Michele coordinates the U3APP class ‘A Community of Writers’. Joining the U3A City as a first-timer, she attended a Writers’ group where she met up with Peter Chung. After three years they made the decision to “jump ship” from the City to join Port Phillip U3A as they both lived in the area. A fortuitous decision; Michele now participates in a number of classes and feels very “at home.”
Read Michele’s Story
For Michele growing up, “home” was in the Latrobe Valley. Her early infancy was spent in Camden St, St Kilda. Her father secured a job with the SEC, initially in Morwell which in those days provided good employment opportunities.
At that time there were many migrants working in the Latrobe Valley having fled war torn Europe. Michele grew up with their children who came with “nothing but their school sores, ringworm and their post-war trauma.”
Michele reflects that having multicultural classmates as her everyday friends was rewarding, “Oh, I think my life was enriched because of their presence … I really believe in multiculturalism, and I think our society has benefited greatly from the interaction.” More currently Michele observes that Melbourne has “pockets of cultural groups”, such as the multigenerational Greeks living in Albert Park. Nowadays there is perhaps a bigger divide between rich and poor, especially in respect to migrant groups.
Michele initially trained as a primary school teacher, “I was even a swimming teacher for ten years which taught me a lot about kids, actually.” It also meant that she was able to get to know them differently, in their more “vulnerable state.”
Michele felt she was more suited to teaching secondary school students but later became an Education Officer in Literacy and Religious Education. She obtained a masters degree in Language Education and studied functional grammar at a high level, able to then adapt more effective ways for teachers to work with students and show them how language works. “It’s the way of using grammar very effectively, showing them how the language works.”
Reflecting on what being a teacher is about for her personally, Michele observes, “well, teaching is really about relationships … because at the end of the day, kids don’t remember what you taught them, but how you treated them. That was foremost for me, I loved my job.”
Michele retired six years ago. “I have to say I mourned the loss of teaching for at least 18 months.” She still sees some of her students in the area,” they call me Miss, and are happy to see me.”
Michele was the eldest of seven children in her family, “it was leather hard, perhaps not to be recommended,” as there is an inevitable disparity between sibling groups. Tragically, Michele’s mother died in a car accident on a “torrentially wet road, it was very traumatic.” Michele was just 20 years old. She was 21 years old when she went to “big bad Melbourne.” Down the track she returned to South and East Gippsland for a further sixteen years.
Michele has four children, “born in less than four years of each other, I wouldn’t recommend that either.” One lives in the Macedon Ranges, the other three live close by in Melbourne. She has five grandchildren, ranging from 5 years to 16 years old. “They are a great joy, and I do love being called Granny.”
Michele’s dad nurtured her love of classical music and often took her to the opera. This continues to be a much valued part of her life, her favorite opera being La Traviata (Verdi) and perhaps, The Barber of Seville by Rossini. “Its liveliness, uplifting aspects, I just feel totally invigorated after hearing it.”
Generally, Michele has an eclectic taste in music, she has music playing in the background all day. “Music makes me feel alive, I sing along because singing releases endorphins, it makes you feel uplifted.”
Michele belongs to what is still known as Bob McGuire’s Parish in South Melbourne, Sts. Peter and Paul’s Catholic Church. She claims to be more spiritual than religious, but acknowledges the human need for ritual. The Catholic church has not progressed in respect to women’s roles as they might have, “I don’t like the way women have been excluded by so many aspects, even in the liturgy eg ‘For us men and for our salvation’, when we are an essential element.”
Michele worked as a volunteer in the Melbourne Remand Centre, as a member of Catholic Prison Ministry, assisting with phone calls to the inmates to let their family and friends know where they were and other supportive tasks. She did this for nine years until post pandemic requirements by the police, such as being fingerprinted seemed too onerous, “I actually refused.”
Michele believes that voluntary work, “is essential, it is affirmative for everyone.” At Trinity College for instance, there were eight ovens in the kitchen. The friends of Romania (ex FCJ students from Genazzano College and friends) would cook there to make Christmas cakes to raise up to $40,000 a year to send to girls in the Philippines and Romania, enabling them to acquire some tertiary education.
Michele refers with passion to the U3APP ‘A Community of Writers’. The title reflects “the value that we have for each other and for each other’s writing, and our view of the world.” It is such a joy, we have great discussions. We read out loud prepared pieces and give each other feedback, mainly positive, sometimes constructive criticism.
“We have major award winners in our group,” referring to Roderick Waller and James Cattell’s achievements in the recent competition, Port Phillip Writes. Michele will be continuing in her role next year and plans to “expand our repertoire,” to introduce new aspects. “We may publish some works, but we are very open as to what we might do”.
Michele has written a memoir about “living in Inverloch for six years.” It is unpublished. She enjoys writing short stories and feels inspired to write more poetry, “from the heart.” Michele’s sister is a published poet. Michele has done a number of courses with Writers Victoria.
Michele is an unashamed, “avid cook.” Currently she is concentrating on plum puddings and Christmas cakes. She also makes yo-yos and ginger biscuits, “I see food as hospitality, so I am very big on that.” Michele enjoys sourcing the ingredients. “For example, if you need pomegranate molasses, which makes a delicious salad dressing for a bean, beetroot and feta salad, you think, where can I get that? You may have to go to specialist shops or simply the supermarket”.
What Michele likes about cooking is “the pleasure in doing it and I like the pleasure it gives other people.” She likes to try out new recipes, such as making an interesting dish out of perhaps only five ingredients or following a Rick Stein or Jamie Oliver recipe. “Cooking shows can inspire me.”
Recently Michele has started painting having joined Linda Condon’s ’Watercolour’ class. “It’s a tonic every week.” She enjoys the interaction with the other painters and holds a high regard for her teacher. She likes to paint scenes depicting the sea and seems to have success with painting birds. Magpies are her favourite, they are so communicative. “Birds add something to our lives.” The ‘Hoppa Hey’ class has also become an enjoyable thing to do, despite, “my brain not telling my legs what to do! I could dance 50 years ago, I’m out of practice.”
In concluding, Michele was emphatic, ”I think the importance of U3A cannot be underestimated.” She is very grateful that she “jumped ship” and joined U3APP, in her own local area. It provides such a wonderful broad range of interests, “I really love this organisation.”
Michele prefers not to look too far ahead. “I’m a bit more of an in the present sort of person.” As you grow older, your body isn’t what it was, so you are limited a little by health issues. “But I don’t let those dampen my enthusiasm for doing things.” Michele lives a walkable kilometre from the Melbourne Recital Centre and considers herself lucky in this respect. She also has a house in South Gippsland that she and her family use. Watching the birds, writing, painting, a dip in the arctic waters of Bass Strait, and of course cooking keep her well occupied.
Michele has spent many years of her life living in Gippsland and still has good country friends. However, living in South Melbourne offers an equal sense of belonging to the local community. “We want to belong to a neighbourhood just like country folk do. “I don’t care what I wear when I go up the street, when I go to the market, whereas a small country town gossips, believe me it does, I’ve lived in one or two!” I love being in my area, “I’ve lived here for 25 years and hopefully that will not change.”
Michele’s advice to other writers is “to keep trying.” If you get an idea, do something about it, keep notebooks, keep quotes and observe people’s mannerisms . Writing is an important part of our development. It also has an important functionality in society. If you can write a good letter to the council on an issue you think is worth pursuing, you are likely to get a better response . Writing creatively is different, but it is still a process you are continually trying to perfect. “I certainly still have a lot to learn.”
Members of the Community of Writers, continue to enjoy occasional treats of scrumptious, Michele-baked biscuits or cakes.
Felicity May interviewed Michele Green.