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Wilma McBain OAM (Lawson)


Boarding at MLC for five years, I learnt to be independent and to look out for my fellow beings.

After leaving school I trained as a nurse at Royal Perth Hospital. I married Ross McBain in 1970 and had three children, a boy and two girls.

In 1988 I started work at Princess Margaret Hospital for Children as the coordinator of the Cleft Lip and Palate Unit, the only one of its kind in WA.

I became the overall coordinator of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Unit in 1993.

It is very rewarding to see bubs with glitches in life come through the other side as young adults. They go through many surgeries and we follow them through from newborns to the age of 23. They become like family.

For parents, it is a very stressful time. They go through a grieving process. We try to be there for them with help and advice.

We try to help the children reach their goals. Some have gone on to become dancers, actors and members of the Qantas choir. Sometimes the children come back as adults to show us their own babies, born without problems. It’s a real buzz.

In 2006 I became the Secretary of the Australasian Cleft Lip and Palate Association.

It was a huge and unexpected honour in 2008 to be awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for services to children with cleft lip and palate and craniofacial problems.

I thought they’d got the wrong Wilma. At the awards ceremony I thought, “what am I doing here?” But it turned out all the other recipients felt the same way. We’d all just been doing what we do.

I have now been at PMH for 25 years and hope to continue to go on giving for quite some time yet. I try to follow a motto from a sampler that my grandmother had hanging on her wall: ‘I expect to pass through this life just once, therefore, if there is one good thing I can do or any kindness that I can show, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again’.

On MLC: My fondest memories include movie nights on a Saturday with yummy cakes brought in specially; pillow and powder fights in the dormitory and midnight feasts. I made lifelong friends with whom I am still in touch.




28 October 2022