Animal protector put roos on a pedestal Marjorie Wilson, 1918-2009.
ON OCTOBER 1, 1969, the first paragraph of Column 8 was from a reader suggesting an organisation to help kangaroos. The group formed then was a subcommittee of the World League for the Protection of Animals and in 1971 Marjorie Wilson joined it, starting on her long campaign to protect Australian animals, especially from people trying to turn them into profit.
Soon after, the subcommittee became a separate group, the Kangaroo Protection Co-operative, "a community advancement society", and Wilson ran it from home for more than 30 years. Her dining table disappeared under papers as she worked into the early hours of the morning day after day, organising protest marches, contacting politicians, writing letters to newspapers, collecting signatures on petitions and producing a monthly newsletter.
"We are opposed to any kangaroo products whatsoever'' ... Marjorie Wilson at her home in 1981 with a sculptured friend. Photo: Briony Davidson
Marjorie Florence Jane Wilson, who has died aged 90, was born in Sydney, the youngest of four children of Francis Wilson and his wife, Florence Hudson. Francis was a shoe salesman then worker for temperance leagues and the family lived at Drummoyne in one of a row of houses his uncle had built after World War I with stone he quarried on the site. Marjorie lived in the house for most of her life and loved to entertain on the wide veranda.
She went to Drummoyne Public School and, in 1934, was one of the first intake of students at the new Riverside Girls High School, walking over the old Gladesville bridge to save the tram fare. After finishing school, she joined CSR and stayed until retiring in 1975. As secretary to the manager of the CSR Engineering Workshops at Pyrmont, she mothered the apprentices, grumbling when "old cars and girlfriends" lead them astray.
She was always involved with community projects. After World War II (during which, she liked to tell friends, she won a "Miss Lovely Legs" title) until the 1970s she was an organiser of monthly concerts for TPI pensioners.
She joined the Drummoyne Historical Society in the 1970s and until the beginning of 2000 was still organising the monthly tours.
Always, though, she was speaking up for native animals. In 1973 senator Lionel Murphy, then minister for customs and excise, announced a ban on the export of all kangaroo products, but Wilson said: "If we are going to slaughter just as many kangaroos for the local market, it won't help. We are opposed to any kangaroo products whatsoever."
In 1980, when the United States considered lifting its ban on the import of kangaroo products, Wilson and the Kangaroo Protection Co-operative organised petitions begging the president, Jimmy Carter, to stop the plan. She opposed eating kangaroos because of the cruelty involved in shooting them in the wild or herding them to abattoirs; anyway, there was plenty of beef and lamb. She supported the culling of animals, when necessary, but only by expert marksmen and only if there was no way for anyone to profit from the deal.
Wilson had no fear of lecturing politicians and some came over to her side. In 1976, Neville Wran, after becoming NSW premier, kept a promise made in opposition to provide the Kangaroo Protection Co-operative with land for rearing orphaned joeys.
Seventeen hectares of Crown land were made available at Dural. Somehow Wilson persuaded the government to allow prisoners on day-release to build the original log cabin on the land. When that later burnt down, the new one was built with the labour of TAFE students.
She had a way of fixing her target with a strong eye and expecting help, and usually it came. The Kangaroo Protection Co-operative sanctuary is still operating.
Wilson moved to a retirement home at Castle Hill in 1999, an easy drive from the Dural sanctuary, and was delighted when she realised that she had helped with the original fund-raising for the home in the 1950s.
Eventually her mental acuity was lost and she had to be removed from the Kangaroo Protection Co-operative, much to everyone's distress. She went into assisted care. Her will provides legacies to many animal charities.
Marjorie Wilson never married and is survived by her sister, Jean Criss, and her family.