‘Force of nature’: Tributes after death of 78er Betty Hounslow

Betty Hounslow, pioneering Mardi Gras 78er, has died age 78
Betty Hounslow. Image: courtesy of First Mardi Gras Inc

78er and lifelong human rights activist Betty Hounslow is being remembered as an “absolute icon” and “force of nature” after her death at 73.

Betty (pictured above) passed away late last week after a short illness, surrounded by loved ones including partner Kate and sister Mary.

Betty was a 78er, one the participants of the first Sydney Mardi Gras Parade on June 24, 1978. That night, the marchers faced police brutality and arrests.

Reflecting on the 40th anniversary, Betty said, “We feel a tremendous sense of pride in the fact that we didn’t let the brutality of that night deter us. We went on, fighting for our rights, fighting for recognition.”

She helped organise subsequent protests as well as the evolving Mardi Gras event in Sydney. Betty later co-founded the 78ers’ own committee in Sydney.

Throughout her life, Betty Hounslow was an advocate for and leader of numerous progressive movements and organisations.

Growing up in Queensland, she was a Sister of Mercy for a short time in the early 70s.

Activist group Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence later canonised her “Saint Betty Therese” for her lobbying on gay and lesbian immigration.

In the non-government sector, Betty had a diverse and distinguished career. She worked in community legal centres, First Nations health programs and women’s refuges.

She was once CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) as well as a senior manager at the Fred Hollows Foundation.

Betty also spent time in Cambodia, working for the United Nations on human rights issues.

In 2013, Betty received the Member of the Order of Australia for her work.

She received the prestigious honour for “significant service to the community through organisations promoting social justice, Indigenous health and human rights”.

Betty Hounslow made huge difference to lives of refugees

The 78ers have paid tribute to Betty as “an absolute icon” and a fierce advocate for the social justice and human rights causes she believed in.

“Betty was a force of nature in all her activist and professional endeavours. She will be greatly missed,” the 78ers said.

Betty Hounslow spent a decade working at the Asylum Seekers Centre (ASC) in Sydney. Colleagues paid tribute to her decade-long deep commitment to making a difference in the lives of refugees.

“Everybody deserves a second chance in life,” Betty herself explained in 2018.

ASC CEO Frances Rush said Betty was a fierce advocate for equality, always acting with humour, warmth and care.

“Her insightfulness, her wit, her laugh and her kindness is what she brought to all she was involved with,” Frances said.

“Her work, often behind the scenes, has made a huge difference on all fronts of advocacy, fundraising and real change for people seeking asylum.”

ASC Chair Peter Waters said Betty had an innate sense of justice.

“Her centre of gravity was fairness, from the smallest thing to the biggest,” he said.

Vale Betty.

Betty Hounslow, 78er and human rights advocate
Image: courtesy of Asylum Seekers Centre

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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