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Farewell Daphne Curtis

KHA members will be saddened to hear of the passing of Daphne Curtis. Daphne, a former resident of what is now Namadgi National Park, was a good friend of KHA and a person passionate about the mountains.

Daphne was born in Cooma in 1939, eldest daughter of Tom Reid and Flossie nee Venables. She attended Shannons Flat School and later took up nursing. Daphne married grazier Colin Curtis in 1961 and she and Colin raised their family at Mt Clear in Namadgi’s south (they usually referred to that whole southern area as simply Bobeyan).

Daphne loved the lifestyle on their grazing property. She was a person closely in touch with her mountain environment, the rhythms of rural life and the natural cycles that she found so enriching. She loved to work around the property and she and the kids would often join Colin at Horse Gully Hut for a week at a time during stockwork. Once Daphne went twelve months without a female visitor, but the isolation never worried her.

When Daphne and Colin’s property was acquired by government in the 1970s the family moved to a farm near Binalong. Although their new life may have been materially better off, Daphne and Colin both looked back to their Mt Clear days as the best time in their lives. Daphne never lost her connection with the high country. She was a prominent member of the Tidbinbilla Pioneers Association, was interviewed for KHA’s Namadgi Oral History Project in 1990, wrote and published her own history titled Memories before Namadgi, and greatly helped me with my work on the mountains. Daphne, Colin and I did a number of trips into Namadgi (some courtesy of Namadgi staff) and those trips were really important times of re-connection for Daphne and Colin with the land that was so full of meaning for them. I always found these excursions very rewarding in terms of new knowledge gained.

Daphne was very passionate about ‘getting the story right’, as her letters to the KHA newsletter showed. She was a great supporter of my book Rugged beyond imagination – Daphne’s positive response to the book was very important to me, and I was pleased that despite both of them being unwell, Daphne and Colin were able to make it to the book’s launch in Canberra in June 2009. Daphne suffered from ill health for many years yet it hardly dented her strong, hospitable personality. I last visited her in Yass Hospital a few months ago and was amazed at how she retained her grace and spirit. She passed away in Yass on 27 August 2010. After a funeral service in Binalong on 1 September, Daphne was buried at Tharwa Cemetery, within view of the high country that she so loved.

Daphne is survived by Colin, three of their four children (Sharon, Doreen and Narelle; Michael died in 2001), their partners and grandchildren.

Matthew Higgins