The many lives of Margaret Henry

January 21, 2016
Margaret Henry — a lifelong activist.

Feminist, resident activist, popular educator, councillor, public transport campaigner, mother, academic, environmentalist and true democrat, Margaret Henry, who passed away late last year in Newcastle, had many sides to her wonderful life.

I first came to know her in the late 1980s when activists were becoming disillusioned and frustrated with the Labor Party. Instead of social reform, the Bob Hawke/Paul Keating Labor governments had delivered privatisation, union busting and uranium mining. At a state level, the NSW Labor machine was also mired in murky alliances with developers and gambling interests.

Margaret resigned from Labor and ran as an independent for the seat of Newcastle in the 1988 state elections. She welcomed all sorts, including socialists, into her campaign and socialists were happy to support her.

Although she did not win, Margaret polled 11% and helped show the potential for a left wing break from Liberal/Labor politics.

Margaret helped found the Greens in Newcastle and served two terms as a Greens councillor on Newcastle City Council.

One Saturday I was selling Green Left Weekly in the Newcastle Mall when a security guard tried to move me on. I was standing my ground when Margaret suddenly appeared. She presented an articulate and calm point about democracy and the commons to the security guard and he backed right off.

In one of our last conversations Margaret mentioned to me that she had included the Socialist Alliance in a full-page ad in the newspaper in support of retaining the Newcastle rail line. “Was that OK?” she asked! “Of course and thank you,” I replied.

Margaret was in there with Save Our Rail and other issues right to the end. She did not get round to retiring as she was too busy campaigning and living her many lives.

Our condolences to Margaret's family and her partner Keith.

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