LIVING HISTORY: Coffs museum is currently running an exhibition to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Royal Far West Health scheme in Coffs Harbour.
LIVING HISTORY: Coffs museum is currently running an exhibition to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Royal Far West Health scheme in Coffs Harbour.

Support through the generations for Far West

A CHILDHOOD injury in the 1930s has led one Coffs Harbour family to a long career in volunteering and fundraising.

Five generations of Jill Gill's family has been involved in fundraising for the Royal Far West Children's Health Scheme in Coffs Harbour.

The people of Coffs have been involved in fundraising for the scheme for the past 70 years and there has been an op shop for the scheme in the town since the '60s.

Coffs' involvement in fundraising for the Sydney-based operation is the subject of an exhibition at the city's regional museum which will run through until May 11.

Small in numbers, but large in heart: 70 years of Royal Far West in Coffs Harbour looks back at the work of the charity that provides country children with access to specialist medical and allied health services.

It features stories of kids who were deemed "untreatable" in less understanding times and faced lonely lives of exclusion from daily life, but who had those lives turned around with assistance from the Royal Far West.

For Jill Gill, who was at the opening late month, the exhibition is a true walk down memory lane.

"And it's all because of an accident my mother had when she was young," Jill said, explaining why the scheme was so important to her mother and grandmother and still important to her, her daughter and grandson.

"She had an accident when she lived at Bendemeer near Tamworth in 1937 - her lower leg was crushed and the local doctor in Tamworth wanted to amputate.

"However, there was a new young doctor just out of medical school who thought he could save the leg."

It was during her recovery that Jill's mum Olive was sent down to the Royal Far West in Sydney to continue treatments and it was that time and the help she received there that stuck with both Olive and her mother.

"My grandmother started to donate craft that she made when mum was down there in the '30s," Jill said.

And when her mother married a banana farmer and moved to Coffs Harbour, she continued on the tradition of making things and raising money for the place that had helped her.

"My mum volunteered until she passed away, I've been a volunteer for 23 years and my daughter for the past 17 years and we're still going," she said.

"We have an opportunity shop here in Moonee Street - the fundraising branch started in 1949 selling goods and then in 1964 a shop was opened.

"There are 17 opportunity shops in the region now but we are the only one for a children's charity."

Coffs Royal Far West Children's Op Shop is one of just three dedicated to the organisation in the entire state, with another down the road at Port Macquarie and the third out at Forbes.

The story of Jill's mum is just one of those featured in the museum exhibition.

"Many of the families assisted by Royal Far West became committed volunteers and their stories feature prominently in the exhibition, including a family with five generations of involvement," museum curator Jo Besley said.

Local residents formed a branch of the charity on March 24, 1949 and it has had a regular presence in Coffs Harbour ever since.

"For seven decades, the Coffs Harbour branch has raised funds and worked with local health practitioners to provide free health services to thousands of local children and their families," Ms Besley said.

"We're very excited to be welcoming many of the former Far West members and volunteers to the exhibition opening where several local branch members will receive formal acknowledgement of their lifetime contribution."

Small in numbers, but large in heart: 70 years of Royal Far West in Coffs Harbour will run until May 11 and is a partnership between the museum and Royal Far West.

Jill said the branch and op shop were looking for new volunteers, who should head to the Moonee Street shop for more information.