Harry McLean


Interviewee: Harry McLean, born 1922

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,
            for Baulkham Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 20 Aug 2001

Transcription: Catherine Sapir, May, 2006

This interview represents the personal recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee




Harry McLean is a volunteer of the Hills Community Health Care’s Advisory committee with a hands on approach to volunteering. He has many inspiring stories to tell.

I joined the Bushfire Brigade in 1951 then I took on all sorts of other volunteering work and I found that it was pretty good for me but when my wife died I took on more volunteering because I can’t understand people retiring and sitting at home.

Now Harry I believe you did some volunteering work for the police. Could you tell me about that?

Yes, I did a fair bit for them over the last 10 years. What we did, we decided that they needed a mobile police station. We went for a 22 seater bus and converted it and took most of the seats out and put in computers and phones and even a TV, so that it was really just like a small police station. It did well, they were happy, the second day I think it was in operation there was a fatal accident up on Windsor Road and they cleared it all up in half a day where it used to take them two days to do that.

Another task that you did and it involved the police again was you were on the community aid panel.

I enjoyed that really because the community aid panel runs like this, that if a person commits a crime and is caught, and it was mainly shoplifting but there were others as well, and it was their first offence and they pleaded guilty, then they come before a community aid panel which took the load off the courts because the community aid panel consisted of a solicitor, who volunteered his time, a policeman and a policewoman and then there was me representing the community and then we’d read the charge that the person had and then you’d ask them questions why it occurred and see if you could find out the reason and so on and then you’d send them out of the room and then talk among yourselves.


Harry McLean with Baulkham Hills Area
Health Centre display c2000

The idea was that you would all have to agree as to what the penalty should be and it had to be all community work. You couldn’t get them to do work for private people because you could see the problem there. That was interesting because I could see people who were stretching the truth a fair bit, but there was others that would come up that you could see obviously needed something.

You also set up some courses for nurses.

That was with the Rural and Volunteer Fire Fighters Association of which I was the Secretary and Treasurer of , for years, and there was no severely burnt training course available in Australia at that time and any nurses that wanted to undergo special training had to go to either America or London to do it and some of them were doing that because of the necessity of it. So, me and another fella, we went down to the University of Sydney and saw the professor there about setting up a special course in training severely burnt people and they were happy to do it and they went along and did it but the idea was that you had to be a qualified nursing sister before you could do the course so you knew all your nursing activities. It was a two year course if you did it part time or a one year course if you did it full time. Now to do it we needed around $84,000 to put those nurses through on that full time course. Anyhow, we raised the money and put them through the course and quite a few of them worked over at the Concord Hospital and now they’ve got a full unit where they’d look after severely burnt people and they’ve got the best success rate in the whole world which includes America and England and the lot. Now so much so that I got a letter a few years back from a doctor from the Children’s Hospital who said that they were very interested in it in England and France and they wanted to know more and get on to it and do some more which they have done since.

Now this is in use in France and England, you said, the technique of treating people. Do you feel proud of that Harry?

Oh well, yes, but as I say I don’t think that it is anything out of the ordinary. I mean, lots of people would do it if they got the chance and lots of people are more capable of doing it than I am. But as I always say, I get more out of volunteering that I put into it.

Has it enriched your life being a volunteer?

I reckon so, yes. Certainly enriched the latter part of my life because I’ve found through my volunteering that the things I didn’t think I’d be able to do and wouldn’t be so much interested in, turned out to be the best because of my lack of knowledge in the first place.