NORMA MORGAN – A lifetime of community service – Westender

by Tim Quinn, former councilor for Gabba and Dutton Park wards and former Lord Mayor.

The West End community lost one of its staunchest supporters and achievers when much-loved and respected local Norma Morgan died last week, aged ninety-six. Although Norma arrived in the West End only twenty years ago, already at an advanced age, she has accumulated in her stay here the energy, the action, the generosity and the achievements of a whole life. For the previous twenty years, she had been involved in successful environmental campaigns while living in Far North Queensland.

Norma and her husband Bill have been key players in protecting their beloved Mission Beach coastline, an area of ​​tropical coastal significance and home to the southern cassowary. With their tenacious good humor and vision, they became the driving force behind the community’s efforts to reclassify the Kennedy Reservation as a national park. This reclassification was a direct result of Bill and Norma’s big project – the construction of the Edmund Kennedy Bay Memorial Walking Track.

Many people here in the local Kurilpa community knew Norma. She often sat in chairs on the sidewalk outside her house, welcoming anyone for a cup of tea or chatting happily with passers-by. Her beloved Australian blue cattle dog, Sonny, was never far away.

Growing up in Depression-era Newcastle, Norma had a lifelong commitment to social justice and the need for action to ensure a fair chance for all. His support of local community organizations, in particular the West End Community House, now Community Plus, was legendary. The time, manpower, financial support and fundraising she provided was remarkable.

West End Community House, ‘A community must look after its own.’

“Whether it’s volunteering, bringing other volunteers or making a donation, you can always count on Norma”, Mary Maher, WECH President 2010-14.

In 2020, Mary wrote a major article on Norma’s life in the Westender in which she said:

“For more than a decade, Norma has successfully combined her volunteer work in St Vincent de Paul with being up at dawn on Thursday mornings to serve, and especially to chat, at Breakfasts for Socially Isolated People in the 4101 area. She then returned on Friday morning to hang out with the West End Community House art group and serve morning tea there.

Norma also became the poster child for the House’s major 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 refurbished for general community use.

“She was also a major contributor to the operations of the House during the period of deep cuts to its budget under the Newman government. Considerable funds have been raised from members of the Hill End Puppy Club, his beloved off-leash dog space owners,” Mary wrote.

A certain Joy of Living

Local author and former member of the WECH committee, Steve Capelin remember :

“My most vivid memory of Norma is of 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 through a few stretches while they were still seated, then playfully suggested that we could all dance until the day was out. At this point, Norma, then in her 80s, thrust herself into the middle of the circle and started dancing with me. I mentioned the steel pole obstacle in the middle of the room and before I finished the sentence Norma had grabbed it and launched into a pole dancing routine, bumping and grinding on a imaginary soundtrack. The circle burst into applause and with Norma’s help the warm up was over.

political activist

Norma was a longtime member of the Australian Labor Party. As well as being an avid supporter of progressive politics and action at local union meetings, she was a dedicated party worker, regularly posting boxes, organizing street corner stands and supporting launches. of campaigns. Norma did not hesitate to approach people in high places. Throughout her many campaigns, she was on good terms with then-Environment Minister Molly Robson following her environmental campaign at Mission Beach, and later with Premier Anna Bligh and the Premier Kevin Rudd during campaigns for better inner city development in the West End.

Norma’s friend, fellow politician, former member of South Brisbane State and Deputy Prime Minister, Jackie Trad, said:

“Joining so many others in commemorating and celebrating the life of Norma Morgan is, in and of itself, the epitome of Norma – collectivist, union and community”

“Norma was deeply respected and loved by so many 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 member of the Labor Party and a regular volunteer at West End Community House and St Vincent, Norma used her time to fight for what was right and in service to others. Whether it’s advocating for environmental protection in Far North Queensland, fighting for off-leash parks for the inhabitants of the furry variety, helping socially excluded members of our community or just to be in our community with a ready smile and a kind word – Norma Morgan will be missed, and remembered.

Partners in crime.

Vikki Uhlmann, a longtime friend and strong 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 his energy and positivity despite clearly falling into the “older people” category. She seemed to have a knack for drawing people in with her everyday language and modest goals, and she really listened to people. One of WECA’s goals was to reduce traffic jams by getting people out of their cars. Since I had heard of the “walking school bus”, Norma and I started working on it. The idea was to walking children to school in groups, rather than being driven. Once we got approval from the P&C Chairman and 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 drove to the park at the end of the street and walked 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’d know it’s quite a steep incline from the park to below the upper deck of Dornoch Terrace, and eventually she said she’d have to 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 kicked off our partnership in crime – as Norma liked to call it – a way of gently disrupting business as usual. And she played the kind little old lady well! late as we were going to a community meeting at the Church in Sussex St. I had to park across the road in Vulture St.. But she was not to be in a hurry, saying something something like “they wouldn’t dare hit a little old lady.” I have many, many memories of Norma.

Civil disobedience and community action

Helene Abrahams, local councilor for most of Norma’s years in the West End, remembers that:

“Norma had a clear idea of ​​what was right. One of these beliefs was that dogs should not be leashed as it interfered with playing 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 firmly believed that her Council representative would weave magic and prevent fines. But in fact, it was Norma’s personality that prevented serious action from the Council. She always seemed so reasonable.

But Norma also took action. She launched a campaign for an off-leash dog space, even though, in principle, she was not in favor of the confinement of dogs. It took two years to complete an off-leash dog area that had access to the river despite opposition from some community members. Meanwhile, Norma regularly called the local radio station. With gentle humour, she made her case and ended by saying that if the Lord Mayor could only hear her arguments, the problem would be solved because he had the power to change things. 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 final years before his passing in 2019. In recent years, Norma has enjoyed the ever-reliable and strong support and care of her long-time close friends. Vikki Uhlmann and Annie Cowlin. They have also called on other locals for help from time to time as needed.

Norma Valley

As her many friends and the local community celebrate the life Norma has lived on her lifelong journey, we would do well to reflect on the many lessons she has provided us with throughout her full, committed and generous, lived so well in the support of others and of his community.


A celebration of Norma’s life will be held at Orleigh Park on Sunday January 16. Link Details

Norma P. Rex