Author Archives: annecarlin

About annecarlin

I'm a self confessed "bleeding heart" and proud to be so.

My bleeding heart is why I’m marching: #MarchinMarch 2014

GOSFORD CHURCH

 

By Anne Carlin  @sacarlin48

10th March 2014

In October 2013 I had the wonderful experience of attending the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) in Bali. I had been once before but this time I got a full ticket and went to as many of the forums, talks, debates, book and poetry readings as I could.

At the end of the four days I was an exhausted but relatively happy person. I had listened to so many interesting, clever, thoughtful and funny people from all over the world. I was alive and invigorated and my brain was ticking over incessantly. It was a great feeling, so why do I use the word ‘relatively’ happy?

I left with a pain I could not quite put my finger on, and then realised that during the festival my heart started bleeding and I couldn’t get it to stop.

Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers

My country’s treatment of asylum seekers who come to us seeking refuge was abhorrent to me. It was just a month after the federal election in Australia that put the Abbott Government into power. Much of the campaign from both major parties was smear denigrating and demonising asylum seekers and refugees.

The constant message was they are dangerous to Australia and must be kept out of the country at all costs. Hence the beginning of the PNG solution and the promise that no asylum seeker who came to Australia by boat would ever be resettled in Australia.

We have previous Prime Minister Rudd to thank for that, but his zeal has been outdone over the last six months by Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. In October I was angry and worried but I had no idea then just how cruel and unjust Australia would become.

At a forum Through Darkness to Light at the URWF, I heard the horrific stories of two asylum seekers who were welcomed and supported by our country. One was Kooshyar Karimi from Iran and Carina Hoang from Vietnam. Like many, many other refugees they have not only made Australia home but have given so much back to the nation. When I heard their stories and felt their pain, the bleeding started.

As the situation for asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat became more cruel and heartless I knew I had to do something.

The environment

At the festival I also attended a number of forums that highlighted environmental issues as they related to South-East Asia. It was uplifting yet daunting to hear first hand of grass-root movements in communities all over Indonesia who were seeking ways to stop the degradation of their land, to keep their homes and livelihoods intact and to prevent the destruction of endangered species like the Orang-utan.

I came back to Australia to a Prime Minister who thinks we have too many National Parks, that loggers are the ultimate conservationists and who is trying to de-list a significant number acres of World Heritage listed forests in Tasmania. Despite the science, he is a climate change sceptic and his raison d’être is to “Axe the Tax”.

The Trans Pacific Partnership

This will be a very short section because the government has been so secretive about this agreement and how it will potentially hurt a lot of Australians. It is very rarely mentioned in mainstream media and most people are just not aware that it’s happening and happening soon.

You can read a draft of the agreement provided  by by WikiLeaks.  My main concerns are the capacity for large multinational companies to override our government’s decisions, the extension of pharmaceutical patents which will mean greater costs for the government and consumers and  the significant implications for anyone who downloads from the internet.

March in March

One day in December I was trawling, not trolling, around Twitter and I saw a mention of March in March 2014 and I began to spread the word all over Twitter and Facebook, much to the chagrin of many of my Facebook friends. I soon realised that it was just a thought bubble then and it would be another month before a small group of committed people began to work together to make the March in March a reality.

Currently over 36,000 people have responded and will be marching in around 30 locations across Australia. The March in March is “a peaceful, non-partisan citizens’ march and rally at Federal Parliament to protest against the current government’s policy decisions that are against the common good of our nation”. I salute the March in March group for the amazing work that they are doing.

When it comes to the crunch, the fact that I’ll be marching in Brisbane and Canberra is not about me. Legally or illegally I very rarely download from the internet (unless it’s a meme of Tony Abbott but even then it has to be really clever and funny); I’m very healthy and don’t have to take any drugs to stay that way; I’m retired and comfortable financially; I own my home; I have a stable family life and my adult children are happy and independent.

I’m from a generation that got a free tertiary education and this has stood me in good stead all of my life. I’ve also been incredibly lucky throughout my life. Now is the time for me to give back to my community and try to help others who are not so fortunate. Also, in Canberra I just might get to meet Fr Rod Bower of the Gosford Anglican Church who is a strong supporter of more humane policies for people seeking asylum in Australia.

