Sharlyn O’Leary – A life shaped by kindness

Sharlyn O'Leary.
Sharlyn O'Leary.

Seeing her kids run around outside, sharing what they have with others and thriving in their own way is what brings Sharlyn O’Leary joy.

This town is a far cry from the small mission area of Koebule (known as KB Mission) in Milne Bay Province Papua New Guinea, where Sharlyn grew up.

But her local neighbourhood in Beaudesert suburbia has become its own kind of village.

Sharlyn and husband Justin O’Leary are raising their children Patrick, who will be 12 this year, Michael, 9, and Siale, 5, to get outside and appreciate the simple things in life.

Sharlyn remembers catching fish in the ocean, picking green bananas in her aunty’s garden and cooking them all in a fire on the beach.

Her mum, Leleto, was a nurse at the local hospital, the family lived communally in her grandma’s high set house by the sea and there were always plenty of cousins around.

“I was always swimming, and we’d go to the markets and just get heaps of fresh produce. It was beautiful, just really care free and fun growing up,” she said.

In 2000, at the age of 15, Sharlyn moved here to finish her schooling at Beaudesert High.

She lived with her aunt and uncle at Gleneagle and after school found work at a water tank accessories factory then an antenna factory.

“I’d saved up a lot of money and I was meeting friends over in Broome and I said to myself, ‘when I get back to Beauy I’m going to sell all my stuff and just put important stuff into storage and travel’, then I got back and Justin asked me out,” she said.

A momentary look and a cheeky text started Sharlyn and Justin’s lifelong romance.

They said hello to each other as she walked past the RSL, where he was a security guard, and she thought he looked cute.

He tracked down Sharlyn’s phone number from her cousin, asked via text if she wanted to meet for drinks at the RSL so he could flirt with her, and the rest is history.

These days they don’t get time to meet up at the RSL for a flirt, but it’s common to hear a bit of cheeky banter between the two as they go about their lives.

On Sharlyn’s last trip back to PNG, she buried her mum.

It was April 2023 and it’s a memory Sharlyn clearly holds close.

Her mum was unwell and Sharlyn was there for a day before she passed away, then joined with the women of her family to take part in the tradition of preparing the body.

“She was always really caring, my mum. I remember lots of people pulling her up in the street thanking her for looking after them at the hospital,” she said.

“Mum was kind and gentle, not confrontational, a quiet but strong woman.”

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