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Joan Purton writes about her Protégée & friend, Mary

Life with Mary 


I first met Mary when my husband Don and myself moved to Sunbury from the small town of Balranald, South Western NSW in 2003.

Being new to the area, and wanting to meet people and be of some use in the community, I answered and advertisement for people to help writing stories for adults with disabilities at Distinctive Options.

The words "I'd bashem" were what first made me notice Mary. She had been asked what she would do in a certain situation, and that was her reply. Wow! I hoped that I'd never cross her!

Bruce Mitchell, Ronnie Jelbert and Mary lived in a community house at Underhill Court, and because of a shortage of taxis back then, I began running them home when each session finished. It was during this time that I got to know the three of them, and we would sing in the car and have one on the way home.

One evening, Mary invited me in to see what "Me and Ronnie are going to be in". It was a deb ball for the disabled, so I offered to make Mary's dress for her. It was shortly after this that I was approached to be Mary's Advocate.

At first, I didn't know just quite what to expect, but once I set my boundaries (being a retired school teacher helped I'm sure) we got along fine.

I have found that Mary is somewhat of a "rough Diamond" She can be very rough on the outside but her heart is in the right place.

The first time I went down town with her, I was surprised at the number of people who knew her . She loves shopping and takes her calculator with her, working out what she can and can't afford. We regularly go to Sunbury Square where she has Hot Chocolate and I have coffee (Mary told me which shop was the cheapest) She likes to get a "treat" to "take home for the boys" whenever we are out.

A keen photographer, Mary likes to go and take photos of the Myer Christmas windows, and we follow this with Yum Cha as a special treat in the city.

Mary loves knitting and crochet and always has something in the bag. She loves cooking and has been promised that when her room is nice and tidy we will have a cooking day again. (that will be in a couple of weeks time as she is trying very hard).

We've been together for ten years now, and while I only took on the position as a trial, I can't imagine what life would be without Mary in the background now.

I'm proud to call Mary my special friend and have a special place in my heart for her as she does for me.

To hear her say "Ya know I love ya" gives me a feeling of satisfaction for bringing a little happiness into the life of my "special friend".






I first became aware of the Citizens Advocacy Sunbury Program about ten years ago. I was impressed by the difference advocates made through their support and practical help but mostly, by offering the priceless gift of friendship. I felt I would like to be part of the program but at the time I wasn’t able to make a long term commitment as would be required of being an advocate, but was able to serve on the committee of management for a year.
Earlier this year I found I had some spare time and was looking for a volunteering opportunity. I was reminded of Citizen Advocacy Sunbury through a conversation with my good friend and long-time advocate Irene Nolte, which led to a conversation with Co-ordinator David Abela, who suggested I take a look at the fabulous new website.
There I read of a lady who needed an advocate and felt I could be that person.
Olga and I were matched in July this year and our friendship has grown from strength to strength as we have gotten to know and trust each other. Some of the issues I help Olga with are complex like finances, access to services, health and family issues. Mostly it is about being a friend. Offering a sympathetic ear and giving guidance and reassurance on matters she is anxious or confused about. I am very grateful for support and encouragement offered by David which reassures me I am on the right track in supporting Olga. It gives me great confidence as an advocate to know I can rely on that support when needed.
The experience of getting to know the fascinating person that is Olga and, the people in her life has enriched my life. I am humbled and privileged that Olga has accepted my help and has gifted me with her trust and friendship. I enjoy my time with Olga and hope our relationship continues long into the future.

Bridie Smith 4/12/12 




I was looking for an opportunity to contribute to my local community which would make use of my skills and knowledge. I hadn’t thought about an on-going commitment to an individual but when I stumbled on the Citizen Advocacy site I immediately recognised that ‘this was something I could sink my teeth into’.

I’ve been matched with my protégée since mid-2009 and she’s a delight - above all else we’re firm friends.

We socialise often and have got to know each other’s families. I’ve also assisted my protégée to access information and investigated, on her behalf, support services to help meet her immediate and possible future needs.

I’ve been humbled, informed and enriched by this experience and have always felt supported by the team at the Sunbury Citizen Advocacy office.

If a one to one experience appeals to you, then I encourage you to investigate further and get involved.

Maria L Martin


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