Given the decisions that Tony Abbott’s government is making on Medicare, the NDIS and Disability Support Payments, Gonski, the attacks on workers’ rights and the huge financial concessions being given to some industries, it is clear that unless we do something soon there will be fewer people like me who will be happy, stable and independent in their lives.

Sally McManus has done a great job of tracking Abbotts wreckage so you can check for yourself all that ‘Wrecking Ball Tony’ has accomplished in six months https://goo.gl/hTxzsF

If you also want to stand up and tell this government “not in my name”  find an event near you and march in March 2014

P.S. I did get to meet @FrRodBower at the Canberra march. What a wonderful person he is. I wish him well in his quest to become a Senator in our Federal Parliament #Ausvotes2019

To see a World

To see a World

I wrote this piece many months ago but have kept it to myself. I thought today, the last day of 2017 was a good time to post it.  I hope that with a new year coming and having written about my mother’s death and its impact on me I can move on and feel a little more light hearted.

June 20 1980: Walking home carrying a couple of bags of groceries on this Friday afternoon I thought to myself what a day it had been and that I was really tired. My last day of school for many months; the beginning of my maternity leave. I was not allowed to be tired however because Mum and Dad were coming down for the weekend and we were all going to party tonight at Stephen’s work.

The groceries were heavy and I was also carrying this big baby around in my belly. Only six weeks to wait until we met this not so little critter. I put the groceries down and was fumbling in my handbag for the key to the front door when I heard the phone ringing. I cursed that the front door was always a bit tricky to open. I rushed and made things worse. The phone stopped…then started again. I got the door open, dropped the groceries and rushed to the phone. I heard my sister-in-law Chris ask

‘Is Steve there Anne?’ Instinctively I knew something terrible had happened

‘No he’s not home yet. What’s the matter? What’s happened?’

‘When will he been home?’ Chris asked.

“What’s the matter?. Tell me what’s happened.’ I cried.

‘There’s been a car accident. Mary has been killed. Austin is in hospital but he’ll be OK’

Amidst the howling and crying there was a mad jumble of questions and answers ‘how, where,why, where was John my brother, what was wrong with Dad?’ Later when I was more reasonable I felt so sad for poor Chris. She loved Mum too and would be shattered and in pain as well. She also had to ring my sister Ruth and tell her. Another terrible task.

I never knew I could act in such a primeval way. I literally howled and screamed, running around the house, in and out of the house like a mad woman. Groceries were strew across the verandah. All the heaving was hurting my stomach and I was holding on scared that I might hurt my baby and he might come too early. When Stephen got home I was curled up in the foetal position heaving and crying. It seemed like forever that I was alone and isolated with my grief and pain but I later found out it was only about ten minutes.

Throughout the many years of our marriage I will always remember the strength and courage of my husband over the next few days and months and also at the birth of our son David exactly six weeks later. We had some pretty tough times over the years but I knew I’d never find a man again who was so good in a crisis even when he was pain himself.

At that time our parents had been very good friends for over 20 years. They met working in a small Aboriginal community at Tabulam in NSW. Stephen always liked saying he knew me before I was born. I have a very precious photo of Mum, Stephen,his parents Vera and Geoff, his brother Clive and my brother John eating watermelon on the verandah on Christmas day 1953. The big watermelon in Mum’s tum was me, born 12 days later on the feast of the Epiphany. My mother loved Stephen very much and he her. We all had many very happy times together especially after we got married.

In 1975 Stephen and I moved in together before we married. This was rather risqué move way back then. Both sets of parents took a very, very dim view of this action. A few months later we decided to get married. It was Easter and Vera and Geoff were visiting Mum and Dad at Taree. It was so exciting that we could tell them together that we would no longer be living in sin! They were very excited!

