28 Feb 2023

Hillcrest resident overcomes hardship to become a Local Legend

Social housing
Marblewood Apartments resident Mary was recognised at the ninth annual Local Legends Awards for her decades of community service.

Federal Treasurer and Member for Rankin, Jim Chalmers, recognised Mary’s 30 years of volunteer work with disability and domestic violence services at the awards, alongside 51 other Local Legends. 

Mary, 82, was nominated for the award by Linus Power, State Member for Logan. 

Using her experience of domestic violence and involvement with disability support groups, Mary helped others, and advocated for more services to support those experiencing vulnerabilities.

Mary and her children fled a domestic violence situation when she was in her early 30s, forcing them into homelessness until they could access social housing. 

For many years, Mary’s husband would seek them out and cause trouble, either damaging the property or causing complaints to be made against the household. They had to flee a number of times to find a safer place to call home. 

“He would drive around looking for our clothes on washing lines,” Mary said.

Mary said that at the time, there was very little domestic violence support available and, while she received some assistance from a social worker, it was sporadic.

Sadly, during these years of instability, Mary also faced even more hardship when she was diagnosed with cancer and underwent treatment.

In 1990, with the help of a local disability group, Mary apply for housing support. Her ongoing involvement with this group reinvigorated her interest for supporting people with a disability – an interest which began when she was a teenager and volunteering in aged and disability services. 

Mary expressed that she felt heard by the group, who empathised with her experiences, even though they had not experienced domestic violence themselves. 

“They were the only ones to sit down and listen to me,” Mary said.

Over time, Mary became a strong advocate for disability rights and eventually became president of the group’s management committee. 

As domestic and family violence groups became more common, Mary also shared her experiences with them too. 

“I had wisdom to share with these women. That’s why I wanted to go [to these groups],” she said.

Through her life, Mary has maintained her faith, even though at the age of 18, when she wanted to become a nun, the church turned her away twice due to her diagnosed epilepsy. She attributes her strength and commitment to her community to her relationship with God.

“I’ve always relied on God, always, no matter what I’ve been through,” she said.

Mary has been a valued member of the Marblewood Apartments community since April 2020. 

When hearing her current home at Marblewood Apartments described as social housing, she disagreed; it was her home and it was safe. She said her apartment is the first home she’s had with security screens.

“This is the first place [I’ve lived where] I’ve never been threatened. I do feel safe here,” she said

Mary’s neighbours speak highly of her and are delighted she has received this recognition. 

Mary reluctantly gave up volunteering recently, but she continues to make a difference by sharing her story and the compassion which lives in her heart.