Vale! Pauline Neura Reilly OAM

Wonderful Pauline Reilly has passed on at the age of 92. There will be a celebration of her life at Tucker’s Funeral Chapel in Geelong on Saturday at 3pm.

She was a – perhaps the – leading light of the early days of the research on Little Penguins at Phillip Island, a member of the RAOU from 1956, serving as its publicity officer and President (1972-75). She was first woman Fellow of the RAOU, awarded the OAM for services to ornithology in 1994, and the John Hobbs Medal for her contribution to amateur ornithology.

One of her most lasting contributions, I believe, will be her initiation and leadership of the first Atlas of Australian Birds that ran from 1977.

Pauline wrote at least 40 books, amongst them a magnificent ‘Penguins of the World’ translated into many languages, several on the penguins of Phillip Island, many children’s books, and ‘Cannabis and Cancer: Arthur’s Story’, a brave and well-publicised account of her use of cannabis to ease her husband’s pain towards the end of his life.

Turning to Bayside, one her publications was ‘Common Birds’, No. 1 in the remarkable Sandringham Environment Series published by Sandringham Council in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. She wrote it as a resident of Hampton and a member of the Council’s Flora, Fauna and Natural Environment Panel that later became the Natural Environment Advisory Group.

Another local publication was ‘A Thirteen-month Study of Birds in a Suburban Coastal Environment’ (Australian Bird Watcher, 1981) that compares the foreshore areas around Picnic Point and Love Street. It involved many local bird lovers and its recommendations are, to me, as relevant today as they were then.

Pauline returned to Bayside from her new home at Fairhaven to launch the study that eventually led to the publication of ‘Local Birds of Bayside’ (1995) which I helped to write with contributions from around 100 residents. Her preface to the booklet summarises the changes in the avifauna of Bayside with a concluding – and true – warning that “birds are one of the first indicators of environmental problems”. Unfortunately she could not contribute her own local records as most of her papers were lost in the Ash Wednesday fires of 16th February 1983.

I owe her a debt of gratitude for her help in editing ‘Local Birds’ and for the pleasure of her company at her and Arthur’s home, where she showed me the yet unpublished Japanese edition of ‘Penguins of the World’ and took me to see my first Rufous Bristlebirds in a friend’s garden and by the Airey’s Inlet lighthouse.

It was a brief meeting with a marvellous woman and I treasure the memory.

(Cr) Michael Norris City of Bayside, Melbourne


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