Mary’s death was a tragedy in so many ways. My father Austin and my siblings John, Ruth and Kate struggled for years to come to terms with it and still do. Mary and Austin were on their way from Taree to Sydney to visit Ruth and me  when, only 20 ks from home, a car crossed onto the wrong side of the road and hit their car head on. Austin had chest and facial injuries. Mary had no visible injuries at all but died 2 hours later from collapsed lungs. Austin was so shocked because he thought she was going to be fine. She was thin and a little frail and the impact during the accident from the seat belt was what killed her. My brother John was only a few kilometres away in Tuncurry but he couldn’t get there till after Mary had died. She died alone.

That night my sister Ruth and her partner, who also lived in Sydney, came over and we spent the night together. Very little sleeping happened. We alternated between extreme outpourings of grief and disbelief; the hope that it just might be a terrible mistake. We left while it was still dark to travel to Taree and I remember worrying whether Stephen might fall asleep while driving. I was so frightened there might be another car accident and we would all die.

My poor little sister Kate was at University in Armidale and no-one could contact her. In the end the police went to her home and told her about Mum’s death. Everytime I think of this I feel so sad all over again. She was so young and alone.

Mary was a woman who grew out of poverty and dysfunction. Her mother died in childbirth when she was two years of age. Mary and two of the other younger siblings then lived with their maternal grandmother Granny Wilson. They were 2, 4 & 6 years of age. The four older children were split up between various families including Sam Hill their father. Granny Wilson was illiterate, old, possibly sick and appears to have had a burning hatred of Sam Hill. The little ones virtually never saw him even though they lived in the same suburb in Brisbane. She wasn’t the best person to be bringing up 3 small children but foster care or an orphanage was probably the only alternative. In fact at about 12 years of age Mary was made a ward of the court and fostered. The Hill family was dogged by tragedy and pain throughout their lives. Mary’s death was just one of many terrible things that happened.

What do I remember about Mary? She was smart, funny, loving, feisty, compassionate, a bit of a rebel, a real looker and a little bit crass. Not sure if the crassness came from ‘nature or nurture’. Austin pretty much had a doctorate in crassness. Mary was uneducated. Due to her impoverished family circumstances she left school at 14 and became an office worker. She read voraciously and widely. She introduced me to James Baldwin, Henry Miller, Xavier Herbert, Solzenitzen, Virginia Woolf and many, many other writers that I’d never heard of even while studying Arts at University. She was the first radical socialist I ever knew, but I really didn’t realise that until after she died. When I was driving home from Practise Teaching in 1975 I heard on the radio Gough Whitlam was sacked. I rang Mary as soon as I got home full of rage and a terrible feeling of disbelief and powerlessness. She answered the phone singing “We’ll keep the Red Flag Flying”. Oh how I loved her that day.

I remember about 1977 Mary stayed with me in Sydney. Stephen, in the RAN, was away at sea and Austin was on a golf trip to New Zealand. I was teaching at a school in my neighbourhood and on Friday afternoons we, mainly women as after all we were all in the humanities, would go to the local hotel and pretty much get a skinful. This night about 8 women including Mary left the pub and went to dinner at a Chinese Restaurant up the road. We were loud, talkative, brash, knew everything and wanted to share it with all and sundry especially about feminism and women’s rights. I remember Mary saying later that weekend how envious she was that I has such good women friends and that I had so much intellectual stimulation. About then I introduced her to Marilyn French’s book “The Woman’s Room” She alternated between, recognition, acceptance, anger, rebellion and a myriad of other emotions. That was when she finally decided she was going to apply to go to university. She was 52 years.

When Mary died in 1980 she was in her 2nd year at the University of New England (UNE). In her first year she studied English and Ancient History and got a Credit and Pass. Great for a 52 year old woman with no formal education at all. She was surprised and so happy at her success. Her success came at a cost though as she worked very hard somewhat to the detriment of her relationship with Austin. In 1980 Mary studied Politics. She was amazed she had the same lecturer as I did years before and how he still strode down the stairs into the lecture theatre with his gown flowing out behind him. If I remember correctly it was Colin Tatz, a great academic and historian.

