Kay Cottee ( 1954 – )

Kay was born in Sans Souci, NSW, where the closeness to Botany Bay well catered to a family who loved boating. Her father built yachts and her interest in that field led to her commencement of ocean racing at 11 years of age. It was a natural progression for Kay to become a proficient boat builder and manage a yacht charter business after finishing school.

Kay built First Lady, the 11-metre yacht on which she would sail around the world from west to east. In 1987, at the age of 34, she set off on her 189 days, 22,000 nautical miles journey to sail solo and non-stop.

On this voyage Kay became the holder of the following records:

  • the first woman to circumnavigate the world
  • the longest time at sea by a woman
  • the longest non-stop distance sailed by a woman
  • the fastest time and speed for solo navigation by a woman
First Lady

The voyage was completed without touching land, and without any form of outside aid apart from radio contact. She had no fresh food so for six months had to survive on dried food. She had to wake up every hour to check her course and watch for ships that may have been heading towards her.

At one stage Kay was flung into the sea off the African coast when First Lady was capsized by huge winds. Fortunately, the waves righted the vessel and Cottee seized control back on board.


Cottee and her major sponsor Blackmores Limited used the voyage to raise over 1 million dollars for the Rev. Ted Noffs’ Life Education Program. Cottee also undertook an 18-month national schools tour, speaking to over 40,000 senior high school students, imparting the message that “you can achieve your dreams if you work steadily towards them“.

WOW Again.

Cottee is the author of two books. Her first book, First Lady, published in 1989. Her second book, All at Sea on Land, in 1998, about her life in the ten years since the voyage.


  • In 1988, Cottee received the Australian of the Year Award.
  • In January 1989, Cottee was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia.
  • Cottee is also the first Australian recipient of the Cutty Sark Medal presented by the Duke of Edinburgh
  • Cottee was also made a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary and an International Honorary Zontion by Zonta International
  • Inaugural inductee of the Australian Sailing Hall of Fame in 2017

Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.

Rosemary “Ros” Batty  (1962 – )

Without rehashing all the details of her personal circumstances Ros’ ex partner murdered their son at a sports field in outer Melbourne after weekend cricket practice. Anderson isolated the 11 year old boy in the cricket nets, hitting Luke on the head and stabbing him to death. Anderson resisted arrest and threatened ambulance workers with his knife. He later died in hospital from police gunshots and self-inflicted stab wounds.

Ros refused to allow the grief to swallow her and instead became a Domestic Violence Activist speaking publicly about her experiences as a survivor of domestic violence in order to raise public awareness and advocate for social changes. She is considered to have had a significant influence on national public attitudes, philanthropy, government initiatives and funding, support services and police and legal procedures related to domestic violence in Australia.

Her work led to Ros being named the 2015 Australian of the Year as well as being awarded the Pride of Australia’s National Courage Medal in 2014, an honorary doctorate by the University of the Sunshine Coast and was ranked number 33 in the list of the World’s Greatest Leaders 2016 by Fortune magazine.

In October 2018 Batty was named in the social enterprise and not-for-profit category of The Australian Financial Review 100 Women of Influence awards, and in 2019 was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia.

This is a woman who rose above her personal tragedy yet continued to educate and inspire by leading a Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council for the Victorian Government for three years. Although she still has a hand-in Ros has stepped back over the last few years to recover from the psychological battering of Luke’s murder and her own experiences within a volatile relationship and is pursuing other interests.

“Violence happens to anybody, no matter how nice your house is, no matter how intelligent you are.” – Ros Batty

Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.

Tilly Aston  ( 1873 – 1947)

Matilda Ann Aston was the youngest of eight children in a family that lived in Carisbrook, in the Victorian goldfields. She was born with a vision impairment and lost all sight at the age of 7 in an era when blind people were isolated ( as in often locked away from society). This did not sit well with young Tilly who insisted that she was ” going to get out there and do something with my life.”

A chance meeting with a blind itinerant missionary meant that Tilly learnt Braille, and a little later, a visit to Carisbrook by the choir of the Victorian Asylum and School for the Blind, where she was encouraged by the Principal to enrol in the school as a boarder, were both interactions which changed Tilly’s life.

Her achievements include:

  • Being the first blind person to matriculate in Australia.
  • Being the first blind person in Australia to attend University (which she did not complete due to a lack of Braille text books).
  • Established the Advancement of Writers in 1894 which later became the Victorian Braille Library.
  • Founded the Association for the Advancement of the Blind in 1895 which is now known as Vision Australia.
  • Fighting for and winning voting rights for the blind and free postage for all Braille material.
  • The publication of numerous books of both verse and fiction.

