My Wyndham: Shirley Van Keulan

Shirley Van Keulan. Photo: Damjan Janevski

Shirley Van Keulan tells Star Weekly reporter Charlene Macaulay about her stint as a councillor, her 20-plus years of volunteer work and her extensive collection of tea cups

How long have you lived in Wyndham?

I’ve lived here since 1976. I lived in Laverton, which was part of the Werribee shire until the council amalgamations in the early 1990s. It was a part of Hobsons Bay for about 10 years through boundary changes before I moved back here.

You spent two years as a councillor with Werribee shire. What made you stand?

I lived in High Street in Laverton and we had no footpath and I used to go down to the council chambers all the time, protesting. I sat out and counted the cars going down High Street because no one then had any idea of how many cars went down High Street and onto the freeway. They used to call me “Mrs High Street”.

I then decided I’d stand for council. I was a single mum with two kids, and I got in.

I didn’t get to finish my term because I was living in [what became] Hobsons Bay when Jeff Kennett brought in the commissioners and I couldn’t stand for Werribee council any more.

What was it like to be a councillor?

Amazing. It changed my life.

I discovered some people’s problems are major, some people’s problems are very small and the small problems are as important to people as the big problems. I met so many incredible people who I’m still friends with today.

You’ve been one of Wyndham council’s longest-serving volunteers. What prompted you to start volunteering and what has kept you going for all these years?

Life isn’t just take. I think if you give back, lovely things happen to you. I’ve helped out with Senior Citizens Week for 20-odd years and now I’ve retired I’m a volunteer at the visitor information centre.

I love that, because you get to promote Wyndham to everybody from all over the world.

I’ve also hosted a Biggest Morning Tea for 20 years at our home here and at facilities I’ve worked in.

What do you like about Wyndham?

We’ve got everything here.

We’ve got the beach, fishing, the rose garden, the race track; the You Yangs is close to us and we can be in the city quickly when it’s not peak hour.

We’ve got everything here on our doorstep. One of the greatest things [my partner] Enzo and I like to do is go to what we call our sea-view restaurant; that’s fish and chips on the beach at Werribee South.

If you could change one thing about the area, what would it be?

The traffic.

What are your hobbies?

I knit teddies for the hospital, I love gardening and growing my own vegies and fruit. I like getting in the caravan and travelling, and I like people coming in for a cup of tea. I have hundreds of different tea cups and saucers. There’s nothing like drinking tea from fine china.