The next few days after mum’s death are a blur. We drove out to Nabiac and retrieved all the stuff Mum and Dad had in the car. She was bringing down a little red Bonds Suit for my baby. Both of my children wore it and I spirited it away for my first grandchild who was born a few months ago. Mum was bringing down her famous peanut biscuits for Ruth. I remember us all sitting in the kitchen at home at Taree eating them and alternately laughing and crying. I remember when we first saw Mum’s sister Betty who had come down from Brisbane for the funeral. We were sitting by Dad’s bed in the hospital when she walked in. She looked so much like mum momentarily my heart leapt and I thought it was all a big mistake. Some horrible joke. But it wasn’t.

I remember walking into the church for the funeral. My stomach hurt so much. It seemed like my baby inside was going crazy and I thought I was going to faint or vomit. Stephen held me up and whispered
‘Just take a breath, and another. Just breathe slowly.’
I gathered up what strength and dignity I could muster and walked down to the front of the church. There was my poor old dad, face badly bruised, lots of stitches, John and Chris, Ruth and Kate and Aunty Betty all feeling just like me. Bereft. Stephen got up during the service and started to read the 23rd Psalm. After a few words he stopped and teared up and I was worried he wouldn’t be able to continue. I quietly whispered to myself the same words he had said to me earlier and willed him on. I have never been more proud of the man I married.

I really don’t remember much about the service at the cemetery. After all of the stuff was just about done and as the Minister was about to put the first dirt onto Mum’s coffin a group of people came forward and started to sing. They were Aboriginal people from Tabulam where Mum and Dad first lived after they were married. He was the teacher there for nine years. The four of us kids were born in Casino and lived there in our early lives. Kate, the youngest, was about 2 when we left almost 20 years before. They had heard of Mum’s death and came to pay their respects to her and to dad. All I really remember is the powerful harmonious singing in their own language. It was haunting and strangely uplifting yet painful beyond belief. They wouldn’t come to the wake. They just piled back into their cars and left. They had done what they came to do. It was such a comfort to Dad that these people remembered him and mum after all those years and wanted to share their respect for her with him and us in our terrible loss. Lots of people later said that Mum’s funeral was the best things that ever happened to relations between the aboriginal community and white folks in Taree.

All I remember about the wake is Dad tired and overwrought had to go back to the hospital and someone, who shall remain nameless because I can’t remember who it was, after imbibing a little too much fell down the stairs from the verandah into the garden bushes below. Lucky it was only a few steps and he bounced. Weirdly enough it made us laugh which was in short supply that day.

By a strange coincidence the same thing had at our wedding almost exactly five years before. Same steps, same garden, different person, though I do remember his name on that occasion. Those steps were short but clearly very dangerous.

I remember after the funeral Chris, Ruth, Kate and I went through all mum’s clothes and other possessions. She didn’t really have much. We very carefully and lovingly, towards each other and to mum’s memory, laid claim to the things that we wanted to keep. Later when I looked at what I had claimed I realised that most of the stuff was presents that I had given her at some time. It reinforced for me the belief that we buy for others the gifts that we would like for ourselves.

When David was born Austin was with us in Sydney as we were convinced the baby would come on the due date. David was duly punctual arriving the morning he was due. It was the best of days and the worst. I was glad he was a boy as the thought of a girl was very painful for me. The loss I felt that mum wasn’t there was sometimes insurmountable. I was on my own. No mother. The day after David was born Stephen was on duty for 24hrs. On completion he asked for leave from 8am, was refused and was expected to work a normal day. He left regardless. My feelings about the RAN were always very mixed and took a turn for the worse after that.

I felt pretty forlorn for quite a long time but I had Stephen and the rest of my family and his. They all told me how beautiful David was even though the poor boy had a hard road out of the womb into the real world and it really showed. He grew to be the most beautiful little boy and an adult I am immensely proud of. He was joined a few years later by Claire Mary. When she was little she always called herself “Claire Grandma Mary Carlin.” I saved a special dress that Mum had made for herself when she was younger and Claire wears it with pride. She never met her Grandmother Mary but she knows her very well.

