When we first moved to Cobar, I was impressed by the way everyone got along. From the welcoming smiles from passers-by to the ‘let me help you with that’ offers (trying to lift a 12 litre bottle of water up and over the ute tray).
Before social distancing became the norm there was no shortage of community craft work-shops, sporting events including horse racing, dance classes and library projects – always something for anyone who wanted to get involved. Houses were decorated at Christmas time, Halloween took place in October – but only with houses that volunteered to be involved – and there were even regular street parades and festivals. I attribute a lot of that community spirit to the town’s mayor, Lilliane Brady.
My encounter with Lilliane was brief but it left a lasting impression.
After the DVD project for Ivanhoe and the months spent researching ANZACS with connections to Enngonia as well as applying for government funding for a cenotaph to be built, I was struggling with what project to take on in a town that seemed to have everything already sorted. I came up with a range of ideas from mining and agricultural murals on the many corrugated iron sheds in town to allowing overseas troops to set up desert training camps. Nothing really stood out and so I decided to email my suggestions to Lilliane to see if any of them were worthy of her interest.
A few days later, it was a lovely surprise when the phone rang and I heard Lilliane’s voice on the other end. She introduced herself and thanked me for my email and told me they needed more people like me in town.
In hindsight, I look back on that first letter to Lilliane and realise that some of my suggestions had already been implemented while others had been discussed and dismissed as impractical. Yet she never let on. We chatted for a while and I was impressed by her passion and clarity of vision. We agreed to meet at some stage to discuss ideas in person.
We did meet in person on Australia Day at the Cobar pool allowing me a couple of minutes to introduce myself before her mayoral duties whisked her away. She suggested getting together over coffee but that meeting never eventuated. My next email was to tell her that we were off to the coast for a couple of weeks – along with a few more suggestions like Sheepdog trials (which, of course, they were already onto). When we returned it seemed like other plans simply got in the way until, when Covid struck, the coffee and chat just seemed too hard to arrange.
Lilliane passed away peacefully in Cobar hospital on the 6th of February, at the age of 90. She was planning on retiring in September but had an idea to secure youth employment opportunities and was working with the mines to establish a mining school in town before her retirement.
Jamelle Wells’ online ABC news article https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-07/cobar-mayor-lilliane-brady-dies-aged-90/13130092 described her as “known for not suffering fools” and pretty much sums up her passion for getting the job done. Apparently she famously smashed her mayoral gavel down so hard on a council desk that the top came loose and was flung across the room.
Lilliane Brady was a true inspiration and a fierce advocate for the town of Cobar and I regret that we won’t get that coffee and chat.
Rest in Peace, Lilliane.