Aunty Michelle Fogarty – Family is everything

Michelle Fogarty.
Michelle Fogarty.

The walls of Aunty Michelle Fogarty’s house tell the story of a woman who lives for her family.

There are photos of her kids and grandkids, of course, but there are also photos of cousins, siblings, nieces and nephews.

Her favourite time of year is Christmas with family at the home she shares with her husband, Willy Vinson.

“We come together, me and the kids. But we sort it early so we know what we’re doing and it’s at a set time, not this ‘Murri time’,” she said.

“You say 12 o’clock, have lunch then get the kids off to their in-laws and we get to calm down when they’re gone – that’s our rest time.”

Robbie, Melissa, Natalie, Jamal and Desree.

Those are the names of Aunty Michelle’s adult children, who are her world.

Aunty Michelle, a proud Mununjali woman, was born in 1965 at Beaudesert Hospital, the third eldest of Beverley and Raymond Fogarty.

“There were six of us – Raylene, Derek, me, my brother Marbuck who we lost last October, Trudy and Claudette,” she said.

Her 10 grandchildren call her ‘Nan’, and she often looks after the little ones.

Two grandkids live in Canberra where Jamal, a respected NRL player, plays halfback for the Raiders. Aunty Michelle wears a Canberra Raiders visor and loves getting along to Jamal’s games with the family when she can.

Things were different in Beaudesert when Aunty Michelle was growing up.

She remembers the glory days of the meatworks, the annual ‘Butchers’ Picnic’ family fun day and the time an arsonist targeted Beaudesert CBD in 1995.

She did a bit of everything for work, from helping at Laravale school to working at Beaudesert KFC when it opened in the early 1980s, when Robbie was a few months old.

One constant is the closeness of her family.

“Mum cooked a roast every Sunday and there was always an extra kid at the table, not just black kids either, then dad took us to the pool in the afternoon,” she said.

“Steven, Jeffrey and Georgie Blow used to ride their horses down every Sunday, and there was no gutter and channelling in town then.”

Being healthy and happy is what’s most important to Aunty Michelle.

She grew up in a sporty family, going to the football and playing soccer, netball, touch football and golf.

In 1999 she started having daily seizures, in 2001 and 2009 had operations for tumours on her brain and ultimately, she ended up in a wheelchair.

She is matter of fact when talking about how she adjusted to such a major life change in her mid-30s, with five children to look after.

“I just did it – you know you’ve got to be a parent, do housework, get your kids off to school, you don’t stop doing what you’ve got to do, you just keep going forward,” she said.

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