Monday, 16 March 2015

All hail Isabel of Ararat...

On this mild Monday, I just want to write a short but heartfelt shout-out to 91-year-old Isabel Mackenzie of Ararat who, as I type, has chained herself to a huge and magnificent River Red Gum in protest at the destruction of such ancient beauties for the widening of the highway. Isabel, you rock. 

1924, the year Isabel was born, was a good one. Clarence Birdseye invented frozen food, people here in Victoria heard a local radio station for the first time, and George Gershwin gave us Rhapsody in Blue. Now, while the advent of snap frozen vegetables can undoubtedly be said to be a boon to all housewives wealthy enough to have a freezer from that time forth, that's pretty much what most women either were, or aspired to being ... a housewife with a freezer. I'm tipping that political protest wasn't part of the landscape of a country woman's lifestyle in 1924.

Isabel was six the year that Phar Lap won the Melbourne Cup and Amy Johnson became the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia, and she was 13 the year that Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. 1945, the year Isabel turned 21, signaled the end of WW2. It was also the year women in France won the right to vote. Four years later, Simone de Beauvoir penned The Second Sex.

Half Isabel’s life-time ago, in 1969, the fearless and fearsome Zelda D’Aprano chained herself to the doors of the Melbourne Arbitration Court when a case for equal pay for women in the Meatworkers’ Union failed to produce anything more than a token increase. She refused to accept powerlessness.

I don't know Isabel Mackenzie, but I feel pretty safe in saying that a woman of 91 has seen a great deal of change. She's watched the city spread its toxic breath over the countryside and the back roads grow into highways. And over those years, she's witnessed injustices and atrocities against nature that have finally led her to take a stand:

"These trees are hundreds of years old and I was hoping maybe something would be left for the next few generations to see."

Good for you, Isabel. You're a role model and a wake-up call and a pick-me-up tonic and a shiny grey-haired example of refusing to be invisible. You're a humanist and an activist and a warrior for good.

All hail, Isabel of Ararat.
I salute you. 


  1. Replies
    1. ... let's go yarn bombing when we're 91...

  2. All the more remarkable when you think how physically frail and vulnerable we become as we get older. Seeing her on the news up against a background of traffic roaring past, machinery and noisy roadworks really brought home the courage of her fight.
    That kind of strength and courage usually gets knocked out of people decades before 91, if they ever had it at all.

  3. It came after I'd been party to a conversation about how selfish one of my acquaintances here is finding her elderly father ... I love good news stories