Roylene's 'ugly' black bag of hope
Roylene Conway, who leads the Barraba Salvation Army church in northern NSW, loves her community deeply.
At the age of 77, most of her peers are enjoying retirement. But not Roylene – she is still very active serving her hometown community of 1100, especially at Christmas.
Roylene has spent most of her life in Barraba, moving to the farming community, situated between Narrabri and Armidale, at the age of 13. Settling there permanently at 20, Roylene went on to make a life for herself – marrying, raising a son, working and worshipping in the town for the past six decades.
Christmas is a time when Roylene is seen distributing hampers. Bringing her style of “Christmas cheer” to Barraba is something she has done for more than 50 years.
She smiles and says: “I get the hampers ready and very diplomatically get them around to those in need. Because we are in a small town and people talk, I have an ugly black plastic garbage bag and deliver hampers that way – otherwise people might get terribly embarrassed!”
Roylene says demand for her hampers could be down this year, owing to good rain that has fallen in the region in recent months. After years of drought, the rain has boosted optimism among farmers.
“Farmers have a lot of pride and, once they are over the very worst of it, they will battle to do the best they can with no extra help,” Roylene says.
But this won’t deter Roylene. She says there are still those who are seriously struggling in her beloved community, and she will once again make up a number of beautiful hampers, hide them her “ugly black plastic garbage bag” and personally deliver them.