Made the world a better place and enriched many lives

While Jacinta was a happy baby, it became clear that her development had been hampered by a virus Barbara contracted during pregnancy. The first sign of this was that she couldn’t see, her eyes hadn’t developed properly. Her parents were preparing to raise a disabled child, but after a few months other problems appeared. She died suddenly in her mother’s arms at the age of nine months. Barbara showed great strength in coping with this tragic event, but it left a wound that stayed with her for the rest of her life.

In 1971 the couple bought their first house in East Doncaster. While living there, opportunities arose for primary school teachers to retrain to work in kindergartens. It enabled her to fulfill the ambition she had when she left school 19 years ago and led to a long and rewarding career as Co-Principal of the new Panoramic Heights Kindergarten in Donvale.

Four years later they moved to Boronia, where they were still when Barbara breathed her last, surrounded by Alistair and her daughters. In the 47 years she lived there, she transformed the home, turning a virtually bare block into a native garden. it was her “home” and she loved it.

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Nick, their first grandchild, was born in 1989, followed by Shai, Daisy, Madison, Luca and Jack over the next 12 years. She was a wonderful grandmother, loving and adored by all.

While in Ballarat, Barbara had joined the local branch of Community Aid Abroad, the beginning of a commitment that lasted more than 50 years and only ended when ill health made it impossible to continue. She was drawn to the CAA’s philosophy – mobilizing the resources of an Australian community to provide development assistance to people who need help elsewhere. While she accepted the economies of scale and resulting wider reach, she regretted the loss of immediacy when CAA became part of Oxfam.

She had helped organize Ballarat’s first Walk Against Want around Lake Wendouree and the annual walk became a major theme when the family returned to Melbourne. Again, she was drawn to the concept of people not just donating money, but doing something that shows solidarity with those they want to help, such as the women in parts of Africa who have to travel long distances to get water for their families to fetch.

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Although Oxfam absorbed much of her energy and time, it did not represent all of her volunteer work. In the 1980s she read of a proposal to create the Friends of FTG National Park. It attended and participated in the inaugural meeting, and for the 25 years it has been in operation, has dedicated one Saturday each month to replanting former building blocks within the park and eradicating exotic plants. She also worked at AMES for a number of years, during which time she mentored three migrant women from different backgrounds in their efforts to master English.

She supplied the local community newspaper, Neighborhood Watch Newsletters, and regularly helped with the gardening at the cottage in Wattle Park as part of her membership of Basketmakers of Victoria. The list of causes and organizations she has supported is long, including Reconciliation Victoria and those advocating for refugees, all in her quiet, humble way.

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Her approach was never that she had skills or talents to offer, rather that when there was a task to be done, she would rise to the challenge and find the resources within herself to get it done. Thus, with no accounting background, over time she became a very efficient Treasurer and then, when the need arose, again without the background knowledge or experience, added the role of Secretary of Walk Against Want in the eastern suburbs. It was a huge commitment.

A common thread in the many honors she has received is that she has enriched the lives of those she met. There’s no question that the world was a better place for her. She leaves a rich legacy and will be sorely missed.

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