I lost a friend called Mem

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Mem was a young Australian woman I met between 1970 and 1973 in London. She returned to Australia. Soon after Tracy I was told she’d died on a fishing boat in the cyclone.

I emigrated to Australia in 1986 and soon after visited Darwin to pay my respects at the memorial. There was no memorial, only a museum.

I searched archives and later the Internet for the names of those who perished. Nothing.

On my Darwin trip I also spoke to an ex-policeman who was a witness and involved in the aftermath. He told me there was chaos and the word went out on the water ‘save the white fellas’ because so many – including many Indonesian fisherman – were dispersed from their vessels and foundering in the water. Much later I talked socially to Tom Uren who was the Minister responsible for the response in the Whitlam government. He affirmed the chaos and the possibility.

Still think of Mem. And I wonder why in Australia’s greatest natural disaster since white settlement there are no names, and no proper memorial to those who perished.

Most of all I hope that the gossip I received in London all those years ago is wrong and that Mem is a grandmother living peacefully somewhere.

James Evans

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