Australia Day honours for preschool assistant Shirley McLaren
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > Australia Day honours for preschool assistant Shirley McLaren

Australia Day honours for preschool assistant Shirley McLaren

by Freya Lucas

January 29, 2021

When her husband passed away at a young age in 1973, Shirley McLaren, familiar to some readers for her role in the ABC hit series Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds, moved herself and her three children from Melbourne to the more affordable Canberra, taking on what she called her “saving grace” job as an assistant in preschools across the city.


“I tell you what, throw a young woman with three children in a deep whirlpool like that and she will come up fighting and very, very strong. You have to. You just have to survive,” she told The Canberra Times.


While Ms McLaren was awarded for her work with Veterans and their families, hers is a special story about the attributes of resilience, and about the rich rewards which come from a lifetime of helping to educate and care for children. 


In an extra special twist, Ms McLaren was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to veterans and their families, and to the community in the same list as her son, Noel McLaren, who received recognition for his more than 30 years with ACT Fire and Rescue, most recently in training and development.


Ms McLaren now lives on Sydney’s northern beaches at the ANZAC Village, Narrabeen, after health concerns forced her to move somewhere warmer. In typical mother fashion, when asked about the Award, Ms McLaren said she was “lost for words” being “so so proud” of her son. 


Speaking about her most recent experience of working with children, on Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds Ms McLaren said it was “magical” and “such good fun.”


“The children were so thoughtful and so caring.”


Ms McLaren was chosen to represent the show when it won the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) award for best documentary or factual program in 2019.


To read the original coverage of this story, please see here

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