Outside the Melbourne General Cemetery - the new real estate! What will you leave before you die?

Outside the Melbourne General Cemetery - the new real estate! What will you leave before you die?

I’m in Victoria this week having just attended a thanksgiving memorial for the life of Janet Mackenzie, a friend from Mansfield where we used to live. Many people spoke of the great legacies she left in both her professional and personal lives. They spoke of her achievements as an environmentalist and political activist, as a person of action who ‘walked her talk’, yet largely stayed out of the limelight, as a mother who read to her children, as a new grandmother.

It had me thinking a lot about legacies, what we do in the world, by what deeds we wish to be remembered. Returning to a place you lived in for more than twenty years can be bittersweet; people and places change and evolve. But it is heartening to see your own professional and personal legacies maturing, contributing to the life of a small community.

I returned to the Mansfield Library which is now a hub of community life, knowing that I played a small part in its inception. Several collaborative arts projects in which I was involved take prominent place in the Mansfield streetscape. The First Peoples of the area are acknowledged and the information centre has been built around the relocated Scar Tree, a project which developed as an offshoot from Project Wappan. These are legacies of which I am very proud to have played a part.

While my parents never lived to see my play The Widow of Wappan on stage, they were a constant support through the five years of its development. I drove past their house which is now surrounded by trees. When they built their house on a paddock thirty years ago, there was one ‘parent’ tree surrounded by baby saplings. These trees now surround their parent tree in a small forest. They are the same age as my children, who have both grown and had children of their own.

Trees are a visible reminder of our environmental legacy. More than fifty years ago the Mansfield Shire gardener, John Fogarty, planted avenues of trees along the streets of Mansfield, inspired by the post war avenues planted in France. It was his vision to turn a floodplain at the end of town into a Botanic Park. This has now matured into a much loved green space.

We need people who can bring the future into our daily lives one step at a time. People of vision and action, people who create sustainable legacies upon which to build. Every person has unique gifts and can contribute something in their lives for the greater good.

As the anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901 - 1978) famously said:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

My small book,  The Widow of Wappan , displayed on the local history shelves, Mansfield Library.

My small book, The Widow of Wappan, displayed on the local history shelves, Mansfield Library.