Austin spent a heap of his strength and money through two inquests and an appeal to the NSW Supreme Court but Mary’s life went unavenged by the legal system. I say legal rather than justice as her death was the perfect example that justice is not necessarily achieved through the legal system. To this day over 36 years later I still feel angry that while she struggled to overcome extreme adversity in her early life and she managed to live a good, purposeful and giving life but she was betrayed in death.
The question I ask myself on a regular basis is how does someone cross onto the wrong side of the road, crash into another car, kill a women, badly injure her husband, lie in court and not even get a Negligent Driving charge, let alone, Manslaughter, Dangerous Driving …. or anything.

Our family was always convinced that the police officer who was at the scene of the accident and was the investigating officer into Mary’s death was corrupt; was paid by the driver of the car that caused the accident. The evidence given at both inquests by the police officer and the driver of the other car directly contradicted Austin’s evidence, that of another driver who was travelling behind Austin and also the evidence about the weather conditions at the time. Prior to the second inquest we watched the police officer brazenly hug both the driver of the other car and his wife’s as we all stood together outside the courtroom. It was devastating. The whole legal process proceeded as if Austin was the guilty party and the force of the Taree “justice” system set out to prove it.

I hear your thoughts now. She’s paranoid, twisted by grief, bitter, can’t get over a tragic accident. What we didn’t know at the time was that there were other extremely tragic examples of police corruption in Taree around the same time that came to light later. The most terrible was a Taree police officer found to be corrupt in a very serious matter where an innocent women went to gaol for ten years before her conviction was quashed. That officer was the same investigating officer into the accident that caused Mary’s death.

I only discovered the involvement of this police officer a few months ago visiting my brother in Forster. I had been following the case of the Taree woman wrongfully convicted and so had he. He had all Austin’s papers from the court cases and checked it out. Same officer. At first I was really angry…really angry… at the injustice. Really angry for Mary whose death was violated by individuals and the legal system.

Strangely enough this knowledge freed me in a way I didn’t expect. I felt sad for Dad’s years of sorrow and cynicism but was gratified he wasn’t wrong in being suspicious about the police for 30 years. He was a bit bitter and twisted and that dogged him for the rest of his life. Maybe he would have felt better if he knew the truth before he died. Maybe not. I can only speak for me. I feel an immense relief to know that what I knew deep in my heart was real, was true. We hadn’t imagined it, we weren’t paranoid, we weren’t twisted by grief. The real cause of our mother’s death was hidden by corruption.

Austin took many months to find the perfect inscription for Mary’s headstone. She loved poetry and especially loved William Blake.
Mary Soorley
Killed 20 June 1980
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an Hour

Auguries of Innocence
William Blake

My mother Mary Soorley nee Hill was a strong, amazing woman. She is an inspiration. I believe she is the reason John, Ruth, Kate and I, despite distance and difference, have always managed to maintain a close relationship.

We owed it to Mary, our mother.

A little story from @clairesy

They walked across the road and everybody stared. No one had seen anything quite like this before. It was all new and a little frightening for the small town folk. But they weren’t afraid and they weren’t ashamed, they were in love. This is just like every other love story. Boy meets girls, girls meets boy and the rest is history as they say. They knew from the start there would be opposition but they decided it was worth it, all of it. The stares, the whispers, even the open catcalling. She thought to herself ‘how could I not love him?’ He was kind and thoughtful and an amazing listener. Not like all the other blokes – granted there weren’t that many – she’d ever been with.

This was the first time they’d been in public together in her home town and she didn’t really know what to expect. It was a little different in the city but it was never simple. Sometimes they wouldn’t let them into places together. They’d say his kind wasn’t welcome. His outfit weren’t appropriate or those shoes weren’t allowed here – that old chestnut. But they never gave up. There were always oddities, he ate far less than she did but never seemed to feel the cold which totally defied logic in her mind. They spent countless house together on their couch, telling stories and sharing secrets. They had a strange, intractable bond that held them together through the tough times.