Tilly Aston was awarded the King’s Medal for distinguished citizen service – twice! 


    “Poor eyes limit your sight. Poor vision limits your deeds.” 

                                        – Tilly Aston

Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.


Another Project Giving Life To History

Research undertaken by Australian historians John Gillam and Yvonne Fletcher for their book, Untraceables – The Mystery of the Forgotten Diggers has led to an interesting pilot project adopted earlier this year by sixteen Primary Schools across the nation.

The historians created The Find Them, Remember Them: Creating Citizen Historians pilot program to establish Living Memorials to the Fallen by creating Citizen Historians of school children.

According to the authors “during WWI, 60 000 Australian soldiers died.  The issuing of medals to fallen soldiers was governed by the Deceased Soldiers Act 1918.  The intent of the act as proposed by the Minister for Defence was to honour the wishes of the deceased soldier with all war medals to go to either their next of kin or will legatee.  However, an ascension list (not contained in the Act) was adopted when settling intestate estates.  The dogged application of this list denied many female next of kin and the deceased soldier’s nominated next of kin, the right to receive their loved one’s medals creating an archive of uncollected medals.”

There is some controversy that unissued medals from WWI veterans, soldiers who fought and died for this country,  and their individual military heritage,  were archived around 1998, and their location is unknown and denied by the Directorate of Defence Honours & Awards (DH&A). 

The intent of the program is to research the soldier, and have students educate the local community at an appropriate ceremony.  The school will commemorate the sacrifice by their researched soldiers on commemorative occasions such as ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day in an endeavour to keep their memory “alive”.

If eligible descendants are located from the pupil’s research they will be able to apply for custodianship of ( replacement) medals. If no descendants are located then the school can apply for the medals with the soldier thereby being “adopted” by that community.

A much better lesson in history than the old chalk-on-blackboard method, don’t you agree?

It can well be said the Anzac’s are not dead, their deeds and fame will live for evermore.  Australia’s duty to her dead may be expressed in four words- ‘Don’t let them die’!  Their memory should never be allowed to die.” Parramatta Mayor, Ald.

Women’s History Month

I’ll be participating in the April A-Z Blogging Challenge this year with the aim of promoting Australian women from the past to the present who have led the charge in their own way : the scientists, the inventors, the creatives and the dreamers.

I will be borrowing from the Trailblazing Women of Australia blog which a friend and I started as a Lockdown project in the throes of the pandemic. Months in we have only scratched the surface…….

March is Women’s History Month so it is appropriate to share my favourite tale about women from the past who were courageous and yet great fun.

The Peaches of the Beaches.

Many of you would know of Terrigal on the Central Coast of New South Wales with its beautiful beaches making it popular with locals and tourists alike. Back in the 1940’s it was a sleepy fishing village with a population of less than 500.

During World War 2 the Surf Lifesaving Association of Australia (SLSA) was stretched to provide rescue services along the beaches anywhere along the Australian Coast. From the Surf Club at Terrigal only four men were available to patrol the beaches when 72 men went off to war.

This led the female members of the club – mostly wives, sweethearts and sisters – to ask permission to become lifesavers. Their application to the controlling body failed though this did not deter them.

They were trained in surf lifesaving skills by chief instructor Harry Vickery and were assessed by Central Coast Life Saving’s inaugural president Dr E.A. Martin. In two exams some 30 women qualified for the equivalent of the bronze medallion, receiving certificates on Terrigal beach and going on to volunteer to patrol the area over the summer seasons.

These young women undertook their duties with enthusiasm and passion. They even made their own swimming costumes and uniforms out of sheets, curtains and the odd parachute­ despite not having been awarded their bronze medallions.

At wars end 70 men returned and resumed lifesaving duties with the women being relegated to their previous tasks.

It wasn’t until 75 years later in 2017 that the women who patrolled the beaches of Terrigal during World War 2 were finally recognised. They were awarded their Bronze Medallions, most posthumously to the families, as well as a special Terrigal Parliamentary Award to acknowledge their contribution to the community.

The Surf Life Saving Association finally admitted women as full members in 1980 and now benefit from more than 80,000 dedicated female members of all ages across Australia contributing in activities from active patrolling, to surf sports, education and everything in between.    

