So much has occurred over the past fifty years and like an old soldier, age has wearied me. I understand that Eileen Boylan has just celebrated her ninetieth birthday. It was her late husband, Roy, with his crumpled-up tie and carpet slippers, who led a PALMS committee that was a delight to be associated with, and even though they sent us out to uncharted waters, we managed not to drown. I do remember that my parents were certainly apprehensive owing to political activities to the west of New Guinea in 1962; however, that situation did not appear to greatly concern us.
The Diocese of Mendi in PNG was the jewel in the crown for early lay missionaries to be sent and the American Capuchins there were great to be toiling with and playing card games against. I was the first Australian female missionary to be sent to the Diocese and becoming a Prep teacher was certainly different to working as a secretary. When I departed, the Director of Education for New Guinea requested that I come back and work in the TAFE system, however I declined the offer.
In 1965 I married a farmer, Bob Redfern, in Forbes and by January 1979 we had a family of six boys and four girls. There are now fifteen grandchildren for our offspring to nurture and guide. In 2008 we moved to Tasmania and it is here that we intend to end our days. Our closest village is six kilometres away and Launceston is twenty-five kilometres away. We live in our daughter’s house and she is often overseas. Ria has just completed six months in New Guinea, a year in the Ivory Coast and two years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, so she has seen much more of the third world than her mother experienced almost fifty years ago.
I have no words of wisdom for you, but wish to quote part of a speech given by Doctor Ernesto Che Guevara on 20th August 1960 to a group of Cuban medical students. In it he identifies something of the way we come to know ourselves and build solidarity with the people.
“… a revolutionary must also know the people with whom he or she is to work. I think we still don’t know one another well. I think we still have to travel a while along that road. If we know the goals, if we know the enemy, and if we know the direction in which we have to travel, then the only thing left for us is to know the daily stretch of the road and to take it. Nobody can point out that stretch; that stretch is the personal road of each individual; it is what he or she will do every day, what he or she will gain from their individual experience, and what he or she will give of themselves in practising their profession, dedicated to the people’s well-being.”
Some may not appreciate my quoting Che Guevara; however, I think he was a visionary the same as we are expected to be in the work required to assist our fellow brothers and sisters in their desperate needs.