How do two vastly people like this meet? In a world full of random, thoughtless events how does something like this happen? “I recognise you” he said to her out of the blue at a bar many, many months earlier. She jumped a little at the interruption. She was so used to being ignored in bars it was a strange sensation to hear another’s voice. “Do you?” she replied. “Where from? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before?” And so began the art of seduction. Just enough flattery – “I read your website all the time” and a little deprecation – “I hated that story you wrote on cyclists though, I fumed for a week after that!” He kept appearing and asking how she was and how much he liked her last piece until one day she finally invited him to sit down.

The strange looks have never really passed but the self-consciousness definitely has. He called one day and said he left her a present at her unit. She was already half way home so she quickened her step, curiosity piqued. And then she found the bike. She could have screamed. She doesn’t know how many times she’d told him she wouldn’t go riding with him – especially after that piece – she wasn’t one of those twats! “What’s the only thing more ridiculous than a skeleton on a bicycle? ME on a bicycle. Not going to happen!” she yelled down the phone.

He thought to himself “does a skeleton really look that ridiculous on a bicycle?”

They laugh about the bike now as they walk through the streets of her home town. “You know what’s even more ridiculous than a skeleton on a bicycle? Bringing one home as a boyfriend!” they laughed. And then it began to rain.

If you want to see more from Claire checkout

Clairesyspeaks | The story of a girl named Clairesy who speaks….a lot

20170115_121140

It had been a long, sad and sorry day

It was 3.30pm and I rushed to the Qantas counter with 30 minutes to spare….or so I thought. “Sorry you’re too late to check baggage. It’s 25 minutes to take off” I could get on the plane and leave my bag or catch the next flight with my bag. As my mother would have said : Hobsons choice. “Please, please, just this once” No way. “These are the rules, I can’t help you”.

So I arranged to catch the next flight which meant a three hour wait. I couldn’t even get drunk because I had to drive my car from the airport 25ks home. I was teary and distressed but no sympathy was forthcoming.

Sans bag I sat down on a seat in quite a prominent place in the departure area. I was not in a fit place emotionally to make my way through security yet. It came upon me like a tsunami. A blast of grief, pain, frustration and anger. It was loud, snotty and hicuppy. Great bawling exhaled breaths with little shrieks as I took in a new breath only to bawl it out as loud as I could. It was gut wrenching and painful.

After about 10 minutes I settled and then just sniveled quietly to myself. I realised during my ignominious crisis, that hundreds of people had walked passed me and not one person came to see if I was alright or ask if could they help. Not one.

Maybe that was what I deserved. After all, I my sister and I had just spent the day making my father’s car inoperable so he couldnt drive it then dragging him from his home to a respite centre and leaving him there alone. Yes he had almost killed himself with neglect, Yes his doctor wouldn’t release him from hospital to go home alone. Yes on the road he was a danger to himself and others. I tried to tell myself it was the right thing to do.

Almost 10 years later I think back on that day and I wonder. If I was faced with that decision again today would I tell the doctor to let Austin go home even though I know he would have died sooner. At least he would still have felt in control of his life and fate. Of course there would be consequences of that decision not the least being the possibility he might have taken someone with him if he’d still been driving.

A Mother’s Story

Who is this Mother?  She is my mother.  She is the mother of my sisters and my brother.

No-one ever told her story not even me.

I’m going to name my mother. She deserves to be named. She deserves for folks to know who she was, how she lived and how she died. My mother’s name is Mary Agnes Soorley. She was born Mary Agnes Hill in Brisbane on November 21 1926 and she died in a car accident on 20 June 1980 at 53 years, six weeks before my first child David was born.

Mary’s mother was Agnes Wilson and her father Sam Hill.  Yes Sam Hill… Agnes was born to Scottish parents and Sam to Irish parents who emigrated to Australia when they were young. How they met I don’t know. I do know that Sam was a butcher and Agnes clearly a mother and homemaker. Mary had 7 living siblings and one who died when Agnes died in childbirth when she was two years of age. This is a family whose life was dogged by tragedy and pain, however this is not a gloomy story, not at all, well not entirely. Descendants of the Hill family live all over Queensland and Australia and we are all a testament to the strength and resilience of those Hill children.

