A local activist and one of Redfern Legal Centre’s longest serving volunteers passed away this month, aged 91. Margaret Jones was a woman who always marched to the beat of her own drum.
She devoted her life to social justice politics, especially advocating for women’s liberation, the union movement and LGBT rights.
The short film, originally produced in 2012, highlights Margaret’s many achievements, speaking to friends and colleagues including Tanya Plibersek MP, Sally McManus, Dr Mary Spongberg, Dr Meredith Burgmann, Helen Campbell AOM and Trish Doyle.
After leaving school at 14 to join the workforce and support her family, she cut her teeth as a ‘Girl Friday’ in law offices during the 1940s and maintained a successful career as a managing clerk at various Sydney law firms.
A self-described lesbian separatist and a passionate feminist, she bravely came out as a lesbian in the 1950s, and became a founding member of CAMP Inc, the first gay and lesbian rights organisation in Australia.
Jones was instrumental in putting many women forward, who otherwise may not have been recognised, for Australia Day Honours.
In 1977, Jones volunteered at the Redfern Legal Centre as an office manager as part of the evening advice service. She went on to work and volunteer at a range of other social justice organisations, before returning to the centre in 2006.
Jones spent the last 12 years of her life handling client intakes at the centre every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, as well as being the main volunteer for the drop in JP service.
Showing no signs of slowing down in her retirement, Jones completed an arts degree in her 60s at Macquarie University, majoring in women’s studies alongside other politically active women such as Sally McManus, Tanya Plibersek MP and Trish Doyle MP.
Those who worked with her over her many years of service, admired her for her continual dedication, no-nonsense approach to helping others and her immense knowledge of the legal and political scene in Australia.
“Her staunch defence of people who are impoverished, marginalised and alienated; her comprehensive understanding of human rights in a very practical context; and her willingness to befriend the most difficult of customers has been for many staff and volunteers at Redfern Legal Centre a real eye-opener!” said Helen Campbell AOM.
Uniquely passionate and principled, Jones set an example that will remain an inspiration for years to come.
The documentary Seeing Margaret Jones screens this Saturday 23 February at the Mardi Gras Film Festival as part of FEMINIST SHORTS. Tickets at queerscreen.org.au