or a national park or place you like to visit?
Ruth: Yes a beach down in south Gippsland, my favourite place in the whole world. We always went there when I was a child and I just love it. It is a well-kept secret and hasn’t changed much over the years, but is starting to [so this article won’t reveal where it is!].
Q: What is so special about it, is it because you went there as child or…?
Ruth: Yes that is part of it, it is a beach that has waves and rocks and further around the bay it is calm, so whatever mood you are in, there is a bit of beach that suits. It is away from everything, quite the opposite of busy Lorne. And at night the stars, it is like you can touch them, it is so beautiful.
Q: Have you got any main hobbies developed over the years and what are they?
Ruth: My main hobby is genealogy; I have been interested in it since I was 17, which is unusual because most people come into when they are older. So I started doing it when I was quite young and started talking to my grandparents and getting information and gradually things have come on-line, which make it a lot easier. It is a hobby I can do at night after the kids go to bed. I have researched my own family and also done work for friends and other people.
Q: How far can you trace back your family?
Ruth: Some lines go way back to the 1500s and other lines I can’t get past early 1800s because people just disappear on you. People could change their name and not make it official and who could ever tell. Sometimes you can eventually sort through and find more things, but some are just lost in the mists of time. I have just written a book about my grandfather called ‘A Quiet Man’ and he was involved in WW1, so a lot of reading through diaries and journals and research and I tracked him right through the war, he was a driver in the war, mostly with horses, mules and wagons.
Q: If you could choose any person in the world (now or in the past), who would you most like to meet?
Ruth: I would be really interested in meeting one of my ancestors who decided to leave and come to Australia, I don’t have any convicts in the family, so they chose to leave. It would be fascinating to know why. They came from the British Isles, they had lived in small towns for centuries, and some of them chose to leave their families in the 1820s to1850s to come here. I would love to know what made them decide and have the courage to leave everything behind.
Q: What environmental issue do you feel most passionate about?
Ruth: Apart from the obvious things that everybody is worried about, I donate to Bush Heritage as I am interested in preserving species and bushland. My father was passionate about the bush and he loved to photograph native orchids. He loved native plants and birds and could name many species of plants. He was a great influence.
Q: What is most rewarding thing about volunteering for you?
Ruth: Certainly no exciting rewards being the membership officer [laughs], but I think just knowing I am contributing to BREAZE in my own time, helping out and being able to do my bit.
Q: Finally, if you could have ultimate say about the future of Australia or had a magic wand, what one action would you make happen?
Ruth: That is a good question, I think renewable energy is the big thing. I wish the government would stop hanging onto coal and face the reality of the future and be proactive and move to sustainable solutions. That would make the biggest change.
Thanks to Ruth for sharing her stories, ideas and interests.