Jean Frost, (nee Robinson) was born in Sydney. Her father was Dr Kenneth Robinson and her mother Elaine Robinson. She has two brothers and two sisters and was educated at Kambala School in Rose Bay from kindergarten to year 12. She moved to Yass immediately after completing Dentistry at Sydney University and has spent some 35 years here. She has never moved on, devoting herself to her family, the Yass community, her profession and a number of local community organisations.

Jean Frost when she was a schoolgirl

Jean is married to Geoff Frost who many would know as a Yass Valley Councillor and long-term resident.

“Education was a big thing for my dad, but especially for my mum. She was a piano teacher who worked to support my father while he became a Doctor,” Jean said.

But she didn’t inherit her mother’s musical talents. “It was par for the course to learn a bit of piano for me. I don’t think I could play anything at all now.” However, her brothers played the Bagpipes and still do, quite proficiently.

At school, French caught her attention and she began learning it there and still practices to this day in Yass. “I am very lucky to be able to attend a weekly class in Yass on a Wednesday morning. It is just one of those small groups and we chat in English half the time. Jean says that she can comprehend French much better than she did in the past. “It’s good for your brain every week to get a bit of a challenge and languages are good for your brain.”

Jean studied to become a Dentist for five years at Sydney University, the United Dental Hospital and Westmead Hospital.

She saw patients from all walks of life and with all sorts of different ailments. “All ages, all backgrounds, a lot of migrants who had just come into the country, some who had arrived just the day before. People from everywhere and a lot of them had very little English.”

Jean arrived in the Yass Valley in January 1986 and worked with Professor Robin Woods. “I think he was just Doctor Robin Woods at that stage. He was very well-known in the Dental community and worked with the World Health Organisation. In earlier years, Robin was very active in the control of dental decay, as was the other Yass dentist, Syd Dobbin. “Syd had been on the Council for quite a few years and used his position to introduce fluoride to Yass, while Robin concentrated on the associated microbiology.”

Jean and Geoff were ‘matched’ by Carolyn Adams. “She worked at the Surgery and did our books, her husband Bob worked for Council. She was a bit of a matchmaker and we are still very good friends today. They live in Lismore nowadays but we still see them regularly.”

“Carol urged me to go along and watch a play that Geoff was in and we got to know each other there, and it went from there. Back when the Liberty was still open.”

The Yass Can Assist group

Jean spent 30 years in dentistry but didn’t find it hard to put the tools down. She said, “I retired five and a half years ago. I was lucky enough to be able to retire and travel while we were still young enough. My father died at 62. I really enjoyed my time at work, but also really enjoy being retired. Over the years I worked with many different talented girls who have become lifelong friends from our time working so closely together.

“In dentistry, you see the lot, sometimes it can be sad, teeth are important for appearance. If you are in a job where you face the public all the time, appearance is very important, but dental health is connected to more general health. Heart disease, speech, diet and digestion are all issues and the mouth is a key site for many cancers.

We saw all sorts of patients. In the early days, Robin was very community minded and, for a while we saw pensioners for nothing. I don’t think there would be many practices doing that nowadays. We were on call 24 hours a day. We would take the phone for the weekend. It was before mobile phones which was a little restrictive because you had to be contactable on your landline.”

Jean would be called out for kids sporting accidents and abscesses, people in dreadful pain. She would get called out at 2:00am in the morning. Robin would hear the commotion downstairs and appear in a dressing gown and slippers and lend a hand. Various times Jean had to drag her kids or Geoff out to hold the sucker. “They still remind me of it” she laughs.

Jean and Geoff were married in 1992, thirty years next April. Jean has two sons and a stepdaughter.

Jean helped Geoff study at ANU. He then joined the Commonwealth Department of Primary Industries and then the Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics where he studied the growth of country towns. He considers himself lucky to have been able to do that work. “He has been to lots of towns around Australia.”

After thirteen years on Yass Valley Council Geoff will be finishing up at the end of this year. He won’t be standing at the December 4 elections. Jean says, “He thinks it’s time for someone else to have a turn. He has always been passionate about representing all the Valley including the smaller communities such as Bookham, Binalong, Bowning and Wee Jasper.

Jean and Geoff have two boys who are 25 and 27. The eldest George, has been living in London for the last couple of years. He is a software engineer and works for a company that supports people with type two diabetes. George has a degree in Science, but he decided he wanted to do computing and was convinced he would find himself a job, so he taught himself and it has paid off handsomely. His brother Charlie is a Materials Science Engineer who is now taking on first-year medicine at Sydney University. He still works part-time as an engineer doing research and development for a company in Queanbeyan, working remotely for them when he has time. He was very successful as an engineer so shocked us when he applied to do medicine. I’m very proud of them both.”

Jean has been heavily involved in Can Assist over the years as a volunteer patient coordinator. She is very proud of the organisation, “We pay for scans, chemotherapy drugs, oxygen, it might be Panadol or pharmacy bills, doctor’s gaps and travel. Travel is one of the biggest expenses. If people don’t have the money they might not have the treatment. If we can take a bit of the stress away, ensure they get what they need and make their time a little bit easier, it’s very rewarding.”

Yass Valley Branch pays local patients in the order of five and twelve thousand dollars every month. Last year it helped 50 patients with a total of $75,000. COVID has not reduced the need for Can Assist. “We still have as many patients, but we haven’t been able to do our regular fundraising. We normally raise funds through the Murrumbateman Markets, raffles or donations from sporting groups. Not being able to fundraise makes it difficult.”

In order to make up some of the ground Can Assist had a head-shaving at Riverbank Park last week to raise funds. Fabiola Case raised over $7,000. “It was a great morning and the sun came out and it stayed a good morning. You can still donate to Fabiola until the end of November” Jean says.

Jean is also President of the Hospital Auxiliary. Jean is proud of what the Auxiliary has done over the last ten years. They work with the hospital staff to ensure that the items the Auxiliary buys for the hospital match the needs of staff and patients. “We don’t dream up things, they decide what they need. They give us a wish list.” At the moment the Auxiliary is saving money and fundraising to buy a point of care ultrasound machine which will cost in the vicinity of $36,000.

“It’s a vital piece of equipment but essential. It will allow doctors at Yass to undertake investigations that are currently unavailable. It will allow early diagnoses and so better direct patients to other facilities and avoid some unnecessary transfers. Jean said, “It’s a big-ticket item, but hopefully it won’t be too much longer coming. I’d like to see the ability to diagnose things faster so that we can move people around faster.”

She finds it rewarding to see those contributions being used. “We love spending money and helping out. It’s for the good of everybody. If it saves you a trip to somewhere else and can improve the patient outcome, that is great.”

Jean said she has never regretted settling in Yass. “We never had any urge to go and live in Canberra and I don’t miss Sydney. Yass has a generous community. I go to book club, French, Can Assist and the Auxiliary. I have friends from all walks of life and there is a great main street and lots of open spaces.

And if I want to spend a day in a city, it’s just over the border. In Sydney, if you say hello to people they can look at you like you have three heads. In a country town, you are lucky if you can walk too far down the street without having a chat. It’s nice, it makes you feel like you belong.”

Main photo: Geoff and Jean Frost at their wedding (Supplied)