OBITUARY: Margaret Henry - City loses its 'conscience'



WELL-KNOWN Newcastle activist and former Newcastle councillor Margaret Henry was surrounded by loved-ones when she died on Wednesday night after a battle with cancer.

She was 81.

Ms Henry has been remembered for her fearless community campaigns and outspoken views about a range of issues including heritage conservation and the inner-city rail line.

She also championed causes such as Indigenous recognition and support services for newly arrived refugees and people with disabilities.

‘‘Marg was part of the fabric of Newcastle,’’ said former council colleague and activist John Sutton.

‘‘She was indefatigable and it’s hard to think of anyone else who has had a greater involvement in Newcastle civic life.’’

Ms Henry was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March. She became blind after a stroke in July.

Before her death, she was cared for around the clock at her older daughter Catherine’s Hamilton South home where friends visited her daily.

Ms Henry’s long-time partner, Keith Parsons, has drawn attention to her compassion.

‘‘She has many friends who she supported and helped with problems like domestic issues and other crises, where much strong and practical support was needed,’’ he said. ‘‘She provided that and was always there.’’

Ms Henry was born in New Lambton in 1931 and attended Newcastle Girls’ High School where she was dux of her year.

She graduated from the University of New England and went on to become an English/history teacher.

She gained a master’s degree in history and was an academic at the University of Newcastle for most of her professional life.

Ms Henry served as a Newcastle Greens councillor for two terms and was deputy mayor in 1996 and 2000.

She was affectionately described by her late husband Brian as ‘‘causes incorporated’’.

‘‘I always felt that Margaret was the conscience of Newcastle,’’ said friend Vera Deacon. ‘‘She might not have won every battle, but she spoke out.’’

A devastated Catherine Henry said it was likely a public memorial service would be arranged in the coming weeks.

Ms Henry is survived by her partner Keith Parsons, three children, Catherine, Alison, and David, and four grandchildren.