Di Manning: soprano, lobbyist, wanderer, photographer

My Triangle 2017.05

Perhaps it was her upbringing, the daughter of an Anglican minister moving from parish to parish, a lifestyle perhaps strengthened by touring and living in the USA, but from the beginning, Di Manning has always travelled. Never in one place for long, and with around forty residences under her belt, Di has seen a fair bit of the world and contributed to it all along the way.

Her mum insisted that she learn to touch type, so she went to secretarial school where she learned more than her way around a qwerty keyboard. But this wasn’t enough for Di. A singer from childhood starting in her father’s church choirs, she always had a passion for music and began voice lessons at sixteen. She wanted to sing opera. Real opera. Wagner, Verde, Puccini! A dramatic soprano (think Maria Callas), Di went on to study at the University of Sydney’s Conservatorium of Music under Elizabeth Todd who was a pioneer in both voice and the advancement of the role of women in the world. She sang many lead roles with the Canberra Opera Company while she was raising her three sons. While in the US, she sang in the Baltimore Symphony Chorus and joined them on tour.

Back home in Australia, she became a legal secretary where she was introduced to the world of computers when they were still very new. Her lawyer boss couldn’t believe his luck. Di took to computers like a duck to water. She loved the logic of it and put his reams of cases and files into the computer and onto floppy disk. She moonlighted for others that wanted word processing and eventually created her own business in Canberra providing data processing and bookkeeping services.

But Di was restless. She became an active feminist and joined the BPW (Business and Professional Women Australia) who were dedicated to promoting women in the workforce, lobbying government and generally pounding on the glass ceiling. She rose to National Vice President, then was National President from 1992 to 1994. She was on numerous committees and women’s organisations as well, working for equal rights as a volunteer.

The Howard years were tough for Di’s feminist goals and she often sparred with Liberal politicians as well as with Senator Brian Harradine who called her ‘that shrill woman!’ as she fought for family planning across Australia in a political environment that was hostile towards women’s rights.

All this took its toll. Di was exhausted and had to stop and smell the roses. She moved first to Bungendore and grew veggies for a time then she bought a farm out of Cobargo where she spent twelve years, the longest time in any one spot in her life, running the Angel’s Rest Guesthouse which was often a retreat for women. She then moved into Quaama where she made an enormous contribution to the Quaama Hall Committee and was fundamental to the establishment of the Quaama Progress Association. She also developed the Quaama ‘Can’t Sing Choir’ in early 2014 and it survives as the Quaama Singers under Dave Hooper.

She then heard the call of the sea and moved once again, this time to Bermagui. There, she has volunteered her expertise in giving administrative support to the Four Winds board, the Yuin Folk Club, the U3A and is now happily onboard with Marine Rescue.

She still travels widely and loves to document her trips with photography. Not just a record of her travels, Di seeks to take pictures that will stir the same emotion in the viewer that she feels while experiencing the natural world. Friends who follow her travel blogs are delighted to join her through her stunning pictures. She recently had an exhibition of her work at the Lazy Lizard Gallery in Cobargo following an epic trip to Alaska, Canada and the US.

Our region is lucky to have such an accomplished and generous person in residence. Di has been a major contributor to our community through her volunteering, advocacy, art and friendship. Let’s hope her travels in Sally Wagon (her campervan) are enough to satisfy her wanderlust and she makes the Triangle region her home for good!