Cultivated, refined and dignified woman

June Sutherland 02.06.1921 - 07.06.2017

June Sutherland

The world has lost yet another of those wonderful fine eccentric individuals in June Sutherland. For those fortunate enough to know her, June lived life to the maximum, strengthened by the significant challenges that came her way. Her resilience and strong will meant that she extended herself in many directions in life and many people in the community have benefited by her example. She was a mother, a towering intellectual, a leader, a stirrer. But, most importantly, she was a cultivated, refined and dignified woman.

June Sutherland (née Murray) was born on 2 June 1921 in Bundaberg, Queensland, the only child of John Cade Murray, an agricultural scientist, and Alice Isabel (Kit) Dawson a nurse. Her parents were both World War I veterans, a fact that had a significant and direct impacted on June’s life. By the nature of their work after the war, and the scars of war suffered by her father, June’s childhood was characterised by the need to live away from her parents for long periods, an experience that helped her to shape her strong attitude to the importance of family ties as well as the ability to make do on her own.
June married John Ramsay Sutherland (1916-1982), the former Deputy Principal of Wagga Wagga Agricultural College on 7 May 1943 at St Pauls College, University of Sydney. They met while doing farm work as part of the land army. When she married John she made him promise that she could have five sons. They had nine children in 12 years, five sons and four daughters. In 1964 June also discovered she had a half-brother, Gerald Murray Naerger, born in Somerset England in 1919, and who passed away in 2006.

June was educated Finley primary school and then as a boarder at Methodist Ladies College, Burwood, completing the Leaving Certificate in 1938. She went up to the University of Sydney in 1939 and, as a resident of Women’s College, completed a Bachelor of Arts and Diploma in Education in 1942. She became a teacher of English and History with subsequent appointments as Head Teacher at Wagga Wagga, Gunnedah and Mount Austin High Schools.June was an author, philosopher, teacher, blogger, historian, genealogist, traveller, renaissance woman, Christian. Her website is The epicentre of June’s life has always been her children. She said, late in life, that her greatest achievement was her family.

Being naturally curious, June loved to travel and did so all her life. She travelled extensively with her mother and father as they found work in Queensland and New South Wales. While at boarding school and university she travelled to visit her mother in Finlay and Hillston. While her children were growing up she loved to take them driving around southern NSW and northern Victoria. As they left home she regularly visited them in Canberra, Sydney, Gunnedah, Dubbo, Trangie, Narromine, Hong Kong, and France. She travelled internationally with John after his retirement in 1974, including 8 trips to France, mostly to visit family. She visited Ireland, Egypt, Spain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, and Hong Kong. On one celebrated occasion in 1980, her daughter Rene found herself stuck in Singapore, and June hand delivered her a ticket back to Sydney!
Books by June Sutherland include Folio of Australian History (1980) An ancient history and Australian history text for junior high school, A Biography of Australian Artists (1996), From Farm Boys to PhDs, a history of agricultural education at Wagga Wagga Agricultural College (1896 to 1996) (1996), and Grist to the Mill (2001), a biography of William Farrer, Nathan Cobb and F B Guthrie. More recently, she has been researching a biography of Walter Liberty Vernon, colonial architect.

An experienced genealogist, June likes to point out her family’s military and civil service. Her great great grandfather John Murray (1781-1857) was a Colour Sergeant of the 50th Regiment of Foot in 1813, and was thrice wounded in the Peninsular Wars against Napoleon, before migrating to Goulburn in NSW in 1833 to become a mounted police officer. June’s great grandfather, Joseph William Cade (1844-1912) was also a mounted police officer in Goulburn, and had several significant run-ins with bushranger Ben Hall and his gang. Her paternal grandfather John William Murray (1853-1933) was a gold miner in Bredbo before becoming Canberra’s first baker. A memorial to John William Murray is in Commonwealth Park, Canberra. One of John William Murray’s sons, and June’s great uncle, Ernest Murray (1880-1935), dubbed “Canberra’s First ANZAC” because he went ashore at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915, twice won the Military Medal on the Western Front in WW I. June’s maternal grandfather, William Dawson was twice mayor of Ballarat. Both June’s parents served in WW I, he as a soldier in France, and she as an army nurse on hospital ships in Europe and the Middle East. It was because of his wounds that they met. June’s youngest son Major William Sutherland has recently returned from active service in Iraq.

June was an extraordinarily resilient person who always just got on with life despite its many challenges and setbacks. One of the great upheavals of her life was on 14th November, 1964 when the family home was destroyed by fire. At the time of the fire, June was involved in an event with Girl Guides, and was left with just her Commissioner’s uniform for clothing. While no-one was at home when the fire happened, the events had a big impact on June and her family. She used the upheaval of the fire to reframe her life. She went back to work as a teacher at Mount Austin High School. She refurnished the house with antiques bought at clearing sales around the Riverina. She recommenced study, took up writing, and began playing Bridge. Ever keen to learn new things, June was always enthusiastic about technology and very keen to try out anything new. In her 70’s she learnt to use a laptop and the internet, and at 90, an iPad.

June was a natural leader, although perhaps in the servant leader mould. Her philosophy reflected her self-effacing humility. She lived by the words of Lao Tzu: ¨To lead people walk beside them…as for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence…when the best leader’s work is done the people say, “We did it ourselves!”’
June has touched many people's lives in many walks of life including as a teacher, member and president of Wagga Wagga Arts Society, District Commissioner for Girl Guides for Wagga Wagga, member of the Business and Professional Women’s Association, Zonta International, Wagga Wagga and Canberra Bridge Clubs, Toast Mistresses, Wagga Wagga High School P&C Association. One of her great loves was Shakespeare. June was a longtime member of the Wagga Wagga Shakespeare Society, and relished reciting Shakespeare in the classroom. As an active researcher and writer post-retirement, June became an active member of the Society for Independent Scholars (ACT). At one time she also ran as a candidate for the Australian Democrats for the State seat of Wagga Wagga.

June has an infectious personality and a wonderfully optimistic take on life. She loved to say “it’ll all work out in the end”, and mostly she was right. She was a great advocate for individuality, and raised her children in the same school of thought. She had high expectations of her children, especially in regard to attaining a full education. As a result all nine of her children hold tertiary qualifications and are true life-long learners. She was also an inspiration and role model for them and their children in writing, music, the arts, science, politics, religion, history, literature, civil society, and family. She recently summarized life by saying “I have been very lucky. We love each other, that’s the important thing”. Her favourite aphorism was by Piet Hein: Love while you have love to give. Live while you have life to live.

June is survived by nine children, 22 grandchildren and 28 great grandchildren.

Written by Duncan Sutherland (Son)

The was the main eulogy delivered at June Sutherland's funeral service at St John's Anglican Church, Canberra on Friday 16 June 2017.

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