Margaret Moloney was brilliant at many things, most notably tennis, Irish dancing and teaching. She was also a loyal footy fan, attending countless games to cheer on her beloved Tigers, had a great sense of fashion and a unique ability to see the potential beauty in things that had been discarded.
But if there are a few things that stand out more than anything else about Margaret, it is her kindness and willingness to help those less fortunate than herself.
Margaret, or “Margie” as she was affectionately remembered by her family and friends, was always conscious of the needs of others.
She carried this quality throughout her life, right until her last years when she left a gift in her Will to ChildFund Australia to help children in need around the world.
Lessons of love
The youngest of four girls, Margaret stood out from her sisters Patricia, Maureen and Bernadette; she was creative, followed her passions, and had enormous empathy for people.
Margaret, with her mother Merna, would regularly visit her uncle Jack when he had lost his wife and moved into a nursing home. After Jack passed away, Margaret insisted she and her mother continue visiting the home, taking afternoon tea for the residents to enjoy. “It was so typical of her thoughtfulness and kindness,” Patricia says.
She was a single mother and dedicated her life to making sure her daughter, Katherine (pictured above with Margaret), who had a disability, had the tools and support she needed to reach her full potential.
“Margie was completely selfless about Katherine,” Bernadette says. “She catered for Katherine’s needs and created opportunities for her to achieve. Katherine drove a car and lived independently, thanks to her beautiful mother.”
Margaret trained as a teacher and taught in several primary schools. She wanted to devote most of her time to Katherine and eventually resigned from teaching. She studied a master’s degree in family therapy and became a parent advocate for students with disabilities.
In 2001, Margaret’s contribution to Australian society was officially recognised when she was awarded the Centenary Medal for her service to “the support of students at extreme education risk and their families”.
When Katherine passed away at the age of 31, Margaret channelled her grief into writing a film about the challenges and achievements of a middle-aged single mother who had lost her beloved daughter.
Margaret devoted most of her life to looking after her daughter Katherine (pictured above in pink), and supporting children in need overseas.
Margaret spent the last four years of her life writing the 116-page film script, titled Lessons of Love.
For Margaret, it was a “labour of love”, says Patricia. “The document is now in good hands and, hopefully in time, it will be given the exposure and credit it deserves.”
Helping children and families in need
Among helping children with a disability and families navigate the challenges of life, Margaret’s generosity and kindness shone through her support for ChildFund Australia’s work. Over 27 years, Margaret sponsored disadvantaged children around the world through ChildFund, helping to ensure these children had access to healthcare, an education and opportunities to reach their potential.
Today, Margaret’s gift in her Will is helping to change the lives of children and their families in Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and Cambodia.
In Papua New Guinea, two health facilities in remote and rural areas – where the majority of the country’s population live – are being built with the help of the Margaret Moloney Estate. The health facilities will ensure mothers and their children in remote communities no longer need to travel up to two hours for medical care and services. Margaret’s gift will also help provide equipment for the health facilities, and train health workers on caring for newborns, vaccine management, paediatric tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS.
In Cambodia, two early childhood centres are being built to ensure young children living in poverty can learn and play, and transition smoothly to primary school. The centres will include fully-equipped, child-friendly classrooms and libraries with modern technology. They will also include clean water and sanitation facilities to help keep children safe and healthy.
Margaret (far right) with (from left) her sisters Maureen, Patricia, her mother Merna, and her sister Bernadette.
In Timor-Leste, Margaret’s gift is helping to train teachers on creative and inclusive teaching methods to improve the quality of learning – particularly for children with disability – in 12 primary schools. Teachers will also be trained on how to identify and refer children with disability to health services.
A lasting legacy
For many disadvantaged children in Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and Cambodia, Margaret leaves a legacy that will transform their lives.
Closer to home, Margaret leaves behind some important lessons of love.
Her generosity and kindness inspired her family and friends. “Margie had a rare gift for making and sustaining friendships, and enjoyed a very large and diverse group of friends,” Maureen says.
“Every single one I spoke with said she was one very special lady.”
Margaret, says Patricia, enriched the lives of her family and friends. “She made us better people.”
She was her own person, creative, supportive, kind and generous, loyal and courageous. Above all, though, she was empathetic, says Bernadette.
“She taught us many things and we hope that in her passing that we are vigilant and responsive to others less fortunate.”
Margaret’s gift in her will to ChildFund will help to change the lives of disadvantaged children around the world.