John Waddingham’s Words

Del: What will I remember?
I will always remember my first vision of Del in late 1971: a striking-looking 21 year-old ABC cadet journalist who, with her stunning smile, seemed full of the joy of life and who embraced the opportunities for engagement with the people and politics of the time through her work and emerging friendships outside it.
I learned later that she saw herself then as a young and naive country girl who, when she first came to the city (and in her own words), ‘didn’t even know what pasta was’.
I will always remember the precious early years of my close friendship with Del and her first husband Alan Thompson as together we voraciously explored and tried to understand the world about us.
These were formative years, but Del was already notable for her fiercely-held and expressed moral and political view of the world. She combined this universally-applied passion with a natural empathy for anyone in need whom she encountered in her day-to-day living.
I will remember Del’s distress at the failure of her marriage to Alan but her pleasure and commitment in being the proud mother of Katherine (born 1975).
While I did not witness much of the next decade, I know her quite unsettled personal circumstances never diminished her intent and action to make the world a better place.
For years Del was a driving force in West Australian solidarity work in support of East Timorese self-determination and was, at least once, arrested for her troubles – violating ridiculous anti-free- speech laws which rightly have long-since been abandoned.
I remember her hope of a brighter future arising from her marriage to former Timorese resistance fighter Francisco Soares in late 1982.
I will always remember the unbridled joy she took in the birth of their two sons Nicolau (b.1985) and Alex (b. 1987.). Del simply adored her children; she was a natural, loving mother.
I cannot forget the sorrow and hardship caused all round by the eventual dissolution of her second marriage.
But I will also remember Del’s absolute dedication to doing the best possible for her children and applying herself with energy to sustain them in difficult circumstances.
I remember my own delight at learning in the late 1990s that she at last found a way to combine her advocacy skills with well-paying employment – as CEO of the Huntington’s Association
It was a well-deserved job for someone who, for so many years, had given so much to others for so little material benefit.
I cannot forget some of Del’s periods of unhappiness or loneliness, along with her jokes about tenyears ago of looking for a rich old man who would at last make life easier.
Much more memorable, however, is Del’s transformation when this bloke Gavin Mooney, neither old nor rich, came into her life.
Some of us were given a peek preview of Gavin in 2004 and we, somewhat protectively, said to Del we thought he was ‘OK’.
Gavin was clearly besotted with Del and I am certain Del loved this – even if she did feel somewhat uneasy about his frequent public articulations of his love – including some doubtful poetry.
The relationship between Del and Gavin was life-giving for them both.
I had never seen Del so consistently happy, settled, confident and energetic as she has been in the Gavin years. I am happy to say I told her so; she didn’t disagree.
There is no time to explore here Del’s blossoming from this time – including a number of challenging journeys with Gavin to India and Southern Africa, major formal studies on genetic engineering and climate change which ultimately led to a doctorate in 2012 and her role in community garden development in East Fremantle.
Del lived a full life. Difficult at times to be sure, but she lived it with great passion and energy.
She occasionally said she’d prefer a quiet ordinary life, but we never believed her.
She was never one for a contemplative life. She was a woman of action.
She was a naturally warm person with an ability to link with others and involve them in meaningful, life-improving activities.
She actively nurtured friendships – they were clearly important to her as her friendship was to us.
Del was a political person. She was never content to just deal with things in front of her – which she always did – but sought to understand and act on root causes of problems.
Del never accepted the world as it is; she always sought to act in ways to make it better.
Del was a life-maker – from the nurturing of her children and her friendships to her instinctive and very successful growing of plants in whatever environment she found herself.
Del loved the rain – and that was part of the attraction to moving to Tasmania
The memory of Del will live on in her children and in all of us who had the privilege to share part of her life.
We can honour that memory by, like her, always trying to make the world a better place.
And hopefully, at least some of us can honour her part in our lives by offering to her children some of the love and support that she so fully gave them but no longer can.