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Diana Thorning Coalface

Across Australia there are about 9,000 foster carers and Singleton’s Diana Thorning is one of those who has been looking after children since 1997.

Not only that, but Diana has also been the secretary of the Singleton Branch of the Australian Red Cross since 2003, Vice-President of Singleton Tidy Towns since 2009, and a member of the Elizabeth Gates Village Auxiliary for more than 30 years to name just a few of her volunteering efforts in the community.

Diana moved to Lower Belford with her husband Noel and family when she was 34, before moving to Singleton six years later.

Foster caring is something Diana has done for about 27 years, and she can’t help but keep doing it.

“My mum was a foster child; she was an orphan, and my best friend was a foster child, so Noel and I just decided to foster kids. We got thrown in the deep end first with high needs kids who were suffering from self-harm and things like that.

“I often lose count, but I would say we have fostered about 30 kids over the years.

“A lot of them only stay a couple of years and then they go to other carers, I don’t know what keeps me wanting to do it – maybe I’m just mad!”

Diana said it can be challenging, but it is always very rewarding to see children she’s cared for go out into the world and do well for themselves.

“It’s not easy, the children who go into foster care have usually been removed for a reason, so they come with all sorts of difficulties. But it is really good when you can see them go out on their own, or they get a job or do well at school.

“I still hear from a couple of the children we’ve had, there’s one boy who still rings me and he’s in his 30s now, and I’ve got a beautiful girl who lives here in Singleton with her partner.

“I have had a few successes who have gone out on their own and lived their lives which is wonderful.”

Diana’s first-time volunteering in Singleton was at the high school canteen which is where she met her friend Betty Searle who talked her into joining the Red Cross.

“Once I was in the Red Cross there were all sorts of jobs in that, like working with the emergency services. I’m the Secretary now, I’ve been the caterer, there’s all different sorts of roles. I’ve been at the Elizabeth Gates nursing home for about 23 years and once you’re there, there’s always something else to do.

“I’m also on the Auxiliary, the Hospital Trust, am part of the Tidy Towns initiative and Noel and I did Meals on Wheels for 18 years.

“I’m the Trauma Teddy coordinator so at nighttime I just sit at home and sew them together. I haven’t knitted any myself for ages because I have that many come in that need sewing together!”

Diana said the trauma teddies are one of her favourite things she does. They bring comfort to the local hospital in the Emergency Department, X-Ray and Community departments as well as getting given to some of the doctors and NSW Ambulance Paramedics.

Diana has seen a lot, but she said the times when the community rallies together are her favourite.

“With emergency services we’ve had a few disasters with the floods and being at the evacuation centres and just greeting the people who come in is a highlight for me.”

After living in a mining town for all these years, Diana certainly has her thoughts on anyone who speaks badly of industry.

“I get so fed up with people carrying on about fossil fuels and things like that because everything has something to do with mining.

“Your jewellery your phone, furniture, everything had something to do with mining at some stage and renewable energy needs coal to manufacture the parts needed to make solar panels and wind turbines.

“And, not to mention the amount of money our community groups receive from the mining companies.”

Diana’s husband passed away a couple of years ago, but she has three of her own children and now nine grandchildren to keep her busy in between volunteering. She plans to spend many more years fostering children and sewing together trauma teddies to do her part to keep the community as wonderful as it is today.

To recognise the wonderful work Diana does in the Singleton community, she was named the 2024 Singleton Citizen of the Year.

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