Diana Ingram, October 8, 1948-June 3, 1999

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Diana Ingram, October 8, 1948-June 3, 1999

By Leigh Howlett

The rainbow flag of the peace movement draped Diana Ingram's coffin as her family and friends farewelled this handsome, gallant woman who played an influential role in Australia's peace movement and later in care for ex-prisoners and the homeless.

Born Diana Chapman, she was adopted with her sisters Barbara and Alison by the Howlett family, growing up in Granville.

Diana excelled at sport, particularly swimming, and was a pioneer woman surfer, owning and riding a Malibu board in the early 1960s.

She worked on the Randwick trams before marrying an Englishman, Michael Ingram, when she was 18. Together they had three children, Paul and John born in England and Caroline in Sydney.

By the mid-'70s she had decided that the English class system was not for her children, and so the family returned to Australia.

Diana went back to university, studying arts/law at Sydney University, taking baby Caroline with her to the lectures when she couldn't afford a babysitter.

Involvement in the student activism of the '70s led to an awareness of the horrors of nuclear weaponry and a passionate commitment to the peace movement, particularly nuclear disarmament.

Diana also celebrated her love of the environment with her children and extended family during camping holidays and sailing trips. She engendered a love of the natural world in them and all those who met her.

Her love of the sea and commitment to change caused her to become an integral part of Greenpeace during its Australian infancy; Di represented the Australian office on the organisation's international board during this time.

After her time with Greenpeace, she helped found the Sydney Peace Squadron. From confronting nuclear warships on Sydney Harbour to keeping the books, running the shop and other fundraising, Diana was a real backbone of the organisation. She was a fearless media spokesperson for "the Squid" and often organised legal aid for arrested protesters.

In 1988 she sailed to Moruroa as part of the protests against French nuclear testing. She just missed her goal, being blown back by huge gales.

Her love for the Pacific led her to a respect for and commitment to the rights of the indigenous people of the region, including Australia's indigenous people.

In 1990 she toured Aotearoa-New Zealand as part of a delegation committed to the removal of US nuclear war fighting and intelligence bases there and in Australia.

She was an activist in many of the significant anti-nuclear campaigns in Australia: she was at Roxbury anti-uranium protests, the action to close the US base at Nurrungar in the South Australian desert in 1989 and the huge Palm Sunday and Hiroshima Day marches in Sydney in the late 1980s. She was the full-time organiser for two of the Hiroshima Day marches.

Early in 1991 she took a leading role in the campaign to stop the US bombing of Iraq, and she marched at the head of a 60,000 strong protest rally through Sydney's streets.

Towards the end of the same year, she joined thousands of others in Canberra in a campaign to stop AIDEX, an international arms bazaar. With mass arrests taking place as peace activists struggled for almost a week to close down the merchants of death, Diana was immovable at the police centre, organising legal representation and giving much needed support to the exhausted protesters in the cells.

Diana worked at the Breakout activist centre as their office coordinator for several years. She worked on the campaign to free Tim Anderson, later becoming a Justice Action case worker.

She visited the worst sections of the toughest jails in NSW, bringing her sense of outrage into lonely, dark cells. Her gentle strength gave confidence to prisoners.

Whether in court or through vigorous discussions with bureaucracy, Di selflessly and steadfastly organised for "her men" from the Resamen office in Trades Hall, speaking out for the homeless, for alcoholics and ex-prisoners, men who otherwise had so little support.

Eight years ago she discovered she had breast cancer. She faced this with her usual courage and determination, writing her famous action plans to change the hospital system and her health. As always with Di, there was a cause.

Diana worked several days a week despite failing strength right up until she was admitted into hospital for the last time.

Many will remember her. Others who never knew her will benefit from her work for peace and justice.