Known to many as “Sister Di”, Diana describes her education at the Sydney Dominican School, “Santa Sabina”, as “the best thing that happened to me, the best gift my parents ever gave me.” She responded to the expectation she felt to “be ourselves, not clones of others, and to achieve whatever our lot is in life,” reports Aurora.
“I have been arrested in my time,” Diana slips matter-of-factly into our conversation.
She was arrested at a demonstration at an arms expo (AIDEX) in Canberra in the mid 1980s and was held for about eight hours, with 11 other women, in a single small gaol cell with a bed, no running water and no toilet.
“We talked. We sang. We laughed. We shared the orange and sandwich I had in my backpack. It was the most fantastic eight hours I think I’ve spent with anyone; because they were such interesting women.
“At midnight they came and got us and took us into town where they lined us all up in front of the judge. When it came to my turn to tell him my name, I had no voice. I had absolutely talked myself to a standstill.
I croaked my name and heard a cheer from the gallery behind us where there would have been 150 brothers and nuns and priests from all over Canberra and beyond. The word had got out that I had been arrested. It was a wonderful but terrible experience.”
With local Sister of St Joseph, Betty Brown, Diana established and works in a centre for refugees, Penola House, in Hamilton. “We offer literacy, parenting, women’s health, sewing, men’s and women’s cooking, lawn mowing, house maintenance and English programs.
They are facilitated by professional educational authorities, at no cost to our refugees or us. We have a young mother’s room, a sewing room, children’s play areas, a computer room and storage for donated clothing and other materials.”
In January, Diana was one of 40 Australians to receive a Prime Ministerial ‘People of Australia Ambassador’ Award for her contribution to the community through her advocacy and support for refugees, and for her environmental work.
Receiving the award from her nominee, Federal Member for Charlton the Hon Greg Combet, she took the opportunity to put him on notice that he hadn’t heard the last of her. She asked him to consider some form of compensation for the refugees who have had “terrible experiences on their arrival in Newcastle.”
FULL STORY Local ambassador with big dreams (Aurora)