Vera Deacon OAM | 1926 – 2021
Born in Mayfield in 1926 but raised on ‘the islands’ in the Hunter River – Dempsey and Mosquito (Moscheto) Islands, ultimately reclaimed to become the Kooragang Island industrial precinct. Vera’s love of the river, its people and its stories is evident in over 20 years she dedicated to restoring the biodiversity of Ash Island.
In 2001, Vera began donating to the University of Newcastle’s archives to help ensure that regional history records could be acquired and conserved. The Vera Deacon Regional History Fund was established in 2008.
In 2020, Vera was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to community history and to conservation, and was additionally made a Freeman of the City of Newcastle. In typical Vera fashion, she insisted, “I can think of 100 other people who should have been ahead of me!”
In May 2021, Stories Of Our Town produced this short film on Vera for Newcastle Libraries. Vera was one of our last living links to the ‘Islanders’ – the families who made their lives and homes on a part of the Hunter River that has largely disappeared.
Vera’s book, ‘Singing Back The River’, is a collection of stories written over 60 years and was edited and published by her friend, Marilla North, “Vera’s stories need to be collected for posterity and brought into the 21st century so they can be widely disseminated.”
“She always said ‘we stand on the shoulders of others’ when referring to our pioneer ancestors and all Novocastrian feminists – pathfinders such as the late Mayor Joy Cummings – but especially she revered those working-class heroines of Newcastle and the Hunter Valley – the Lysaght’s Girls on the Owen Gun assembly line during WW11. Vera Deacon had respect for decent ordinary people. She has all of ours.”
Vera Deacon – feminist, historian, environmentalist, philanthropist – died at the age of 94 on 18 May 2021.