There was Lily was the oldest, then Sam, Margaret (Madge), Mona, Danny, Elizabeth (Betty), John and Mary. I don’t know if the baby who died was a girl or a boy. Some of these children lived tragic and sometimes short lives and some were luckier. The tale of these children’s lives is a tale for another day. I can only tell you what I know about Mary and a lot of that is second hand and possibly unreliable. I was 26 when my mother died. We were close, very close. Even so she really didn’t share much of the nitty gritty of her early life. I picked up stuff from my Aunty Betty and Uncle John, from my eldest cousin Ronnie, son of Mona, and my cousin Warren, son of John, who researched the Hill family tree.

Betty, John and Mary were brought up by Granny Wilson after their mother died. Some of the older children lived with Sam and some possibly with other members of the Wilson family. They all lived in Red Hill a suburb of Brisbane but those three little kiddies very rarely ever saw their father, except when they went to the butcher shop to get meat. Granny Wilson was illiterate, old, possibly sick and appears to have had a hatred of Sam Hill. Not the best person to be bringing up 3 small children but foster care or an orphanage was probably the only alternative. Betty told me the story of  one Christmas they went to the butcher shop where Sam worked for bones for soup and he gave them extra meat. When they got home Granny Wilson made them take the extras back to Sam.  

Mary told me two stories in particular that made me realise what a sad life she had as a child Granny Wilson was a very religious Baptist and Mary told me about the shame and embarrassment she felt when she had to go with the group to sing and play the tambourine on the street in Brisbane city and she would see her school friends laughing at her.  One day when Mary was about 13 years Granny Wilson was about to hit Mary and Mary raised her hand to her and hit back. Mary was made a ward of court and went into foster care for some time after that. These tales help me to understand how strong my mother to become such a gutsy resilient person after such childhood disadvantage. Eventually when she was older she, Betty and John went to live with Sam and her brothers and sisters.

In 1952 Mary married Austin Joseph Soorley from Tweed Heads. Austin was the youngest of 13 children so we had lots and lots of cousins on both sides of our family. Mary and Austin had 4 children in six years John, Anne,(me) Ruth and Kate. Then as Austin used to say “they discovered what was causing it”  Austin was a teacher and they moved around NSW as he furthered his career.Mary Wedding

What do I remember about Mary?  She was smart, funny, loving, feisty, compassionate, a real looker and a little bit crass. Not sure if the crassness came from the Hill family or from Austin. He pretty much had a doctorate in crassness. Mary was uneducated. Due to her impoverished family circumstances she left school at 14 and became an office worker. She read voraciously and widely and she was the first radical socialist I ever knew, but I really didn’t realise that until after she died. I heard Gough Whitlam was sacked in 1975 when I was driving home from Prac Teaching. I rang Mary as soon as I got home full of rage and a terrible feeling of disbelief and powerlessness. Mary answered the phone singing “We’ll keep the Red Flag Flying”. Oh how I loved her that day.Mary Daisy dress

Before she married Austin she had a whole life that I don’t know much about. It seemed like it was quite joyful but troubled. There is a picture of two beautiful, stylishly dressed women striding down the street in Brisbane seemingly full of confidence Mary and Betty. I know she was involved with a married man and moved from Brisbane to Melbourne to make a new life. I know she later met my father at the Tweed Heads Golf Club and they quickly became involved and soon married. Austin was a teacher and she supported him and followed him with his teaching career from Berowra Waters, Tabulam Aboriginal station (for 9 years and 4 children, no electricity) Pottsville Beach, Baradine, Guyra and Taree. Mary never worked, not because she didn’t want to, but jobs weren’t plentiful in those small towns and Austin’s philosophical view was that it was better that those scarce jobs go to young people in the community. I’m not going to make any comment about that at all!  

