For over 37 years, Aileen Ogilvie has seeded the Beaches with kindness and made them a safe place

Warriewood local Aileen Ogilvie didn’t have an easy upbringing, but her circumstances never stopped her from caring about others. From an early age, she learnt how to take care of herself, help her family, and look for ways to give back to her community. This year, the dedicated and caring 77-year-old was named Senior Citizen of the Year by Northern Beaches Council.

Having left school at the age of 12 to help her mother look after her five siblings, Aileen made her way through life, working and learning as much as she could every day. Starting as a hairdresser apprentice, she bought her first business 10 years later. Although she was building a solid career, she ‘always wanted to do something in the social welfare area’.

“My mother was a fabulous person. And she used to sew for this very wealthy lady near where we lived, and her daughter was a social worker. And I used to think, ‘oh, that’s what I’d like to do when I grow up,’” Aileen explains. Years later, she got married, which gave her the opportunity to make a change.

“Getting married and being very fortunate that I didn’t have to work, I felt like I had a responsibility to give something back.

“I never had the opportunity of going to high school or university. So, when my last child went to school, I went back to TAFE and did a community welfare certificate at Seaford TAFE,” she says.

After starting her new career as a Lifeline counsellor, she then dedicated her life to helping and mentoring vulnerable teens from the Beaches.

“While doing a Welfare Certificate at TAFE, I started a learning difficulty support group with four other Lifeline counsellors. We ran that for many years under the umbrella of Creative Leisure,” she comments.

For 20 years, Aileen mentored vulnerable teenagers in high schools and after 23 years is still on the Community Drug Action Team. Aileen is a founding member of the Northern Beaches safe space MoWaNa, where she currently participates in ‘Roses in the Ocean’, run by Suicide Prevention Australia and acts as the ‘Kindness Officer’.

Aileen also hosts ‘Coffee with Kindness’ two mornings a week at the Mind Café, providing a safe place for people to get support or have a coffee and a chat, which can often change a person’s life.

“My mother used to say, ‘You’re as good as anybody, but better than nobody.’ And I do believe I’m as good as anybody, but I’m not better than the old bloke on the corner.

“Just being able to sow a seed to make a difference to some kids – a lot of them that I work with don’t have a soft place to fall at home. That motivates me to be there for them.”

Aileen knows that each role she enters requires learning, patience and a significant amount of kindness.

“I felt like I just can learn something every day. And, I never stopped learning,” she says.

“To me, kindness is the most important thing,” she explains. I always say kindness is a noun. It’s giving somebody some strength instead of showing them their weakness.

“I’m the boss of kindness. So, if you need a bit of kindness, I’m your girl,” she laughs.

The Safe Space at The Mind Cafe is open Fridays to Sundays from 5pm to 9pm. Aileen volunteers at ‘Coffee with Kindness’ on Wednesday and Thursday mornings.