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Fay Sutton (24 June 1926 - 3 June 2000) Environmental warrior.

With four wheels, two large and two small, and a cushion behind, Fay Sutton went everywhere for the environmental cause. Peter Brotherton celebrates the life of this cherished and courageous ACF councillor.

ROPES GOT FAY and her wheelchair into the Franklin, and the arresting constabulary had to haul her back out. Once charged and released, she went straight back in.

Audrey Fay Simpson was born in 1926, daughter of a coach builder, and grew up in Geelong, Victoria. From an early age she demonstrated a determination to succeed and make a difference. She completed her degree, majoring in zoology, economic geography and politics, from the University of Melbourne in 1948, at a time when few young working-class women attained such qualifications. She taught for a short time at Fintona Girls School in Melbourne.

In 1949 she married Army officer Ralph Sutton and they spent their honeymoon bushwalking in Tasmania.

Fay contracted polio in 1954 while pregnant with the second of her three children. Restricted to a wheelchair with limited movement of her arms, she feistily rejected categorisation as disabled.

During the 1950s and `60s, Fay devoted herself to raising and educating her children and helping them cope with the frequent shifts that characterised an Army family's life. She was active in various community groups, including the Aboriginal Advancement League, the Post Polio Society, school committees, women's auxiliaries and several discussion groups. She took a keen interest the major social issues of the day. Music and poetry were also important to her.

As with many committed activists, the great strength that she mustered to raise her children and to engage in countless community activities occasionally led to fallings out with people. However, any frustrations she had with the comparative lack of determination of some colleagues were gradually subsumed in a delightful mellowing.

Fay first became involved with the environment movement in the early 1970s while assisting her son Philip with a secondary school environment education and action program called INSPECT. She quietly and doggedly reminded Philip (and indeed others!) of the importance of him finishing his long-languishing degree. It is fully anticipated that Philip will keep on hearing a little voice on the subject.

I first met Fay at ACF's annual general meeting in Sydney in 1977. She was tirading the chair, Milo Dunphy, based upon her view that ACF was elitist and not sufficiently engaging its membership. Milo's riposte, and Fay admitted its correctness, was to tell her to get in and do something about it.

So she did, joining ACF Council following the next election in 1979. Last November marked 20 years' continued service on Council, and Fay wore proudly the unique `perfect attendance' medallion attesting to her having never wagged even one Council meeting.

Fay was a tireless campaigner on urban and big-picture issues such as ecologically sustainable development and population, but still managed to express concern at her offspring's `tardy production of grandchildren'. She was involved in the nitty gritties of keeping ACF running -- as an executive member and in ensuring, finickedly, that policies and constitutional amendments were expressed properly. She was an absolute stalwart of the Sydney Branch for more than 20 years.

Fay was involved in a host of community organisations, perhaps most notably the Nature Conservation Council (NCC) of New South Wales and Greening Australia. She was on the NCC Executive continuously from 1980. It is rumoured that she was once not physically present at a meeting -- but she participated by telephone!

Fay had a long commitment to Aboriginal justice. Her participation in the walk across the Bridge the weekend before her sudden and unexpected death chuffed her no end.

In a quirk of old-fashionedness, she wouldn't let on her age -- symbolically for me she was born exactly a week before my father. Those of us whom Fay knew from our youth to our ageing parenthood, who risked stern admonition if we couldn't produce snaps of our kids on demand, have lost a hero, mentor and very, very cherished friend.

Our deepest sympathies go to Ralph, her partner of more than 50 years, her children Philip, John and Lyndel, and her beloved grandchildren Emma, Jonathon, Daniel and Joe.

Peter Brotherton is an ACF Vice-President and Councillor for Victoria.

Donations for ACF campaigns in memory of Fay can be made by cheque (payable to ACF) to: Fay's Legacy, 340 Gore St, Fitzroy 3065, or Ph:1800 332 510
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Author:Brotherton, Peter
Publication:Habitat Australia
Article Type:Obituary
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Aug 1, 2000
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