Vale Irene Doutney: Rest in Power

Irene Doutney was a tireless campaigner for the downtrodden.

Irene Doutney, a tireless campaigner for the downtrodden, laid down her warrior gloves on June 11.

She fought her last herculean battle against cancer and passed away at the Sacred Heart Hospice, Darlinghurst, having outlived doctors’ expectations while being cared for by a loyal friend in her Redfern public housing apartment.

When I moved to Sydney, in even the most dreadful of weather, Irene was always at rallies. Against the war, protesting for refugees, demanding justice for TJ Hickey, for marriage equality: Irene was always there.

Self-effacing and humble, she stood for the Greens in the City of Sydney Council elections in 2008 and won. She served two terms on the council finishing as Deputy Lord Mayor in 2016.

Irene grew up in a small rent-controlled apartment in Kings Cross, a post-World War II baby to an artist father. She attended a strict Catholic school. Early in her life, she visited London with a friend and came back with depression.

The next phase of her life was hard, using drugs to self-medicate against her melancholy. She spent some time in soul-destroying mental institutions. Finally receiving a secure public home gave her a reprieve from sporadic homelessness and a solid life footing. She went back to education through a mature age university entrance offer and completed an Arts degree.

I first met Irene at Stop Bush, Stop the War rallies. A tall, colourfully dressed figure, Irene was gentle and determined. If a fight was worth waging, Irene would wage it, wearing her heart on her sleeve.

She gave electric speeches, full of personal experiences of injustices done to her as a public housing tenant, as a woman and as an ally of refugees and Aboriginal people.

She wowed the crowd at a rally condemning the police for their brutalisation of Jamie and Bryn, two gay men set upon by vicious cops, in 2013 at Mardi Gras. 

She rallied with the marriage equality campaign, although she didn't think much of the institution and had no intention of getting married herself. She fought public housing sell-offs, against coal seam gas, against West Connex. She wanted a more fiery Sydney Council.

She was inclusive and friendly to everyone. She spent time with those traumatised by capitalism's savagery. She was gentle, yet strong. She was indefatigable. All the while she was in pain, fighting the cancer surging throughout her body.

The Sydney progressive community, the Greens, Socialist Alliance, Solidarity and Socialist Alternative will miss her. A breach to be filled, Irene has left a legacy of struggle for the next generation to carry on.

[A community gathering to pay tribute to Irene Doutney will be held on Friday June 29, 2–4pm at Redfern Town Hall. All are welcome.

Irene was active at a grassroots level in Redfern–Waterloo through her involvement on the board of The Factory Community Centre. For those wishing to donate, please give to the Counterpoint Community Services (The Factory), which is a registered charity. For a receipt, please use “Irene” as a reference when making your donation, and send a follow up email to admin@counterpointcs.org.au.

REDWatch is establishing a memorial page for Irene. If you have a photo or tribute you would like to share, please email Geoff at geoff@turnbulls-au.com. A memorial webpage for Irene has also been established on the Greens website.]