Adopt a new member of the family from the Hervey Bay Animal Refuge. Maree Hill.
Adopt a new member of the family from the Hervey Bay Animal Refuge. Maree Hill. Valerie Horton

Hervey Bay Animal Refuge is looking for its next caretakers

MAREE Hill first stepped foot into the Hervey Bay Animal Refuge as a 22 year old. Her parents George and Beryl McConnell had the role of caretakers at the centre.

"My dad actually had one leg by that time which he brought up at the interview but they said it wasn't a problem," Mrs Hill said.

"They lived for the animals."

That was 40 years ago.

Caring for the animals is in Mrs Hill's blood and she has continued to carry the tradition and is found at the refuge centre most days.

Adopt a new member of the family from the Hervey Bay Animal Refuge. Volunteers Glenda Hare, Mel Wilks, Maree Hill, Bob Heathcote and Lena Maag.
Adopt a new member of the family from the Hervey Bay Animal Refuge. Volunteers Glenda Hare, Mel Wilks, Maree Hill, Bob Heathcote and Lena Maag. Valerie Horton

"After my dad passed away, I made a promise to him that I'll keep the refuge going, and make sure the animals have the best care possible," she said.

The centre has greatly expanded over the past four decades, as even the dog kennels weren't there when the McConnell family first moved in.

"Dogs and puppies used to cost just $5 each," Mrs Hill said. "We have had every breed of dog and cat that can be found in Australia come through here."

Mrs Hill founded the Nikenbah Markets in the 1980s, which now acts as a major fundraiser for the Hervey Bay Animal Refuge.

"We put on our first market in April of 1984, which had 27 stalls," she said. "It has grown to 227 stalls. Without the markets, the refuge cannot exist."

Mrs Hill has managed to combine her love of animals with another passion: helping the elderly.

Adopt a new member of the family from the Hervey Bay Animal Refuge. Georga and Janeice Calvert made the decision to adopt little Shabby (Centre). Pictured with Maree Hill.
Adopt a new member of the family from the Hervey Bay Animal Refuge. Georga and Janeice Calvert made the decision to adopt little Shabby (Centre). Pictured with Maree Hill. Valerie Horton

She has taken many of the refuge centre's pets to aged care homes, an experience she says is indescribable.

"The best medication is to be around pets," Mrs Hill said.

"You see people smile that don't usually smile, when they're holding an animal," she said.

Hervey Bay Animal Refuge is looking for its next caretakers now.

"We want someone who wants to work with the animals and have this as a lifestyle," Mrs Hill said.



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