ROLE MODEL: Sonia Atkinson.
ROLE MODEL: Sonia Atkinson.

Early role model for women


Sonia Atkinson

16.10.1923 - 13.07.2012

SONIA ATKINSON was born in London. Her father was a British spy with MI5 during World War II and she met her husband, a Red Beret, on D-Day.

Sonia died on Friday, July 13, at Nimbin. At her funeral she was described as a feisty, charismatic, independent, compassionate libertarian, with an amazing intellect, impatient of woolly thinking, and a woman of action. A tutor at Macquarie University, Sonia had completed her PhD when it was stolen - the only manuscript lost.

Her expertise was in early childhood education. Much of her working life was spent setting up playgroups and preschools, applying cutting-edge theories of education to the task.

Moving to Nimbin, where her son Peter was living, she took to country life with the formidable will she applied to everything, becoming a true elder of the community.

In 1976, her protective instincts were aroused when the Tuntable community was invaded by 300 police looking for drugs. Sonia called on her friendship with former Attorney General, Kep Enderby QC, who volunteered himself and barrister, Dean Letcher QC, to take the matter to the Supreme Court at no cost. The case was thrown out. Sonia was a strong Labor Party supporter. Reforms by Kep's friend Gough Whitlam led to a wave of early child care funding, which supported Sonia to set up some 70 playgroups, many later becoming preschools.

Sonia helped other new settlers through the maze of bureaucratic red tape involved with early Multiple Occupancy politics - trail-blazing stuff, and Sonia's keen intelligence and pragmatism were highly valued.

Sonia was elected to Lismore Council in September 1980 - only the third woman in its history. She also served on the council of the Northern Rivers College of Advanced Education.

"Sonia was unique," said her friend Terry McGee.

"She has been part of the fabric of our lives and we will never again know anyone like her."

Page MP Janelle Saffin remembers Sonia fondly: "Sonia was an early role model for women in government," Janelle said.

"She asserted her right to be there and was great in her representation of community interests.

"She inspired me professionally and personally."

Sonia is survived by her sons Peter and Kevin, grandchildren Melody, Phoebe and Jarryd and great-grandchild Lorien.

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