Senior residents of Carlton share life tales in new book

Senior residents of Carlton share life tales in new book
Brendan Rees

From camel races in Alice Springs to life in the Swinging Sixties, a group of senior Carlton residents have published a new book, sharing tales of a period gone by.

The book, Changing Times, Changing Lives: Recollections from Twelve of the Lucky Generation, is a collection of short memoirs written by residents aged over 75 living in a vertical retirement village.

They spent many hours over three years creating the book, which was overseen by a steering committee of several residents, most notably by the book’s editors Edith Bavin and Jo O’Neil, encouraged by Bill Gammage and with input from historian Lucas Jordan.

Published by Bad Apple Press, which specialises in telling Australian stories, the book contains a range of individual stories with reflections on how wider Australian and global events have shaped the lives of the writers.


Like one resident noted, “after all, these older people have lived in a time of world war, of major emigration from Europe to Australia, and of global movements such as environmental activism and feminism”.


Many of the writers have strong connections to inner-city Melbourne, such as Graham Barber and his wife Helen, who have lived in Carlton for 40 years, and Mary Monagle, who worked as a nurse at St Vincent’s Hospital for many years.

While their love affair of Carlton is explored in the book, residents also share interesting tales from how one met a “White Russian” boyfriend while on a skiing trip in Australia, to how one individual looked after sheep but also liked to surf, to how another loved frequenting Fremantle cafes in the mid-1970s.

The memoirs are to be found in the only such collection of retirement village life histories in Australia, since much of the recent attention on older Australians has been focused on aged care, as the historian Marilyn Lake noted in her foreword to the book.

Other stories in the book include Marelyn Wintour-Coghlan’s impressive international career as a physiologist, along with 43 years at the University of Melbourne, and strong links to the Howard Florey Institute.

Another resident, Rosemary Mangiamele, tells of how she came to live in Carlton in the 1970s before marrying the Italian-born filmmaker Giorgio Mangiamele. Her early love of art, music and performance would stay with her throughout her work as an occupational therapist, and lead to her current practice as an artist.

The book was launched on January 29 and is available now at Avenue Bookstores and Readings Carlton.

The authors encourage everyone to pick up a copy, as Lucas Jordan wrote in his afterword, “this is a book rich in the voices of curious, energetic and determined people, in which readers will find many gems”. •


Caption: Residents with their newly published book, from left, Mary Monagle, Graham Barber, Frances Rowland, Jo O’Neil, and Edith Bavin. Photo: Ajay Viswanath.

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