Khani’s pos­i­tive en­ergy

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS LOOKING BACK -

Life has been a roller­coaster for Moss­man’s Khani Hawthorne but an over­rid­ing qual­ity is her ir­re­press­ible spirit, as Shane Ni­chols dis­cov­ered when they sat down for a chat.

ve had a full life,” Khani Hawthorne pref­aces our con­ver­sa­tion, and it’s no un­der­state­ment. There are brushes with ghosts, east­ern and western spirituality, births, deaths and mar­riages and colour­ful an­tecedents that reach back to Ned Kelly and a renowned ex­plorer from Western Aus­tralia, J.S Roe.

Khani was born in Bowral, NSW, dur­ing the war her par­ents hav­ing evac­u­ated from Syd­ney af­ter the Ja­panese at­tacks in the Har­bour.

Even­tu­ally they re­turned to Syd­ney’s north­ern beaches.

In her young days she spent a lot of time with her grand­mother who had a lit­tle cot­tage in Dee Why, Syd­ney – “it was a coun­try town by the sea back then,” she says.

Granny’s four kids were part of the Stolen Gen­er­a­tion. One was Khani’s father. They had hid­den much of their her­itage.

But Khani was a great lis­tener and was en­thralled by the sto­ries the old lady would tell.

“It was in­ter­est­ing but we didn’t talk pub­licly any­thing about abo­rig­i­nal­ity or any­thing to do with Ned Kelly, but granny used to let things slip all the time.

“But I used to sleep at granny’s on Fri­day nights and she’d talk all night un­der the pos­sum-skin rug with th­ese sto­ries, and I’ve got them stored away.”

Khani went to girls high schools on Syd­ney’s lower North Shore but fin­ished her education in Mt Isa in 1958 where the fam­ily had moved when her father, a builder, won a con­tract there.

She re­turned to Dee Why and took a job as a ticket writer with Wool­worths in down­town Syd­ney.

At 18 she mar­ried, hav­ing her first baby, Cindee, in 1962, when she was 20.

A cou­ple of years later she had Ed­die, fol­lowed by Nigel.

Her hus­band, a butcher, suf­fered a near-fa­tal in­dus­trial ac­ci­dent. In re­cov­ery he got hooked on mor­phine and the re­la­tion­ship fell apart. She lost her house.

Later she met the renowned “Chisel” – Ian McCor­mack – and they moved to Cairns, where her last child, Marc, was born.

They lived in a cot­tage in Moss­man, built of cedar in 1912, that was said to have been haunted by a man re­puted to have been killed there.

“Ev­ery­one who’s lived there has had en­coun­ters with him,” Khani says.

She had jobs along the way that in­cluded teach­ing yoga, which she says she in­tro­duced to the district, and was in­stru­men­tal in the es­tab­lish­ment of TAFE cour­ses in the town.

She is very proud of her in­volve­ment First Lady of Cen­te­nary events in Moss­man back in 1976, com­mem­o­rat­ing the foun­da­tion of the district.

The mar­riage with Ian de­te­ri­o­rated and Khani de­cided to move away to Cairns with the chil­dren.

She got by with teach­ing at TAFE in Cairns, in­clud­ing cour­ses that in­tro­duced in­dige­nous peo­ple to main­stream cul­ture and prac­tices.

She ar­ranged the first in­dige­nous cul­tural art show at the then new Cairns Civic Cen­tre and was also in the lo­cal arts coun­cil, which had pro­grams for chil­dren in the schools. It was a fi­nan­cial strug­gle to raise her kids. “I was very busy. When I look back I don’t know how I fit­ted it all in.”

Khani re­mained sin­gle for the next 30 years.

Dur­ing this time she was el­der on a fed­eral in­dige­nous coun­cil, an ad­vi­sory board for the govern­ment, and she walked across the Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge in the fa­mous Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion March.

Along the way Khani went to univer­sity and took a de­gree in so­cial sci­ences.

While she was nurs­ing her ail­ing father, over five years in north­ern NSW, she met Jack Scarra­be­lotti, a war vet­eran.

“Jack was re­ally great. We trav­elled a lot be­cause the kids were off my hands then.”

They had mar­ried and around 2000 they moved to the trop­ics for his health.

With Jack they had bought a place in Whit­field but Jack died around the same time.

The day he died she an­swered a knock on her door and a pair of fe­male drug ad­dicts as­saulted her in an at­tempted rob­bery. And they killed her lit­tle dog.

“It was just one of those things. I felt I couldn’t sleep in that house any longer, so I de­cided to come back to the quiet coun­try town, back to Moss­man.”

She was still teach­ing med­i­ta­tion, which she first took up at 8, and be­gan her laugh­ter classes which are still run­ning.

“Some­times I won­der how I ever got through it all,” she says. “Spir­i­tu­ally it’s been a big ride. I’ve had ev­ery­thing in my life. And I’ve lived life – I haven’t sat back and let it come to me.”

Khani Hawthorne at her Moss­man home. IN­SET: Khani on the beach

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