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Women Who Inspire Oranje - Mrs Mary Handley OAM

Thu Jan 20 2022

Mary Handley OAM
Arts | Music Professional & Mentor

At a bright, young 93 years of age, Mary Handley OAM has filled a lifetime with remarkable achievements. Melinda was just 16 when she first crossed paths with Mary, as young love blossomed between Melinda and Mary’s son John. Though that love did not last, what did was Melinda and Mary’s shared love for music, in particular the piano.

Having lost her musical momentum at her previous school, Mary said she could see “Melinda’s deterimination to succeed with music”. Melinda consequently moved to Walford Anglican School for Girls, a decision she says, changed her life. Mary sat with Melinda at the piano for two hours every day before her entry into Walford – where Mary was Director of Music. She continued to mentor Melinda until she graduated from Walford and went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts (Music) at Adelaide University.

Mary impacted many lives in her 11-year role at Walford, creating a music program where previously there was none. She was also instrumental in forming what is known today as the Friends of The State Opera, where she was President for 6 years. It was on the Board of the Friends of The State Opera that her work and impact on music in South Australia and indeed, the whole country, was truly recognised as she was awarded an OAM.

Mary was also President of the Adelaide Eisteddfod establishing the Adelaide Eisteddfod Foundation. She has only just resigned as President of the Foundation last year, at 92 years old, receiving an Honorary Life Membership.

Demonstrating her work for women never truly stops, she has also been a member of Soroptimist International, a global volunteer movement working to improve the lives of women and girls in local communities throughout the world, for 40 years. She’s held the role of President and Treasurer of Soroptimist International South Australia twice.

Mary has always been an inspiration to Melinda. Mary personifies the concept that if you’re truly passionate about something, you’ll always find a way to nuture it in your world.