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Byron Shire
March 2, 2021

Vale Judy MacDonald 1951–2018

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Judy McDonald Photo supplied

Nino MacDonald

Judy’s death heralds a sad loss for Byron Shire. She was an indefatigable warrior, well known for her energy and drive, her passion and commitment across a wide range of community and environmental causes.

Born and raised in Melbourne, the eldest of three siblings, she was educated at PLC and earned her degree at Monash University. She travelled extensively throughout her life, meeting her British partner in India and later joining him in Tuscany; fulfilling her childhood dream to live in Europe, where she resided for 15 years and raised two sons.

Serendipity brought Judy and her family to the Shire in 2000 and she instinctively knew that this was ‘the place’, connecting with the community and landscape on so many levels. She was at Bentley, rallied in the streets of Byron; sat naked in a field in Goonengerry alongside 750 ladies proclaiming no war (Iraq). She was in Council speaking up for the Byron hinterland and rural communities, sat on numerous committees and community forums and action groups. She was instrumental in setting up the Mullum Farmers Market and was a founding member of Brunswick Valley Landcare. She organised workshops and field days, manning market info stalls and regularly attending community plantings and bush regen days at Jinangong or along upper Marshalls Creek. 

Judy embraced her life and was never afraid to reinvent herself; her first job was teaching at Shepparton Tech in Victoria; she opened a restaurant in Beechworth; she became a professional gardener, environmental officer for Landcare, managed the North Byron Farmers Markets and regularly held courses on her property for ACE: ‘Planting for biodiversity’ or ‘Growing fruit and veg in the subtropics’.

Judy was gregarious, she loved discourse and the exchange of ideas; she volunteered at the Writers Festival, went to garden club and Politics in the Pub, cooked for book club and the Golden Girls lunches. Yet she also treasured moments of solitude working alone in her garden.

Her love for gardens and growing food was a constant of her life. Her Eureka garden moment came at age eight, in her grandparents’ garden on the banks of the river Swan in Perth. Her father had packed her off by plane on her own in an enlightened move to cure her of an early childhood stammer.

Judy created substantial gardens in temperate, Mediterranean and subtropical climes. Enjoying the challenge, she always sought out the local knowledge and learned to adapt. Hopping into strangers’ gardens for seeds or cuttings was standard behaviour for her, whether in India or Europe or Mullum, claiming the practice was an acceptable tradition amongst gardeners. In Tuscany, her garden was on the itinerary of garden tours and she established a very successful landscape business designing and planting gardens. The Contadini called her ‘L’Australiana’ and later out of respect ‘Arcitetta’. She amazed them with her propensity for work, hacking at the earth in freezing Tuscan winters, preparing for the spring plantings.

Coming home to Australia from her travels, she would always be thankful for how fortunate she was and the quality of life that Australia provided.

Judy was a force of nature, a catalyst for positive change, capable of energising others to make the world a better place. She lived a full life for her short 67 years and leaves behind two loving sons and two grandchildren, her husband, and many friends.

The family invites those who knew Judy to visit her property in the Pocket on Saturday January 5 from 2 till 6pm.

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  1. My incredible sister will be sadly missed and long remembered ; Aunt to Robert and Kate, highly regarded sister -in-law to Louise, wife of John , son of vale Phil & Vivienne Moore, East Malvern , Victoria. R. I P. Judy.

  2. Oh what a shock to read of Judys passing.
    i like many in the shire worked with her on many different community projects.
    i can hear her voice and still feel her passion for life and commitment to community justice Judy will be very much missed and alwayse remembered.
    Its one of those occasions where you wish you had told some one how much you respected and appreciated them when they were still with us Goodby Judy a true community WARRIOR i will miss your input at the various meetings we attended with you


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