By Sam Watson
LAST Month, Dr Liz Rushen was awarded Member in the general division of the Order of Australia.
Liz received the award for significant service to community history and heritage preservation.
A lot of that significant service has been to South Gippsland.
Liz’s first taste of South Gippsland came when she moved to Stony Creek with her husband Pete in 1984.
After five years, Peter got a job overseas, so they sold their place in Stony Creek.
But in 2000 they were back in Australia, and they loved South Gippsland so much they decided to buy Waratah Hills Vineyard in Fish Creek.
When Liz and Peter bought the winery, it was quite small, so they created a cellar door, and the business began thriving.
In her time at the vineyard, Liz became involved with the Southern Gippsland Wine Group, Destination Gippsland and other local committees.
After around eight years at the winery, they thought it was time to move on, so they sold the vineyard and moved to Foster, where they built a new house.
Pete was CEO of the Foster Hospital at the time, and it’s also when Liz became involved in the Foster Museum, the Foster and District Historical Society and became a board member on the Central Gippsland Institute of TAFE.
Unfortunately, Peter’s health meant the couple had to return to Melbourne about four years ago, so they could be near hospitals and closer to their grandchildren.
But they both still hold the area very close to their hearts.
“We still love South Gippsland; we go down whenever we can,” Liz said.
“We’ve still got lots of friends down there as well.”
But it’s not just her work in community groups that tie Liz to South Gippsland, she also edited a book for the Foster and District Historical Society called ‘Prom Country: a history’.
And then, in 2017, Liz and Fish Creek local Kathlyn Gibson wrote a book called ‘Anastasia: from Callan to Stockyard Creek’, which was about an Irish lady called Anastasia Burke who owned several gold mines in South Gippsland during the gold rush.
It’s stories like Anastasia’s that make Liz love every day of being a historian and a writer.
“I love history, I love to find out about where I live and about the people,” Liz said.
“It’s really the people who make places, so I like to write about particularly women’s stories.”
Liz has recently contributed two biographies to a book that’s coming out about Gippsland women.
“I really like to write about the experiences of women in Gippsland, especially in the early days.”
Liz doesn’t look at her award as an individual honour, she instead looks at it as a recognition for our history.
“I’m very humbled, very thrilled, it’s a great honour,” Liz said.
“For me as an historian, it’s a great recognition for history, the importance of our history.”
To be awarded for her service to community history and for history preservation is the perfect combination for Liz.
“It’s the two sides of history, recognising the importance of the stories and keeping our heritage alive.”
To learn more about Liz and her amazing work, head to rushen.com.au. You may even båe inspired to collect history from your local area!