Born and raised in Sydney, Donna was always a hard worker. After winning a scholarship to study education at university, she became a school teacher. She taught in the Dubbo community for 15½ years, until she became the victim of a crime which changed her life.
During an argument with her then partner, Donna was doused in petrol and set alight. She spent 5½ months in hospital, 15 months in rehabilitation and underwent 19 operations.
Donna is now an advocate for victims of crime, burns survivors and survivors of domestic violence. Donna will help celebrate Internations Women’s Day this year at a special event, Hastings Heroines, to be held at the Glasshouse and hosted by the HBWN and Leslie Williams MP.
You live in Wingham. What do you enjoy most about living there?
The people, the sense of community and feeling safe. Living in such paradise makes it very difficult to go away for holidays.
Family has become an important aspect of you life recently. Tell us what’s keeping you busy?
Alone, I have raised and supported my two sons. Coe has recently relocated to Melbourne for work purposes. Bodean is in the RAAF at Wodonga.
I’m fortunate to have both my parents: Dad, who is nearly 83 and now resides with me; and my mum, who is 80 this year and resides at ALMA place, as she requires specialised care. I spend time with my mum every second day, doing the ‘girly thing’.
As a nanna, I enjoy having my six year old grandson stay with me on a regular basis. I’m a house manager and carer of my family and anytime in between belongs to me, three dogs and two cats.
You’re coming to Port Macquarie as a quest speaker for the International Women’s Day event. What other speaking gigs have you been doing lately?
I am looking forward to celebrating IWD in Port. As my major commitment is to family, I have scaled back my volunteering and advocacy work, including speaking engagements. However, my autobiography, Judas Kisses taking 2 years to write, details my journey and continues my work.
It has been reprinted twice and sold out. To have it reprinted again will be up to ‘people power’ – to fire up publishers, Hardie Grant: (03) 8520 6444.
Your portrait has inspired the artist to paint you again. How did that make you feel, and what will be different about the next painting?
Dave Thomas is a brilliant Southern Highland artist. This time he wants to paint me ’less traditional and more confronting’. I’m thrilled, but as for knowing what Dave has in mind, we will just have to wait and see. Meanwhile, I organise the 2012 Archibald Entry touring the local area, and it’s going up to Port for a visit. A different medium, and it now continues the message.
Wherever the painting goes, it generates discussion and comment. It has a great life and is doing a fine job.
What are your goals and ambitions for this year?
As I’m ageing, I need to live a more healthier lifestyle, diet, exercise and following up all the medical details that one has to do to stay well and strong and to be able to care for others. That includes taking time out for the activities that I most enjoy: shopping, being a market-stall holder, going out bush and visiting friends and more shopping!
You have met some amazing people. Tell us about some of those experiences.
Since being named Australian of the Year Local Hero 2004, I’m part of that family. Every year I’m invited back to Canberra to attend the Governor General’s function for finalists and Prime Minister award ceremonies for Australia Day.
This year, Geoffrey Rush was named Australian of the Year, and during our chat I cheekily welcomed him into ‘the family’. Every year I meet the most incredible Aussies, who all have one thing in common – passion for what they do. The same passion I see in many people who live here in the Manning Valley.
What is your number one piece of advice to women who may be in crisis?
For anyone in crisis, regardless of gender or age, seek information, support and assistance. To ask for help is not a sign of weakness or shame, but rather, a show of great courage and wisdom.
We all deserve to be safe, respected and encouraged to become the people we are meant to be.