IN any given month, you could find Lois Johnson doing everything from singing at the St Arnaud Country Music Club, to making quilts to donate to various causes, or conducting hearings for bail and remand applications.
The Marnoo resident is passionate about helping her community in any way she can.
Mrs Johnson became a bail justice five years ago, a role that is not necessarily widely known – or understood – in many places.
Bail justices, along with justices of the peace, are collectively known as honorary justice volunteers.
“My husband is a justice of the peace, and I was going to the meetings with him every three months,” Mrs Johnson said.
“At that time they weren’t taking applications for any more bail justices, but then they opened them up again later on.
“I thought, ‘I could do that’. So I applied.”
Mrs Johnson re-affirmed her commitment to the role last week when she re-took the oath for bail justices.
She said a bail justice was one step in the justice line.
“If someone is held by police and they want to remand them, they used to call bail justices in to make that decision,” she said.
“New legislation brought in this month means police can sometimes remand people themselves.
“There have been quite a few changes that we’ve needed to get our heads around.”
Bail justices can also witness statutory declarations and receive affidavits within Victoria.
The volunteer after-hours role takes Mrs Johnson to Horsham, Stawell, Ararat and St Arnaud.
“It is rewarding to be supportive and play a role in that decision-making process,” she said.
“We are independent of police, under the Department of Justice and Regulation.”
Craft is also a pursuit that brings much reward for Mrs Johnson, and has been a passion for many years.
“I work with the Marnoo CWA ladies to support our community with various things,” she said.
“Once a month we have an open day where people bring along a project they are working on. We chat or have a coffee and help each other out.
“I have met quite a few people through that.
“I am also a member of the Stawell Quilters, and they meet once a week. They are a wonderful bunch of ladies too.
“Quilting is very popular. Horsham has a group and there are others in the Wimmera as well.
“I’ve got a background in sewing, and I studied fashion design at RMIT. Quilting caught my eye and got me enthused.
“There is so much out there you can look at for inspiration, from magazines to the internet.
“A lot of people are very creative and come up with their own designs.
“Quilting is a way to exhibit my artistic side.”
It is rewarding to be supportive and play a role in that decision-making process.
Mrs Johnson’s work has been recognised at national level, after being chosen for the Victorian Quilt Showcase at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.
“I've got three quilts in the showcase,” she said.
“It’s really nice to go down and see them on display at Jeff's Shed – it’s a thrill to see your work in Melbourne.”
Mrs Johnson’s favourite quilt is one she entered in last year’s Victorian Quilt Showcase.
“I took a class with the Stawell ladies, and the quilt I made was freeform and quite a different technique to any I had used before,” she said.
Mrs Johnson believes the popularity of quilting in the region came from a need for connection.
“People are looking for connection and support, and interaction with others,” she said.
“It’s wonderful to be involved with – it’s very inspiring to see people enjoy themselves.”
It is these connections that Mrs Johnson actively works to support in her home town through various other endeavours, including volunteering for sporting groups.
“I help at the golf club, I’m the swimming pool treasurer and also do all the chemicals for the pool – I’m one of the team who keep the pool running,” she said.
“I’m also part of the Marnoo and District Supporters Group. We like to keep our community together by running functions, catering fundraisers, clearing sales and that sort of thing.
“We had a movie night the other night, and we are looking to run a music night soon.
“We had 60 people at a Christmas in July event this week.
“We have about 300 residents in Marnoo and the surrounding district. It’s a group of wonderful people, and everyone co-operates.”
Social connections have also stemmed from one of Mrs Johnson’s other passions – singing.
“I go to the St Arnaud Country Music Club once a month and sing with a band, and I’m also part of The Decibelles, an a capella group that performs at the Rupanyup Dirt Music Festival each year,” she said.
“It’s about having that connection with people with a shared interest.
“Singing does something on a different level. You can get together with people and leave all your troubles behind.”
Mrs Johnson said connections in small towns were something that could not afford to be lost.
“As things close and you lose shops and other things, you tend to lose track of people in your community,” she said.
“Helping out and being involved is a way to stay connected.”