Susan Addison was born in Rockhampton, in central Queensland, and rejoiced in knowing that she and her two brothers were wanted and loved children. Her father’s role as a bank manager meant frequent shifts from one town to another, and so Susan grew up travelling in rural Queensland.
Susan was sent to Ipswich Girls Grammar School for her education. She finished her Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Queensland and applied for a cadetship with The Courier-Mail on impulse, when a friend could not make the interview. It was a choice that began her lifetime career as a writer, collector, and recorder of stories.
Susan became widely known amongst Australian Friends when she became Yearly Meeting Secretary in 2011 and among other things, brought us an updated and visually appealing Secretary’s Newsletter.
Brisbane Friends had known Susan as a seeker who came to worship in 1993 and became a member in 1996. It was important to Susan to make a contribution to the Society that meant a great deal to her, and she agreed to serve in many ways over the years.
Susan served as clerk of Queensland Regional Meeting, on Ministry and Oversight in Queensland, and on a range of Yearly Meeting committees. She was also active as an elder at the Silver Wattle Quaker Centre. She was involved in the early stages of the Quakers in Stitches project, and Rex Addison drew the designs for the first panels featuring Backhouse and Walker in Brisbane and the Burundian Friends arriving at Brisbane Meeting.
Susan was due to finish her second term as Secretary in July 2017. The Yearly Meeting Clerk, Julian Robertson, worked closely with Susan over the past few years. In informing Friends of Susan’s death, he said: “For those who knew her as a Quaker and friend, and shared worship, gardening and all the other many activities with her at Brisbane Local Meeting and other Quaker meetings, her calm presence, her quick humour, her loyal friendship and her wise counsel will be missed”.
Susan’s husband Rex and daughter Alice spoke of Susan’s satisfaction with her work as AYM Secretary, as she often told them: “Isn’t it strange that at 67 I’m doing the job I’ve loved best in my whole career”.
Rex and Alice were with her every day of her hospitalization and with her as she died. Susan’s death was a second tragic loss for this loving family.
Many Friends will know that Rex and Susan’s son, Charlie, died of a brain cancer as a young man and this has been an ongoing sorrow. The experience of providing Charlie with a home death brought Susan into contact with the Karuna Hospice Palliative Care services and for over 20 years, Susan volunteered with Karuna Palliative Care, offering respite to families caring for their dying relatives.
Before taking on the AYM Secretary’s role, Susan worked as a journalist, editor and writer for more than 30 years. She developed courses and taught editing at the University of Southern Queensland, and was the founding editor-in-residence at Griffith University.
Susan worked as a journalist and editor in London and Papua New Guinea, and in Brisbane. Her clients included the Queensland Law Society, government departments, University of Queensland Press and the Museum of Brisbane. Her education qualifications include BA, Dip.Journalism, LLB.
For most of her life, she recorded other people’s stories, most recently biographies of people with terminal illness for the Karuna Hospice’s Palliative Care service.
She told her own story of Charlie’s illness and death in her book, Mother Lode, stories of home life and home death, published by the University of Queensland Press in 2003. UQ Press spoke of her ”crafting of these life-affirming stories which [tap] our shared human experience of love, loss and grief.”
Those who shared meals with Susan know her passion for cooking and interest in food.
She was co-author of A Good Plain Cook: An Edible History of Queensland (Queensland Museum, 1999). This developed an appetite for food history, and Susan later researched more of Queensland’s cooking history for a Queensland Museum display, discovering many fascinating stories of how different foods found their way into Australian kitchens, especially during the Second World War when overseas service men and women introduced their favourites to Queensland’s cities and country towns.
This historical research built on Susan’s own experience of learning to cook in country Queensland, taught by her mother to use wood stoves and to judge the temperature by putting her hand into the wood-fired oven.
Susan’s sudden and unexpected death on Tuesday, 10 November, has left Friends around Australia bereft, not just of an extremely efficient and talented AYM Secretary, but also of a good Friend.
Judith Pembleton, Acting AYM Secretary