Rita Staniforth Kinny

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Rita was born at Jerilderie on Billabong Creek, she enjoyed “Billabong” books by Mary Grant Bruce. Rita attended Jerilderie and Ryde schools where she won a bursary to Fort Street High School, but she never recovered from Chorea at the age of thirteen. Always cheerful and optimistic she left school when she became ill, went back for a while but left permanently when her brother was killed in 1917. She went to business college and became a stenographer before marrying Harold Kinny at the age of twenty-five. On their honeymoon they went to the North Coast on a motorbike and sidecar. Harold bought land at Bankstown and his father and brothers helped him build a house which Rita called “Billabong”. She became a Jehovah's Witness to please Harold, and as time passed she became more fervent despite her failing health. She was thirty-one when, after several miscarriages, she had her first child, Dorothy, followed two years later by William (Billy). She had ill health, but put on a brave front and so it was not realised how frail her heart was. Harold left when the children were six and eight, and a few years later Billy went to live with him.

The children had few toys and needed few. They had trees, a creek, mud, space and freedom.

During the war, parents were required to provide ear pads and barley sugar in a container for school children in case of air-raids. Rita made ear pads and put them and the barley sugar in the little brass tin which the Princess Mary had given to soldiers in WW1, and which Rita had been using until then as a button tin.

After the war, Harold sold "Billabong", the house at Bankstown, and Rita and Dorothy were evicted. Rita used the £5 she got from the rent of KY to buy a Globite case which held all their clothes. They went to live in a rented room, with "use of conveniences". Rita got a part pension. She tried to take Dorothy as often as possible to visit educational places of interest such as Vaucluse House and Museum of Technology at Ultimo. Soon afterwards Rita had her first major heart attack and was in hospital for long periods. Hospitals and doctors were free to the poor. The only treatment was digitalis for the heart and sulfa drugs (sulphanilamide) when she got pneumonia. On the second occasion, cousin Betty, who was a physiotherapist at the same hospital, saw her and found out that Dorothy aged thirteen, had been looking after herself. Dorrie and Perce collected her that evening. Betty gave up her room for her aunt and cousin when Rita was discharged. The following year they went to a tiny unlined room at the back of KY and later to Lugarno where Rita continued to get worse, and spend increasingly more time in hospital. While at home she constantly tried to go to the meetings of the Jehovah's Witnesses, sometimes making elaborate detours to go by bus and avoid railway steps.

Because of the diminished blood supply, there was increased retention of salt and water in the body. At one time a diet of plain boiled unsalted rice was recommended which she tried diligently.

Her brothers Viv and Percy met unexpectedly at her bedside at St George Hospital, on one occasion when Viv was on furlough from the New Guinea. They had had a falling out years before perhaps over money-matters. Rita effected a reconciliation, which greatly pleased her.

Finally she had to go to a private nursing home at Artarmon, paid for by her brothers and sisters and her activities were limited to reading and embroidery. She exhibited unfailing faith and optimism. Fluid was collecting all over her body (dropsy) which her weakened organs could not eliminate. She was admitted to Royal North Shore hospital and died that night of mitral stenosis (scars on the mitral valve had caused a blockage of blood flow).

After Rita's death, Harold remarried, his second wife dying of cancer in 1975. He lived to the age of eighty-nine, the longest lived of the spouses, dying on Anzac Day at a nursing home, Mudgee in 1993.


Dorothy went to Bankstown School then Erskineville Opportunity Class, then Fort Street on a bursary and with financial help from her Uncle Viv as well as support and at times a home, from other members of the family. She got honours in French and a university scholarship. However she chose to be an infants' teacher, staying at "The Haven" while at college, then moving to Strathfield to a "room with use of conveniences". At the age of 20 she lost her mother. Her first teaching appointment was to Granville, a large school in the western suburbs. She became a keen bushwalker and loved ballroom dancing. She married Wolfgang (Bill) Kuestler, a German born bricklayer, and had three children, Peter, David and Jacqueline. David was born in Germany while they were visiting Bill’s family. While living in Wollongong they built a house which was not quite finished when they went to Papua New Guinea where Bill was working. They parted at this time and Dorothy and the children went to live at “The Haven”, Pennant Hills where David had malaria and a broken leg and Dorothy had hepatitis. Robert Glasgow’s wife Heather, looked after them as well as her own three children.

in 1973 she got an exchange teaching position in England and took the children overseas, to see their German grandmother before she died, and to show them something of Europe during school holidays. They travelled around in a Kombi van, through many different countries, in all sorts of weather, experiencing a variety of food, currencies and language. During one excursion Jacqueline severely burnt her leg and had to spend a week in a Swiss hospital. Undaunted, Dorothy continued their six week trip through Europe with her daughter incapacitated, the boys stealing her wheelchair at every opportunity to use as a ‘billycart’.

Later when the children were all away from home she married Ian Bremner and they moved to a small property in the country where she developed a native garden, delved into the family origins, and learned to do word-processing. She and Ian became involved with the local museum, Native Plant Society and groups working to protect the environment, conscious of each person's responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

After 25 years of marriage Ian passed away in 2002 and Dorothy in 2011.


William (Bill) lived with his father at Peakhurst from about the age of eight and did not see much of his sister and mother until he was a teenager. He remained a member of Jehovah's Witnesses. Unlike his parents or grandparents, he grew to be quite tall; like his sister he had problems with a freckled skin susceptible to sunburn. Like several of his cousins he needed treatment to prevent skin cancer.

He became a fitter and turner, and after a period, became a technical college teacher. He married Clare Brown and they had an only child, Roderick who was three full months premature and needed great care. Bill built their house during the next twenty-five plus years on a bush block in the Blue Mountains. They enjoyed skiing and camping holidays, especially in the Snowy Mountains. He developed allergies and diabetes as he got older and had to go on a very restricted diet.


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