In Memoriam


Frankston Beach Association (FBA) mourns the recent death at age 93 of long-serving and dearly loved and respected member Kathleen Hassell OAM.
During four decades with the Frankston Beach Association, Kath was successful in obtaining grants for some 300,000 plants. Kath loved the coastal vegetation and was actively involved in foreshore planting, destructive weed identification and seed propagation having learnt the skills from First Nation people. When she could no longer undertake the physical work, she continued until very recently to provide delicious homemade morning teas for the volunteers following their working bee toils.
Kath formed relationships with Friends of the Environment groups, the local indigenous community and the local Historical Society. She followed the work of Grace Fraser, a horticulturalist with an extensive knowledge of indigenous plants and admired the ideas of esteemed mariner Captain Frank Hart. Kath befriended them and worked together with them on important projects in the local area.
It was fitting that her work was recognised by being awarded (in her ninetieth year) the Order of Australia Medal in the 2017 Queens Birthday Honours List . Other awards Kath received are:
• Outstanding Individual Achievement Award, Victorian Coastal Awards for Excellence 2013
• Dame Phyllis Frost Award (Keep Australia Beautiful Awards) 2011
• 2011 Victorian Landcare Long Service Honour Roll – Platinum Category to recognise her 25 plus years of volunteering.
• Frankston Senior Citizen of the Year in 2000
• Frankston Council – Environmental Pioneer Award in 2000

Kath will be remembered as a warrior (she was referred to as “a lioness of the environment”) in her mission to preserve her beloved Frankston Beach and Olivers Hill “for all to use” and importantly for future generations. Many attempts over the years to build a marina/boat harbour at the base of Olivers Hill were successfully thwarted largely due to Kath’s skills as an environmental activist, marshalling the local and wider community to fight these attempts. Kathleen lived the words of Margaret Mead “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”. The Olivers Hill area remains unspoilt to this day.

Kathleen and her husband George (a champion Essendon footballer who played in five grand finals in four years- including a drawn game) married in 1953 and brought up their 4 children in Keilor, where she fought to save Steeles Creek -an old quarry site. It is now a thriving inner urban strip of greenery with a healthy flowing creek. Whilst holidaying in Canada, she and her husband had researched and visited an old quarry site and bought back photos and ideas to inspire the local community and Council to turn this area into parkland. Kath’s leadership skills were paramount in this conservation project.
While raising their family, Kath’s love of politics inspired her to undertake a degree at La Trobe University majoring in Literature and Politics. Her children recall going to the Dome reading room at the State library with their mother who instilled in them a love of reading and libraries .
Kath retained her interest in politics listening to a podcast of Whitlam’s dismissal and excitedly watched Joe Biden’s US election win days before her death.
Kath had qualified as a librarian and worked for many years at St Bernard’s College. She was a wonderful researcher and networker. She spent days reviewing reports and planning documents and preparing detailed submissions (which remain legendary in FBA to this day). She sought the advice of experts like geomorphologists, coastal engineers and horticulturalists. Kath was also highly skilled in preparing grant applications.
With her excellent interpersonal skills, Kath built relationships with local politicians, municipal councillors, council workers, local newspapers and a wide range of organizations and individuals. Kath was courageous in her commitment to hold elected representatives to account.
Kath actively participated in our political system. She held Labor party meetings in her lounge room, wore ‘It’s Time’ badges during the 1972 Federal election and handed out how to vote cards at elections. She attended rallies and protest marches against Vietnam War and capital punishment. Kath was a feminist and joined the Women’s Electoral Lobby to support women’s rights and gender equality. Kath was appalled by the treatment of refugees.
To the end, Kath was renowned for her generosity (she was always willing to advocate for a donation to a worthy cause) and for her generosity of spirit. Kath was staunchly loyal in her political persuasion but at the same time she was sensitive to difference, mindful and respectful of the views of others and willing to listen. Kath was wise and grounded.
Kath was loved and respected by all who knew her. Her family was devoted to her and with their support was able to remain in her home where she never ceased to enjoy the everchanging seascapes and skies from her front window.
Kath will be remembered for her kindness and her caring towards those fortunate enough to have known her and towards those less fortunate in the lottery of life. With a lifetime of volunteering, she was still working for the St Vincent de Paul Society until shortly before her death.
Kath’s passing has left a huge hole in our hearts and lives. We feel inspired and honored to say Kath has left this world a better place. She has also left a wonderful legacy- giving us all a blueprint for a life well lived.

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