I grew up on a sheep and cattle property in the north-west of New South Wales, learning independence, resilience and how to ride a horse from a young age. Because of the remoteness of our home, I was sent to boarding school in Sydney at the age of 12 ‘to get a good education’, as my mother promised. From that time on, I would return home only in school or university vacations; or as an adult, on special visits to see my parents.
My fascination with other cultures was ignited at the University of New England, where I came to know students from Asia and the South Pacific. Vocational choices for young women were limited in the 1960s and I trained as a secondary school teacher. After graduating, I took a teaching job in Fiji, where I discovered the joy of opening the world of literature and poetry to children. Later I worked in Malaysia as personal assistant and speechwriter to the Director of the MARA Institute of Technology. In both countries, I revelled in discovering the food, cultures and people firsthand.
When I finally returned to Australia, I joined the Commonwealth Public Service. There, opportunities were offered to me well beyond my formal qualifications. I found the variety I craved, working in international cooperation, Aboriginal education, rehabilitation and health. In the late 1980s, working for the NSW Department of Health, I played a key role in the NSW response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. That experience was a ‘baptism of fire’, and I knew health was to be my vocation thereafter.
For the last 20 years of my working life, I ran a consultancy business, facilitating change within Australian health services. Having my own business gave me the flexibility and personal control I needed to live well with multiple sclerosis, which had been diagnosed in 1997.
Since retiring, I’ve found new passions – blogging and writing on the local history of my suburb Hamilton, my family’s history, and daily life with multiple sclerosis. My grandchildren light up my life. I live with my husband in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia.
In 2016, a group of students at the University of Newcastle produced this 5-minute video for their media studies assignment, about my local history blog and books on Hamilton, and living with multiple sclerosis.