By Kath Gannaway

Yarra Ranges’ councillors paid tribute to their former colleague, Monika Keane, at the council meeting on Tuesday, 24 April.

The death, at 47, of the former O’Shannassy Ward councillor the previous day (Monday, 23 April) has been met with disbelief and sadness by her family, friends and colleagues.

Monika passed away in Tasmania after a long illness.

It was fitting that the meeting was held at the Yarra Junction Family Centre which was officially opened by Cr Keane who served the Upper Yarra communities from 2000 to 2008, including a term as mayor.

She was very much a Yarra Junction girl, having attended the local primary and high schools, and running a business in the town.

Cr Noel Cliff spoke of ‘Mon’s’ fabulous sense of humour.

“She brought a lot of humour to us as councillors,” he said producing two miniature bowling pins.

“After council meetings we would play bowls in the corridor. She was an absolutely outrageous woman … she loved her community.

“And here is Mon in all her glory,” he added holding up a photo taken to raise funds for the Save the Warburton Mechanic’s Institute campaign.

She was one of 16 local women who bared all (with a few strategically placed props) for a series of two postcards which sold like hotcakes and raised thousands of dollars for the cause.

He added “she could also be a tiger” when it was needed in dealing with particular issues.

Cr Tim Heenan spoke of her passion for her community and for cultural projects.

“It’s enormously sad that we have lost her and we can only pay tribute to the work she did on council.”

Crs Avery and Child also spoke of Cr Keane’s contribution, of the respect and affection people had for her, and shared anecdotes of her unique approach to the work she did as a councillor.

“In Powelltown there were kids there waiting for the school bus with no cover, just a big slab of concrete,” Cr Child said.

“I wrote a letter to Mon and in a week there was a bus shelter there.

“When she retired, I remember her repeating over and over … community, community, community.

“If there is one thing the woman leaves as a legacy it’s that commitment to the Upper Yarra people.”

Monika left the valley in 2009 to make a new life with husband Kevin, and just seven years ago along came their beautiful twins, Josephine and Wilhelm.

There is so much of Cr Mon’s legacy that the people of the Upper Yarra enjoy day to day, and so many memories that people have of the young councillor whose delightful personality and commitment to her community have been reflected on in the past few days on social media posts, and among the community members who in various ways came into contact with her.

She was a fierce advocate and hands-on worker, instrumental in the campaign to save the Warburton Mechanics’ Hall from demolition and raising the funds to restore it, getting the Yarra Centre off the ground and better bus services for the communities past Warburton.

In an interview with the Mail when she was elected mayor in 2008, possible the shire’s youngest ever mayor and the first from O’Shannassy Ward, she said she was excited to be working with five new councillors – Tim Heenan, Graham Warren, Samantha Dunn, Terry Avery and Jeanette McRae.

“I know there will be challenges along the way, but I’ve got strong support from family, friends and colleagues and I’m looking forward to getting the job done,” she said.

Dawn Holland met Monika at the Warburton Arts Centre where she took on a job in 2003 and they’ve shared a strong friendship ever since.

She said the loss of such a vibrant and beautiful woman has been devastating for her family and many friends.

What made her a good councillor is what made her a good woman, Dawn said.

“I would say her whole reason for being was for community. Everything about Mon was about everybody else; she was incredibly selfless when it came to all that stuff.”

A service to pay tribute and celebrate Monika’s life will be held on Saturday at 11am at St Peters Anglican Church in Oatlands, Tasmania.

The Mail shares the sense of sadness and loss and extends condolences to Monika’s family and friends.

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