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After a lifetime of caring an enduring legacy

For many years Pauline Barnett longed to return home to the place she grew up and so dearly missed, Tasmania.

Yet life had other plans.

Pauline, known to most as Betty, first laid eyes on the island as a child, when her parents moved from Perth to Hobart to find work during the Depression.

Her parents bought the Lindisfarne store on the sunny eastern shore.

For Betty, a nursing career was almost inevitable.

“She was kind, caring and always considered others needs ahead of her own,” recalls her daughter Alice.

Betty trained in Queenstown and Melbourne before returning to Hobart to work as a nurse. She met husband, Robert Lawrence Barnett, or Bob, when he was a hospital patient. They married and moved to America for two decades.

In late 1970s the family moved to the UK where they raised their children.

When Bob had a serious stroke in his late 60s, Betty did what she did best and cared for him.

“Over the years his health deteriorated, and my mother was his sole carer, doing everything for him over the last 10 years of his life. In September 2012, my father died,” Alice said.

“Once he passed away it became clear that my mother would be unable to return to Tasmania to live. This was partly due to failing health­– after a lifetime of caring for others­– financial reasons and complications over citizenship.”

Five years later, when Betty passed away, Alice took her home, carrying her ashes across several continents.

“Mum always wanted to return, and we made sure we honoured her wish,” Alice said.

She was laid to rest in the Dunalley Cemetery with her mother and father.

“It was a sad time, but at least I know mum is where she always wanted to be.”

It is here, in Tasmania that Betty’s legacy will live on; for she left a gift in her Will that would give something back to her home state.

“As my mother did not have enough money to return and support herself back in Tasmania, she wanted her money to help in a positive way to provide a long lasting benefit to Tasmania,” Alice said.

Betty left a bequest of more than $200,000 to the Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal, which supports the University of Tasmania and partners in their bid to stop the spread of the Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD).

Her youngest brother Geoffrey Solomon said he remembers seeing the last remaining Tasmanian tiger at the Hobart Zoo- a forlorn creature- with his sister Betty when they were children.

When she first heard of the plight of the devils, Betty was so concerned that they might suffer the same fate that she wanted to do something to help.

Her gift was a truly generous and impactful one.

Betty’s bequest is providing the opportunity for two early career researchers with ecology and laboratory backgrounds to collaborate to bring new insights into the disease, publish scientific papers and build additional funding pathways.

It is the start of a long and lasting scientific journey that is likely to yield significant benefits.

Alice said her mother would be pleased to know her gift was being used to help support young researchers working to secure the devils’ survival.

It’s fitting that Betty, who spent her life caring for others, has left a legacy that will continue to give so much to so many.

If you wish to explore leaving a bequest to the University, please call 03 6226 1920 for a confidential discussion.

Published on: 15 Oct 2020 10:16pm