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Remembering those remarkable Australians who died in 2019 – ABC News

As another year wraps up, we’re taking a look back at newsmakers whose legacies have left their mark.

Respected politicians, admired sportspersons and shining stars of the entertainment industry and the arts were among those who died in 2019.

Their life stories are remarkable, inspiring, colourful or just plain evil but love them or hate them, these people have left an indelible imprint on Australia’s history.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this story contains an image of a person who has died.

Margaret Fulton, who put zest into mealtime

Before celebrity chefs and nail-biting cooking contests populated our television screens, there was the capable and comforting presence of the diminutive Margaret Fulton.

Her first cookbook, which sold more than 1.5 million copies, introduced a nation brought up on meat’n’three veg to the world’s exotic flavours.

Fulton, who died in July aged 94, had a finger in every pie.

“I’ve been showing women how to bake a scone and keep a man,” she said.

During her productive lifetime, she was a teacher, a cook, a journalist, an account executive and was named a “living treasure” by the National Trust.

Damien Lovelock, Celibate Rifles frontman

He was “the quintessential man without a plan” — charismatic lead singer of one of Australia’s greatest rock bands, football commentator, writer, former drug addict, yoga teacher and surfer.

With “skin like a cross between crocodile leather and a Burt Reynolds man tan”, Damien Lovelock (Damo) shunned money, materialism and social media.

“To chat with Damien was like taking a mystery flight through the world of music, sport, philosophy, and everyday life,” wrote his friend, Steve Cannane, on Lovelock’s death at 65 in August.

“The journey was always unpredictable…and would usually land in one of two places, either deep insight or rib-cracking laughter.”

Ningali Lawford-Wolf, Indigenous actor

Wangkatjunka woman Ningali Lawford-Wolf was performing the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of The Secret River in Edinburgh at the time of her death, aged 52, in August.

She was well known locally and internationally, for her roles in films Rabbit-Proof Fence, Bran Nue Dae and Last Cab to Darwin, as well as for several theatre and TV productions.

Not only was Lawford-Wolf a well-respected actor, she was also highly regarded in remote Western Australian communities, near her Broome home where she was a mentor to many.

“She was very much a mentor to a lot of the girls at Fitzroy Crossing and I bet there were a few tears there today,” former co-star Michael Caton said.

Bob Hawke, a leader no-one could ignore

Rhodes scholar, lawyer, larrikin, record-holding beer drinker and Australia’s 23rd prime minister Bob Hawke died in May aged 89.

Among the many achievements of his tenure as Australia’s third-longest serving prime minister — from 1983 to 1991 — he championed the environment and oversaw the establishment of Medicare.

Hawke won four elections and enamoured himself with what current Prime Minister Scott Morrison said was “a unique ability to speak to all Australians”.

“Don’t think you’re any different from me; I’m PM but I’m working for the government, same as you,” he once told his driver.

Penny Whetton, transgender climate change scientist

Dr Penny Whetton, a highly-regarded climate change scientist and role model to the LGBTIQ community, died suddenly in Tasmania in September, aged 61.

Her wife of 38 years, politician Janet Rice, whom she married before affirming her identity as a woman, said Dr Whetton was “a scientist, intelligent and creative and able to turn her hand and intellect to almost anything”.

“She was principled and loyal, a collaborative leader, and a mentor to many,” Ms Rice said.

Those who met her or worked with her described her as a polymath capable of “enthralling conversation, profound ideas and vast knowledge.”

Danny Frawley, AFL legend who struggled with mental health

Danny Frawley, a former potato farmer who went on to become a star player for St Kilda and coach for Richmond died in a single-vehicle accident near Ballarat in September, aged 56.

Nicknamed ‘Spud’, Frawley grew up in country Victoria before his football career took off in 1984.

He later turned to coaching and was described by teammates as having “boundless enthusiasm” and was a mentor to many in the sport.

Frawley was also very open about his mental health and wanted his experience to help others.

“He worked hard to use his profile to remove the stigma associated with depression and encouraged acceptance and support for those who suffered with mental health issues,” his family said.

Anne Hamilton-Byrne, cult leader of The Family

Anne Hamilton-Byrne, who convinced people she was Jesus Christ reincarnated, died in June, aged 98.

Along with her husband, she formed and for 24 years, led a brutal cult known as The Family in which children were stolen from their families through adoption schemes before being tortured.

Children with blonde bowl haircuts were drugged with LSD, subjected to beatings and brought up to think they would take over the world when it collapsed, which they were told was imminent.

Police eventually raided The Family property in Victoria in 1987 and rescued the children but Hamilton-Byrne escaped to the US and was only ever prosecuted for minor offences in Australia.

“May she rot in hell,” former detective Lex de Man said, upon learning of her death.

Tim Fischer, trainspotting politician

Politician, trainspotter, and “boy from Boree Creek”, Tim Fischer, who died in August aged 73, was a widely respected and quirky public figure whose appeal reached beyond his politics.

The former Nationals leader began his remarkable career as a 20-year-old conscript in the jungles of Vietnam and ended it at the Vatican as Australia’s top diplomat.

His biographer Peter Rees said Fischer’s support of John Howard’s 1996 gun control laws was his greatest legacy, despite the hostility he was subjected at the time by his constituents.

“So few politicians can win the regard of their opponents. That will be Tim’s legacy that he managed to do so,” Mr Rees said.

Away from politics, his passion lay in trains and with annual treks through the Snowy Mountains and to the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Nancy Beaumont, whose children never came home

On Australia Day, 1966, Nancy Beaumont’s three children, aged 9, 7, and 4 left their home for a day at the beach and never returned.

The search and subsequent investigation has become one of Australia’s greatest unsolved mysteries and a cold case that has never been given up on by South Australian police.

Tragically Ms Beaumont, who died in September, aged 92, never found out what happened to her children.

“She had to endure a heartache that no-one can actually imagine, so she was a strong woman and a good woman,” crime writer Michael Madigan said.

Prince Leonard, founder of a micronation

The principality of Hutt River in Western Australia, formed in 1970 by farmer Leonard Casley in protest against wheat quotas.

Fed up with bureaucracy, he seceded from Australia, crowning himself “Prince Leonard” and ignoring the Australian Tax Office.

“One day he was a wheat farmer … getting covered in dust and chaff and the next day he was a prince,” Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA president Tony Seabrook said.

Prince Leonard, who abdicated to his son Prince Graeme two years ago, died in February, aged 93, leaving a $3 million tax bill.

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