PEOPLE WE MEET
I was born in Singleton in the Hunter Valley, in 1933. I left there to go to teacher's college in Newcastle and then I married in 1955 and taught in Maitland for nine years. We moved to Wollongong in 1967. We lived in Keira Street, next to the old Illawarra Mercury building, in a little house that has since been pulled down to make way for a parking lot I think. We moved to Mt Kembla in May, 1968. I had three children, two sons and a daughter. My two sons had disabilities. My eldest son Ian died in December, 2012. He was 56 years old. Mark lives in a group home in Berkeley. My daughter died in 2002 but I have two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
I have lived in this house for 47 years. The village has changed enormously but it still retains that village atmosphere. It still has a culture of looking after one another, looking out for one another. It is a great place for children to grow up. It is a very safe place to grow old in. It has been amazingly supportive of me and my family because we've been a family of special needs. After my marriage failed, I taught in the village for six years and worked for DOCS in the handicapped persons bureau for six years. I only left to look after my son Ian. I went to university (Wollongong) as a mature aged student and while I was there I was asked to help write a play about the mine disaster of 1902 ... in the end I was the one left writing the play. I guess I sort of blundered into playwriting. I was still at the university when I was writing Windy Gully. Currency Press published it in 1989. The university published Lights Out, Nellie Martin, The Last Voyage of the Gracie Anne and ... That Christmas of '75. Lights Out, Nellie Martin is one of my favourites and is the only play I was given a literary fellowship to write. The play will be performed at the Phoenix Theatre in Coniston from April 10 to April 25. I have written about 17 plays, all of which have been produced.
I'm very active now because I got a new hip last year that has made me much more physically active. I still have a lung condition that limits lots of exercise. It is one of the reasons why I'm passionately involved in trying to persuade the powers that be to built a lift at Unanderra train station because that's the station I use to go to and from Sydney. There was access once and I can't believe we don't have a lift now. It's a matter of fairness. I'm very passionate about facilities and services and general community inclusion for people with disabilities too. I'm very much interested in trying to close the gap between the haves and have nots. I haven't all the answers but I'd like to be a part of the solution.
I just wish that I had more time to be actively involved. I was 53 when I wrote Windy Gully. I remember when we were touring Queensland mining towns a little kid asked me 'how many plays do you think you have left in you?'. I couldn't answer him but one thing I do want to do is write the third part of a trilogy I began for Theatre South. The first play was The Season of Emily Jane, the second was This Other Eden but I haven't written the third play. There are many things that I have tried to do that didn't succeed. I was part of the fight to keep Keelong in Unanderra. I worked there as a volunteer for four years. We couldn't stop it from closing and that was a very sad day. It was a very sad day for the boys that went there. These setbacks don't stop me from trying to help because trying to be part of the solution seems to be the most satisfying way of trying to live.
I got the OAM (Order of Australia) medal in 2005 for contribution to the arts and the community. That was a very proud day for me. I took my son Mark with me and my two grandchildren, Michael and Julia. I'm also very proud of my two sons and my daughter. Certainly my two sons who had such a challenge in life but lived quality lives. My son Mark and I are volunteers every Tuesday at the Salvation Army store in Unanderra. I'm very proud of what he has achieved.
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