Rona’s story 

Resident: Hobart, Tasmania

“Nanny Rona” has been the mother hen at Brisbane St, Hobart since she and her late husband Rob moved in in 2013. Neighbours drop by to check on her welfare and she keeps a stash of chocolate biscuits and treats for their children.

Rona is always willing to lend a hand and to care for those in need, attributes which earned her a Housing Choices award this year for helping a neighbour in distress. “My family taught me that if you see someone cold or hungry you help them,” she said.

She and Rob raised five children of their own, cared for several foster kids and supported the troubled young in their Triabunna community on Tasmania’s east coast. “Being a foster parent was the love of my life. My husband Rob loved it too. If we could have 10 kids around us, we loved it and that was our life.”

When the couple were left without the title to their home or a roof over their heads in retirement after one of their sons devised a financial deal that went wrong, they were deemed eligible for social housing. They spent their last months together before Rob succumbed to cancer in the then brand new Housing Choices apartment in the Hobart city centre.

Rona’s ground-floor unit is homely, immaculately neat, secure and close to local amenities. She cooks for the family members who regularly call in and loves to pop down to the Hobart waterfront for a coffee and to feed the birds.

Now a great-grandmother, Rona has a lifetime of stories to share about life in the bush as the wife of a national parks officer, as a guide at the Port Arthur museum, her early childhood on a farm in northern Tasmania, and her Donaldson family connection to Princess Mary of Denmark.

Watch the video of The bird lover: Rona’s story

Videos & photography: Lani Holmberg Photography
Story-telling project & interviews: Just Anna