Writer, philanthropist and passionate historian Vera Deacon has been named a Freeman of the City in recognition of her contribution to Newcastle’s heritage, conservation and local history at a special ceremony at City Hall today.
Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said Vera was a well-deserved recipient who would join an esteemed list of 13 other Novocastrians to be awarded the City’s highest honour.
“The City of Newcastle deeply appreciates Vera’s immense contribution to the ongoing preservation and interpretation of our rich local history,” the Lord Mayor said.
“Steadfastly involved in progressive social and political movements, Vera is a trailblazer for women and has a keen sense of social justice and equality.
“We thank Vera for her many contributions to our community and know that while she may shy away from being singled out in this way, there are none more deserving of this wonderful honour.”
Vera was born in Mayfield and raised on two of the Newcastle’s original estuary islands on the Hunter River – Dempsey Island and Mosquito Island (also known as Moscheto).
During her childhood, she developed a deep and enduring connection with the waterway that continues to this day through her conservation and literary works.
After spending most of her married life in Sydney Vera returned to Newcastle in 1997 following the death of her husband Stanley.
Moving to Stockton where she could remain close to her beloved Hunter River, she joined the local historical society and began to piece together the history of the estuary islands, sharing the fruits of her research and the memories of other former residents in a series of award-winning stories.
She has dedicated countless hours to restoring the health of the estuary, volunteering as part of the Kooragang wetlands rehabilitation project on Ash Island.
Preserving the city’s history and heritage continues to drive the Stockton resident, who has made regular donations to the University of Newcastle’s Cultural Collections during the past 18 years. The Vera Deacon Regional History Fund was set up by the university and named in her honour to recognise and build on her generosity, with donations, including Vera’s, used to collect, document and digitise regional history archives.
“Through her generosity and passion, Vera has ensured that current and future generations of Novocastrians will be able to access the records and accounts of those who have come before them,” the Lord Mayor said.
“The stories of our past play an important role in weaving the fabric of our society, both now and in the years to come.
“Newcastle’s stories will continue to be remembered and passed on, thanks in part to the Vera Deacon Regional History Fund and the altruism of its namesake.”