For a look back at these Terrigal surf lifesaving trailblazers I recommend the archives at The National Film and Sound Archive. Try not to laugh at the commentary though…….Go here : https://www.nfsa.gov.au/latest/australias-first-female-lifesavers

You can also listen to 92 year old Muriel Jones talk about her days as a surf lifesaver at Terrigal here: https://www.abc.net.au/radio/centralcoast/programs/breakfast/ww2-female-surf-lifesavers-finally-recognised/9178846

(Courtesy of M Green – Trailblazing Women of Australia)

February 19th

The 19th of February is the 80th anniversary of the Bombing  of Darwin.

Courtesy of Gary Luck:

This coming Saturday, the 19th February 2022, commemorates the 80th anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin by the same Japanese Imperial Force that had attacked Pearl Harbor only ten weeks earlier. My late father fought against them in Darwin on the 19th of February 1942. Not long before he passed he told me his story of the bombing. I got to record it last year with The Lightfeet Band. Recorded by Fred Pilcher, arranged, mixed and mastered by Keith Potger (The Seekers) and managed by Liz Hawkes, I offer this song in loving memory of all those who fought and died that day and in the many months thereafter and right across the Top End, from Broome to Townsville, in the hope that we never see such an attack on our shores again. ‘Blood On The Frangipani – When The Bombs Rained Down on Darwin’.


Darwin Harbour


There was a delightful article in a recent Australian Weekend Magazine stating that over 50,000 items had been donated to the Australian War Memorial over the last two years. Covid cleanouts have unearthed long-lost wartime relics from all across the country.

One 80 year old gentleman stumbled upon letters from his Flying Officer father to his mother, to whom he wrote nearly every day. The gentleman hasn’t read the letters stating that they “are too close to him, too personal”, and has them neatly boxed until his death.

This resonated as I recently came across information that my own father’s war diary was held by the Australian War Memorial.

Who? What? Where? See here:

Cat Balou (AKA Columbo), my super sleuth youngest daughter, has discovered that my father’s diary formed part of an Estate that was recently donated to the AWM. It appears that at wars end my father gave his diary to the family of a good mate killed over the skies of Germany. With the passing of a generation the family then donated the diary on to the AWM. Apparently, this is not an uncommon practise.

It is “too close……too personal” for me to read but young Columbo has a two hour appointment for viewing next week.

Plus Book Of The Month for January:

I’ve been chasing this one for yonks : the diary of Betty Jeffrey who alongside 64 other Australian Army Nurses was evacuated from Singapore, and who went down with the Vyner Brook, which had been bombed by the Japanese.

The women made it to safety at Banka Island where they were captured and held captive in various camps across Sumatra. They formed an orchestral choir in an attempt to beat boredom with their story becoming the basis of one of my favourite movies, Paradise Road.

These women suffered woefully over the three year period of captivity with only 24 surviving the ordeal. Despite being a “difficult” read at times these women were courageous, resilient and simply magnificent human beings. I tell you, it has certainly stopped my whinging any further about any self imposed isolation!


Betty received the Order of Australia for services to ex-servicemen and women in 1987.

Some Military Stuff….

So much for a sedate start to the New Year. It’s all happening here on the south east corner of Queensland : tropical lows, the tail end of a tsunami, and floods. Yep, floods.

A while back I shared a visit to Maryborough, 200kms north of Brisbane and known as the home of P L Travers who wrote Mary Poppins, and the magnificent Gallipoli to Armistice Memorial Walk created in Queens Park by the river. See here :


Queens Park went under in the floods which provided one of the most compelling and slightly spooky sights in months.

In the park is a life-sized sculpture which commemorates Lieutenant Duncan Chapman, believed to be the first man ashore at Gallipoli, and a Maryborough lad. The memorial display contains stones and sand from Gallipoli and depicts the soldier gazing towards the high cliffs at the moment the first shots rang out. The floods seemed to recreate the scene of Duncan first stepping ashore back in 1915.

And A Book Review :

Cheerio, Don was written by Susan Alley, the niece of the subject of this book, Donald Mitchell, a young soldier who served in PNG during WW2. Taken from letters to his family and his diaries about life on the Mitchell dairy farm in Coraki, northern NSW, this is an interesting read because of the insights it provides about Australian life during the war years.

As the only son of a dairy farmer Don could have applied for an exemption because of his occupation. When called up for duty his only sister resigned from her nursing position to work on the farm to help Dad, only returning to nursing when Don was demobbed.(Note : upon Don’s return Dad would not pay his daughter a weekly wage).

