18 January 2024

"There were no boring times with mum": a daughter's appreciation for her mother

| Chisa Hasegawa
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Joan Newton

Joan Newton lived a long life full of adventure. Photo: supplied.

Four months after celebrating her mother’s 100th birthday, a daughter now says goodbye to the mum who taught her that she could be anything she wanted.

Surrounded by friends and family, Cooktown’s centenarian Joan Newton passed away peacefully at the Sunbird Cottage on January 9.

As she reflected on the good times and the endless adventures, daughter Michelle said her mother was “one of a kind”.

“My mother was certainly a gift to our whole family in the sense of her strength and her tenacity,” she said.

“She believed that you could do whatever you wanted to do and those things weren’t always so strong for her generation as they were with my mum.”

Michelle said Ms Newton was a feminist and advocate against racism well before her time, which she passed onto her children.

“She always used to say it didn’t matter who you were, it shouldn’t affect your opportunities. Mum believed that education was the only way that you could beat that,” she said.

Joan and daughter Michelle

Daughter Michelle says her mum taught her a love of learning and a zest for life. Photo: supplied.

“That may not be true, but that was her belief that through a good education, you could achieve something.

“She instilled in me a love of learning and a deep sense of curiosity and respect for all people.

“She was particularly strong about building in my mind that as a girl, I could do anything if I wanted to.”

Michelle retires with four degrees and spent 26 years as a school principal.

Her five children are also successful academics.

“I think that’s mum’s legacy, that push to be something,” she said.

“She was born prematurely in an era when there wasn’t much you could do for a premature baby, but she survived.”

“I think that fight to live has been with her all of her life.”

Ms Newton called Far North Queensland home since she was 19 and wore many hats throughout her time. She worked as a station cook, cane cutter and even a crocodile hunter.

“She’s always been a hard worker and paid her taxes,” Michelle said.

“She’s got two children; I’m the baby of the family and my brother, she raised us on her own.”

When she wasn’t working, Ms Newton loved to spend time out on the sea.

“She was always catching fish bigger than herself,” her daughter laughed.

“She loved the sea. I can remember going out with mum in the dinghy and next thing you know, she’s over the side with a spear gun after a crayfish or something.

“One of the cute things about mum was that she always swam with a little pair of goggles when she was getting lobsters, but didn’t have a snorkel.

“She was adventurous and would go places a lot of people wouldn’t dare to go.

“There were no boring times with mum.”

Joan Newton with fish bigger than herself

Ms Newton was an avid fisherman, often catching fish bigger than herself. Photo: supplied.

Michelle said her mum didn’t have much but was content until her last moments.

“She didn’t have a home or big super policy when she retired or any of those important things that we all put a lot of value in,” she said.

“She lived a good life and she was a very happy person; I really appreciated that about her.”

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