by Tim Quinn, former councilor for Gabba and Dutton Park wards and former Lord Mayor.
The West End community lost one of its most ardent supporters and achievers when Norma Morgan, a much loved and respected local, passed away last week at the age of ninety-six. Although Norma only arrived in the West End about twenty years ago, already at an advanced age, she has accumulated in her time here the energy, action, generosity and achievement of a lifetime. For the past twenty years she had been involved in successful environmental campaigns while living in the far north of Queensland.
Norma and her husband Bill have been key players in protecting their beloved coastline of Mission Beach, an area of tropical coastal significance and home to the southern cassowary. Thanks to their stubborn good nature and their vision, they became the engines of the community’s efforts to reclassify the Kennedy reserve as a national park. This reclassification is a direct result of Bill and Norma’s big project – the construction of the Edmund Kennedy Bay Memorial Walking Trail.
Many people here in the local community of Kurilpa knew Norma. She often sat in chairs on the sidewalk outside her house, welcoming anyone for a cup of tea or chatting happily with those who passed by. Her beloved Australian Blue Cattle Dog, Sonny, was never far away.
Growing up in Newcastle during the Depression gave Norma a lifelong commitment to social justice and the need to act to ensure a fair vote for all. His support for local community organizations, especially West End Community House, now Community Plus, was legendary. The time, manpower, financial support and fundraising she provided have been remarkable.
West End Community House, ‘A community must take care of its own.’
“Whether it is by volunteering, bringing other volunteers or making a donation, you can always count on Norma” Marie maher, president of WECH 2010-14.
In 2020, Mary wrote a major article on Norma’s life in the Westender in which she says:
“For over a decade, Norma has managed to combine her volunteering at St Vincent de Paul with getting up at dawn on Thursday mornings to serve and, more importantly, to chat, at breakfasts for the people. socially isolated in area 4101. She then returned on Friday morning to hang out with and serve morning tea for the art group at West End Community House.
Norma also became the poster for the Maison’s big fundraiser – Pledge a Plank – to pay for the renovation of the Croquet club room in Musgrave Park. This is a great asset and now it has been secured and remodeled for general community use.
“She was also a major donor to House operations during the period of severe cuts to its budget under the Newman government. Considerable funds were raised by approaching members of the Hill End Puppy Club, her beloved off-leash dog owners, ”wrote Mary.
A certain joy of living
Local author and former member of the WECH committee, Steve capelin remember :
“My fondest memory of Norma comes from a community planning meeting at the restored Croquet Club in Musgrave Park. I was asked to do a warm-up activity. I started by leading the group on a few stretches while they were still seated, and then playfully suggested that we could all dance until the end of the day. At this point Norma, then around eighty years old, propelled herself into the middle of the circle and started juggling me. I mentioned the steel pole obstacle in the middle of the room and before I finished the sentence Norma had grabbed it and had gone into a pole dance routine, banging and grinding on a tape- his imagination. The circle erupted into applause and with Norma’s help the warm-up was over.
Norma was a longtime member of the Australian Labor Party. As well as being a strong supporter of progressive policies and action at local union meetings, she was a dedicated party worker, regularly mailing out, running stalls around the corner, and supporting local organizations. campaign launches. Norma did not hesitate to approach people in high places. Throughout her many campaigns she was in first name terms with then Environment Minister Molly Robson after her environmental campaign in Mission Beach, and later with Premier Anna Bligh and the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd during campaigns for better downtown development in the West End.
Friend of Norma, political colleague, former South Brisbane Member State and Deputy Prime Minister, Jackie Trad, said:
“Joining with so many others in commemorating and celebrating the life of Norma Morgan is, in and of itself, the quintessence of Norma – collectivist, union and community”
“Norma was deeply respected and loved by so many people and for so many reasons, her selflessness and kindness, her passionate sense of fairness and commitment to the community, and her endless joy and love for Bill,” her children and grandchildren and, of course, Sonny.
“A longtime Labor Party member and a regular volunteer at West End Community House and St Vincent’s, Norma used her time to fight for what was right and in the service of others. From defending environmental protection in the far north of Qld to fighting for off-leash parks for furry dwellers, from helping socially excluded members of our community to just being in our community with a ready smile and a kind word – Norma Morgan will be missed, and will be remembered.
Partners in crime.
Vikki uhlmann, a longtime friend and close supporter of Norma in her later years wrote:
“I first met Norma around 2005 in a WECA traffic and transport working group. I was impressed with her energy and positivity despite clearly falling under the category of “old people”. She seemed to have a knack for attracting people with her everyday language and modest goals, and she genuinely listened to people. One of WECA’s goals was to reduce traffic jams by getting people out of their cars. As I had heard about the “walking school bus”, Norma and I started working on it. The idea was to have children walk to school in groups, rather than being driven. Once we got the approval of the P&C President and the Director, we started two bus routes, one along Hardgrave Road and the other on Boundary Street. Norma chose to join the latter. So once a week she would go to the park at the end of the street and walk to school with the children, parents and dogs. The children treated Norma like their grandmother, asking her questions and telling her their stories. But, if you’re a Westender, you know it’s a pretty steep incline from the park to below the top deck of Dornoch Terrace, and eventually she said she should join the bus at the top. These “buses” became the precursor to the school’s participation in BCC’s Active School Travel program. “
“The walking school bus also started our partnership in crime – as Norma liked to call it – a gentle way of disrupting business as usual. And she played the card of the nice little old lady! One night, years later, on our way to a community meeting in Sussex St Church, I had to park across the road in Vulture St. There was traffic driving us up. was coming in as we were crossing the road, and I was calling her to hurry. . But she was not to be in a hurry, saying something like “they wouldn’t dare hit a little old lady.” I have many, many memories of Norma.
Civil disobedience and community action
Helen Abrahams, a local councilor for most of Norma’s years in the West End, recalls that:
“Norma had a clear idea of what was right. One of these beliefs was that dogs should not be kept on a leash as this made it difficult to play with other dogs and made them more aggressive. Her beloved Blue Heelers, Shadow and then Sonny, were rarely seen on a leash, which inevitably meant that Norma and her dog were well known to the Council’s canine inspectors. “
“Norma had a firm belief that her representative on the Council would work magic and prevent fines. But in fact, it was Norma’s personality that avoided serious Council action. She always seemed so reasonable.
But Norma has also taken action. She launched a campaign for an off-leash dog zone, although in principle she was not in favor of locking up dogs. It took two years to achieve an off-leash dog area that had access to the river despite opposition from some members of the community. During this time, Norma regularly called the local radio station. With gentle humor, she pleaded her case and then ended by saying that if the mayor could just hear her arguments, the problem would be solved because he had the power to make a difference. The radio station loved him, as did his community.
Norma and her husband Bill were best friends who shared many campaigns, trips and adventures. She cared for Bill in his last years before his death in 2019. In recent years, Norma has enjoyed the consistently reliable and strong support and care of her longtime close friends. Vikki uhlmann and Annie cowling. They also called on other locals for help from time to time as needed.
As her many friends and the local community celebrate the life Norma has lived along her journey, we do well to reflect on the many lessons she has provided us throughout her full, committed and generous life, so well lived in the support of others and its community.
A celebration of Norma’s life will take place at Orleigh Park on Sunday January 16th. Link Details