Ninety years young: Lorna Margaret Hannan OAM

Ninety years young: Lorna Margaret Hannan OAM

It’s hard to believe that Lorna turned 90 on October 7, an event that was celebrated by many friends, neighbours and ex-colleagues at Gardiner Reserve.

Lorna Hannan is the chairperson of the Hotham History Project that provides a regular column for this newspaper and organises walks, talks and has a number of publications.

Lorna, with some other local residents, was instrumental in setting up this project in 1995 and has been a driving force in its extremely productive life that has spanned nearly 30 years.

Lorna received the Order of Australia in 2019, recognising her service to the community through a range of organisations that included two terms on Melbourne City Council (1991-93 and 1996-99). She is currently the deputy chair of North and West Melbourne Neighbourhood Centre.

She was involved in the setting up of the Pram Factory theatre, and has a long-term association with the North Melbourne Arts House. She is an author, performer, and a friend to many. Somewhere she found time to be mother to four children and grandmother and great-grandmother to a great many more.

Because Lorna wears and has worn so many hats, it was hard to find a focus for this article.   

When confronted with this wide range of topics, Lorna felt that her teaching career was the one that she was most interested in discussing. She stressed that she did not want to follow her parents and take up a teaching career, but a studentship with the Education Department meant that her higher education fees would be paid, in return for three years bond as a teacher. Her pragmatism led her to adopt a career that was extremely fulfilling and, importantly for Lorna, it was FUN – a word that crops up frequently in her conversation.

Lorna had spent her childhood in various country towns, and she found moving to Melbourne to attend university a great shock. She was nervous about public transport and spent many hours tramping around the city rather than getting lost on a tram. After graduating, she spent three years teaching in Traralgon, and here she learnt that she had the capacity to help children open their minds.

Returning to Melbourne, she re-established friendships with many of her fellow students on her teaching course. One of these was Bill Hannan, whom she subsequently married. They shared a passion for teaching and travel: together they authored books on education as well as two books on art for travellers to France and Greece.

Marriage in those days was a substantial hindrance to women intent on furthering a career in education. They were not permitted to work full time and received a lower level of pay.

Bill and Lorna moved into a small weatherboard home in North Richmond and spent the next few years having babies. Lorna was drawn to neighbourhood living, an experience that was quite new to her. Her affinity with children and young people led to her setting up a free lending library in her laundry – encouraging young peoples’ creativity has been central to her life.

In 1964 the family moved to a larger home and Lorna returned to teaching, this time at Flemington High School. She found Melbourne to be an exciting place, with post-war reconstruction attracting people from a variety of different cultures and opening up new ideas.

She continued to be excited at her ability to open the minds of young people through her teaching. She wrote several textbooks on teaching English.

Life, for Lorna, is exciting, and fun. She remains energetic, eager to learn, and loves to explore new ideas and opportunities. We wish her well as she enters a new decade of her life – may she continue to explore and contribute to the wellbeing of society. •

Felicity Jack for the Hotham History Project.

John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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