I remember about 1977 Mum stayed with me in Sydney. My husband Stephen was in the RAN and was away at sea and Austin was on a golf trip to New Zealand. I was teaching at a school in my neighbourhood and on Friday afternoons we, mainly women as after all we were all in the humanities, would go to the Millers Manly Vale Hotel and pretty much get a skinful. This night about 8 women including Mary left the pub and went to dinner at a Chinese Restaurant up the road. We were loud, talkative, knew everything and wanted to share it with everyone especially about feminism and women’s rights. I remember Mary saying later that weekend how envious she was that I has such good women friends and that I had so much intellectual stimulation. About then I introduced her to Marilyn French’s book “The Woman’s Room” She alternated between, recognition, acceptance, anger, rebellion and a myriad other emotions. That was when she finally decided she was going to apply to go to university. She was 52 years

A couple of strange things happened just a month before Mary’s death which despite my extremely pragmatic approach to life made me think that she had some inkling of her death. Mary had to become a Catholic to marry Austin in the church but she seemed to have maintained little interest in Catholicism and neither did Austin when the Catholic Church’s attitude to birth control became a serious issue for them. Mary articulated that she did not believe in a God and declared herself an atheist. In May 1980 we were all together to celebrate our youngest sister Kate’s 21st birthday at home at Taree. It was a pretty wild old show with lots of Kate’s hungry and thirsty university friends. There was also a fair bit of celebration on all the family’s behalf as well.

At a quiet family recovery the next day Mary asked me if I would have my baby baptised. I replied it was not my wish but would do so if my husband Stephen felt strongly about it.  Amazingly enough she seemed shocked and said that I must….. “ You must. You have to have a foot in both camps”.  At the time it seemed a very strange thing for her to say, particularly as she knew I shared her non-existent religious beliefs. Later that weekend she also stated to us all that when she died as the oldest girl I was to have her engagement ring. I was a little discomfited by her statement then and now. A month later she was dead.  

When she died in 1980 she was in her 2nd year at the University of New England (UNE). Kate was still at UNE but they never saw each other as Mary was studying externally and only went to the Uni in the holidays when Kate wasn’t there. In her first year she studied English and Ancient History and got a Credit and Pass. Great for a 52 year old woman with no formal education at all . She was amazed and so happy at her success. In the next year Mary studied Politics. She was amazed she had the same lecturer as I did years begore and how he still strode down the stairs into the lecture theatre with his gown flowing out behind him. If I remember correctly it was Colin Tatz, a great academic and historian.

Half way through that year she was killed by a careless and almost certainly corrupt driver.

Mary’s death was a tragedy in so many ways. My father Austin and my siblings John, Ruth and Kate struggled for years to come to terms with it and still do. Mary and Austin were on their way from Taree to visit Ruth and me in Sydney when only 20 ks from home a car crossed onto the wrong side of the road and hit their car head on. Austin had chest and facial injuries. Mary had no visible injuries but died 2 hours later from both lungs collapsing. My brother John was only a few kilometres away in Tuncurry but he wasn’t informed until Mary had died. She died alone.

Austin spent a heap of money and strength through two inquests but Mary’s life went unavenged by the legal system. I say legal rather than justice as her death was the perfect example that justice is not necessarily achieved through the legal system. To this day over 36 years later I still feel angry that while she struggled to overcome extreme adversity in her early life and she managed to live a good, purposeful and giving life she was betrayed in death. The question I ask myself on a regular basis is how does someone cross onto the wrong side of the road, crash into another car, kill a women and badly injure her husband and not even get a Negligent Driving charge, let alone, Manslaughter, Dangerous Driving …. or anything. There were other tragic examples of police corruption in Taree at that time that came to light much later involving the Police Officer who was the policeman at the scene of the accident and the investigating officer into Mary’s death. 

Austin took many months to find the perfect inscription for Mary’s headstone. She loved poetry and especially loved William Blake.
Mary Soorley
Killed 20 June 1980
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an Hour

Auguries of Innocence
William Blake

My mother Mary Soorley nee Mary Hill was a strong, amazing woman. She is an inspiration. I believe she is the reason John, Ruth, Kate and I, despite distance and difference, have always managed to maintain a close relationship. We owed it to our mother.  

Siblings Beth wedding

I wanted to share her story. Better late than never