Gail Rodda loves Biloela and she loves Christmas. She’s a disability support worker, Biloela Rotary Club’s Public Relations Director and Immediate Past President, and Biloela Enterprise Secretary and Festival Coordinator. Gail is working on Christmas Day this year and she reveals why that makes her happy.
Gail is a self-professed Christmas junkie. She’s crazy about Christmas and if you attend any local Christmas gatherings, Gail will most likely be there with a new Christmas T-shirt, Christmas earrings, Christmas hat, and anything else Christmassy she can add to her outfit. Oh, and did I mention that she also still believes in Santa?
“I grew up in Penrith in the western suburbs of Sydney,” Gail said. “I lived with my Dad, my parents were separated. So, Christmas was and still is a multi-day event for me. We would spend time with Mum at Christmas and we would spend time with Dad at Christmas. I still love my family. I love my family Christmases.
“My favourite Christmases were when we’d go away. Because it was always great that Santa knew where to find me. I love Christmas and my mum has always said to me, ‘Santa exists as long as you believe in him’. So, at nearly 53 years old, I still believe in Santa. Every year I still have a present under my tree from Santa.”
Good old Santa also knew how to make a young Gail exceedingly happy.
“My favourite Christmas present was a pair of white boot roller skates with red stoppers and wheels,” remembered Gail. “It’s all I’d wanted for years. We had a lovely big netball court, bitumen, in Penrith at Jamison Park. It was the best place to go rollerskating, but I had these horrible, old, clunky, strap-on roller skates. One year, I unwrapped these beautiful boot skates… Santa had left them at my mum’s and I was so thrilled. And they still fit me. I no longer rollerskate because I fall down and things break,” chuckled Gail.
“But they still fit me. I wish I could still skate and not fall down and break things, but I used to figure skate on the netball court. And it was the best feeling just scooting along, enjoying yourself with not a care in the world. Then, of course, you become an adult and reality sets in.”
Gail and her husband Craig moved to Biloela in July 2016 and love living here. “We came for a five-week project and haven’t left yet,” she said with a smile.
“We don’t go back to my family or his family in WA for Christmas. Nowadays, it’s because of the work that I do. Disability doesn’t take public holidays off. So, I like to make sure my participants are still well supported over that time. But my friends in Biloela have made sure that Craig and I don’t have to celebrate it alone. And I think that is something that embodies what Biloela is all about. We do look out for our own, for the most part. We try and do the right thing by others. And it’s so nice knowing at Christmas that if I want to be at home having a quiet day, I can, but if I feel like I need to be around other people then that opportunity is there for me. And it’s been like that since I moved to Biloela.
“There’s not many places where you’d get there. And this year, I’m getting to hang out with my husband, one of my fellow support workers and one of the families we know, so it’s going to be a wonderful Christmas. I’m very excited. I’m really looking forward to it.”
And Gail doesn’t mind one bit that she will be working on Christmas Day.
“The thing I love about that is that my participant, who lives alone, they won’t be by themselves. We will do something fun for breakfast. And in the evening, we will reflect on the day and talk about all the fun things that we did. It’s very different to the Christmases that I would spend where it was family and presents and food… and fights… There’s always fights,” Gail laughed. “But it’s a very different type of Christmas and, I hope my family don’t misinterpret this, but I actually value my Christmas Days a lot more now than I used to because it’s not just all about me. I really love that about it.
“Last year was the first Christmas that I worked on Christmas Day. And it didn’t feel like work. It was just an enjoyable day. But I worked back-to-back shifts last year. So, even though we’d been invited to a friend’s place, I just didn’t have time to do it. This year, I’m not working back-to-back shifts. So, I can go and do stuff in the morning, go and have a beautiful lunch and then go and work in the evening. And then come home and lay down and sleep.”
Gail is someone with a lot of vision for Biloela, as demonstrated by her various roles with Biloela Enterprise and the local Rotary Club. One vision of hers is particularly heartwarming.
“I remember people telling me that Biloela used to host a luncheon on Christmas Day – for people that were homeless or alone. It was actually on Christmas Day that they did it. I think it was one of the churches that did it.
“I would actually love to see us, as a community, get back to doing something like that. We do have a portion of our community that is transient because of the work that they do. We do have people that are doing it a bit tough. Christmases is a time about giving and caring, it’s not all about ourselves. So, at some point, I’m hoping that we will be able to go back to doing a community event where people will volunteer time, food, services, whatever. To provide something for those that Christmas is not such an enjoyable time. Because it should be a time of joy.”
And then Gail, being Gail, Christmas-loving Gail, proves her point by showing me that the black T-shirt she’s wearing for our interview has the word Joy printed on it.
Have a very Merry Christmas, Gail. With kind-hearted and caring people like you in our town, I have high hopes there will be lots of joy in the future.
- Tags: Biloela, community, disability support worker, Rotary, Santa