Other fascinating snippets include the very real fear that the Japanese  would invade the east coast and a “Scorched Earth” policy was indeed under serious consideration.

My fellow Aussies : did you ever hear about that in your High School History classes? Or that the road between Nimbin and Uki was land mined to stop travel between Qld and NSW? Or that many folk relied on brown paper to block out the lights during evening “black outs”? 

It was the trivia in this story I found fascinating – ration books, trenches in school yards to “protect” the children, the price of beef –  which is so often the case in these biographies about family members.

The Books That Made Us and Ham

Late last year Australian actor, Claudia Karvan, hosted a three part television documentary that explored the stories that have shaped our nation’s identity in Books That Made Us.

Courtesy of the ABC

Claudia met with some of our most beloved and brilliant writers, including Booker Prize winners and best-selling authors and writers who have penned seminal stories, such as Richard Flanagan, Alexis Wright, Helen Garner, Tim Winton, David Malouf, Kate Grenville, Christos Tsiolkas, Thomas Keneally, Liane Moriarty, Trent Dalton, Kim Scott, and Melissa Lucashenko.

Did anyone watch this series?

I had read a handful of the books listed over the years though my Zoom Book Club have determined that we will read from the Books That Made Us List over the coming months starting with Kate Grenville’s “The Secret River.” I’m loving it!

A fellow Little Community Librarian in Western Australia – Leah’s Little Library – has massaged a Reading Challenge to better reflect Australian culture. I’ve attached if you are looking for direction in your reading this year.

With a house full of people and dogs my holiday reading has been pathetic with the TBR once again out of control. I had a date to visit the Lifeline Bookfest in the city later in the month. Maybe it’s just as well it has been cancelled because of you-know-what ( which we refuse to give a name in an endeavour to reduce its power).

And the really good news?

The Christmas Ham made it through to January 10th. So two things : 1) I never want to see ham again and 2) let the ham and vege soup making process begin.

War Records Conundrum

I recently located an interesting children’s book about Sister Marie Craig, one of the “Flying Angels” who cared for some 18,000 injured soldiers on flights from Papua New Guinea to the hospital in Darwin during WW2. After the misleading book  about a cat who survived a sinking ship, Changi and Sandakan as mentioned with much disgust last week, I didn’t want to get caught out again, so checked the records at the Australian War Memorial. Sister Craig’s story is fair dinkum and is an interesting one……

So, whilst looking at records at the AWM, I discovered a new record under my father’s name which is out there on the internet for all the world to see. Their database contains the names of WW1 and WW2 soldiers, service numbers, rank, date of discharge and decorations and other basic information. I’m not sure about other Conflicts – records were still being digitalised at one point. It’s a user friendly database and you simply search using a name.

Service records are available for a fee and the AWM will post a copy of these documents. I ordered my father’s service documents after he died : 42 pages, which to be honest, apart from medical history, promotions, and changes of pay means little to me. 

( I digress, but on my first visit to the AWM in Canberra as a young woman travelling with a young man who found it difficult to locate hotel accomodation because we were not married – Canberra being Australia’s porn capital no less – a research officer at the AWM explained veterans service documents by using the records of a deceased Prime Minister as an example. Though not fond of the deceased Prime Minister in question I was somewhat appalled that his medical records included a dose of VD during his time in a theatre of war which was clearly pointed out by the employee. So much for privacy.)

But back to the old man.

Dad’s plane.

There is now a record that states under Collections that the AWM is in possession of my father’s leather bound diary from 15 April, 1943 to 24th August, 1945 that includes movements, roles, and flying missions etc. It also states ” entries describe leave, dances, the Boomerang Club and meeting girls”. Photographs, poetry, propaganda leaflets are also included as well as details of his marriage to an English sweetheart. ( Not my mother).

My father never discussed the War. It wasn’t until he was in his 70’s that he let things slip, like Dresden and how ” bloody cold” it was high in the skies above Europe. He wasn’t quite the hard old bastard by then.

There was never any mention of a diary nor a first wife.

My curiosity is piqued but it is not my life. It is a diary of a life before I was even a twinkle in the eye. A life 15 years before mine even started. 

That these records of times past are retained for historians is a wonderful thing. I get that. What I don’t get is that there are 566 words included in the description of the diary’s contents available on a search under my father’s name on the Australian War Memorial’s website available for all and sundry to see.

I’m a little conflicted :don’t dead people deserve some privacy? I can hear the old bugger telling me to ” cop it sweet, Pet”, but it just doesn’t sit well.

Any thoughts?