Christmas is also always a little sad for my family. It’s particularly hard for my Mum, as this is the time that my Dad fell ill with a disease that would eventually take his life, Meliodosis.
As the storms rage about and the heavy rains falls it is also, an annual reminder of the year that Cyclone Tracy came and blew the town away. I was 13 when Cyclone Tracy hit and changed our community forever.
We were lucky as most of us were in Sydney visiting my maternal Grandmother. Only my eldest sister Dallas had stayed behind and to this day she hates the sound of the wind. I hate to think what might have happened if we had all been in Darwin as only the floor boards were left of the home we grew up in.
We lost my Uncle Arthur who lived next door and so many other family members were injured and left homeless. Unlike some who were in Darwin, we kids were also lucky because we had our Christmas presents with us.
The only thing I remember losing that really had an impact was a book of the complete works of Banjo Paterson, that I had won as a school prize. I had not had a chance to read it before we left on holidays. I guess at 13, material things had not made a big impact on my life.
Dad did not want us to return to Darwin immediately as he was worried about our schooling and so the family spent the year split up. Dad and eventually Dallas (who had been evacuated) returned to Darwin; Michele the second eldest moved to Adelaide as she was entering her year 12 and in those days the SA and NT education systems
were linked; and the four youngest (myself included) spent the year in Sydney with Mum and my Grandmother. We returned for the start of the school year in 1976.
Coming back to present day Darwin, one of the highlights of this year was in August when together with my sister,Camille, I took a personal holiday to Greece. Of course, I made a point of visiting the Greek Island of Kalymnos as part of the holiday. I mean, how could we go all the way to Greece and not visit?
Darwin and Kalymnos share a very special relationship. We have been sister cities for 34 years, and many of their Council representatives have visited Darwin. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet with so many people there who hold our relationship close to their hearts, including several who remember my Dad, the 11th Lord Mayor of Darwin.
Although Dad was Lord Mayor for six years (1994 –1990), he never managed to visit Kalymnos. It was fantastic that my sister and I were able to realise his long held wish to visit this community. I have to admit that I found the visit quite emotional as the memories of my father were really close to me during this visit.
It was as though Dad was standing by my side when I was given the opportunity, at a ceremonial sitting of their City Council, to thank them for sending their Brothers and Sisters, their Aunts and Uncles, Mums and Dads to Darwin to help rebuild our great city after Tracy had blown it down.
Kalymnos is such a beautiful place to visit, the hospitality is warm and the shared history is what makes our sister city relationship so special. Oh, and the food is delicious too!