Young mum finds her place is in history

When she was a young wife with a small baby, Diana Hacker was told by her mum that she had to do something useful with her time and given two options.

“I was 23 and my mother told me, ‘now that you are a married woman you should look to joining some erstwhile association like the CWA or the QWHA’. She happened to be a member of both,” Diana says.

“I had always liked geography and history so I chose the Queensland Women’s Historical Association.”

That was 52 years ago, in 1964 – just 14 years after the group was founded in 1950. Diana will be 75 next month and she is now the longest-serving member of the QWHA, although by only one year.

These days she is an archivist and a committee member although 52 years has given her the opportunity to hold a variety of roles in the organisation, which is based at the historic home Miegunyah in Bowen Hills.

Her participation in a group dedicated to researching and preserving Queensland history, and in particular the contribution of women to the state’s development, has only increased with time. When she first joined she had a baby son, only a few months old, to look after and then another two children arrived.

“For the first few years I was busy with the babies but once I got them off to school I could go to the lectures that really appealed to me,” she says. “By then it was the mid-‘70s and we had moved from Newstead where the QWHA was founded at Newstead House, to Miegunyah in Bowen Hills which it bought in 1966.”

QWHA members were busy returning the historic home, which had been divided into three flats in 1947, to its early glory. Members were building and cleaning, developing the museum inside it and running a regular lecture program as well as organising all sorts of fundraisers to pay for it all.

These were the good times, when the membership was just on 1000. Today, with a changing society, numbers have dropped to under 200.

When her children were “well and truly off my hands” Diana’s participation increased and she served a year as president, worked on the alterations and then found her niche in the archives.

“From the start, Miegunyah was like a second home to me,” Diana says. “I don’t have a bed there but, by crikey, sometimes I have almost needed it.”

And her work does go home too. She has her own filing cabinets jammed with notes and bits and pieces.

The amateur historian, “I don’t have any letters after my name”, works on keeping records in order, does research to expand the records and is always looking for stories about Queensland women, past and present, to keep their stories alive. Her crowning achievement has been producing three volumes titled The Matildas, collections of stories about women that she has found in the archives, through her own research, or picked up from other members.

Her current project is putting together the life stories of all the women who have lived at Miegunyah. After 52 years, Diana has no regrets about her choice after her mother’s ultimatum.

“I have never had any doubts it was right for me. At first because I was so much younger than the others.
Gradually I have become the senior member and a lot of newer ones have to come and ask me about things,” she says.

“I still love it as much as ever, probably more now because I have the time.”