'Just because you're older, doesn't mean you stop learning.'
Marie’s love of education underpins all her community work. From teaching line dancing to seniors, to running English classes for migrants of all ages, Marie is committed to sharing knowledge and giving something back.
Marie grew up in Sri Lanka and was educated in the Cambridge English curriculum. Then, in 1972, she migrated with her husband to Australia. She reflects on what was a lengthy process.
‘It was the days of the White Australia policy. We had to prove our European ancestry, going back six generations.’
Arriving in Melbourne, Marie immediately ‘put the bags down, caught a train into the city and sat the public service exam.’ Her shorthand was a staggering one hundred and eighty words a minute and her typing one hundred and twenty. She was immediately offered a position as a court reporter.
‘My English was excellent. But it was the Australian expressions, or 'speak', I found difficult to understand. There were no migrants working with me at that time so there was no one I could ask. Marie spent over forty years in the public service.
As time passed she became a parent, then a grandparent, so life gradually expanded, beyond her public service role. Later she became an English tutor, and gained a Diploma in Journalism.
Recognising the vital importance of staying fit, Marie began dancing and was soon teaching dance to seniors.
‘I get tearful watching my senior students mastering new dances. I have one lady who is line dancing at ninety-two,’ Marie says, smiling.
She pioneered line dancing at the U3A and still teaches dancing at the Nunawading branch. Marie also tutors school children. She runs English classes for young migrants and advocates on their behalf. She has a part-time business in editing and is also training further in Latin and Ballroom medal dancing. And she is a board member of the Vermont South Learning Centre.
‘How we age and grow older is changing,’ Marie says.
‘Being active, both physically and mentally, is crucial. Age is just a number. It does not define who we are.’