A 'baby boomer' born in the mid 1950's in Lower Hutt, New Zealand. I am the second youngest of six children born to Norm & Claire Hooper. Blessed with being born with a harelip and cleft palate meant my siblings were told I was 'special' and indeed I grew up thinking I was. Preschool education was gained in the 'Cripple Children's Association' were I learnt how fortunate I was compared to many others. As you can see, by the photographs (below) of me as a baby, that my first operation to close the gap in my lip occurred before I could walk and continued up until the age of fifteen. The plastic surgery was performed at the Lower Hutt Hospital. My favorite saying is 'no matter what life may send my way - there is always someone, somewhere, that has it far worse than me'. I have succeeded in having a normal life interwoven with the abnormal.

   Were were never a family that settled in one place for long. Dad worked on farms and for the Forestry Service. Mum often went with dad into the forest to help peel the logs he had fallen. Lois and I, both not yet school age, went with them. We were left to play in the forest all day long. The only rules we had to obey during this time was to always be on the alert and to react to the call of "timber" and we had to return to camp when "smoko time" and "home time" were called. Our time in a district would only last until the allocated section of pine trees had been felled. We were constantly uprooted with a childhood filled with new schools and new friends. In 1987 the Forest Service ceased to be and over 3,000 people lost their jobs. Dad had changed from forestry work to farm work long before this happened. The disruptive pattern of constant upheaval continued as we moved from farm to farm. So swift were our moves that we were never enrolled in a primary school prior to our first day. Dad would take us to the headmaster and he would place us in a class. No sooner had we scrambled over the 'new kid in school' syndrome before it was time to start all over again.

Queen Elizabeth Park - Masterton - New Zealand

  Masterton (in photo above) is one of only two towns in New Zealand that ever felt like home to me. Masterton, like Thames, holds many fond childhood memories for me. It was also the only place in New Zealand that my parents actually had time to build a house. This was built in Gordon Street but was sold and another larger and older home was purchased in Ngaumutawa Road. Even though both homes were in Masterton, when we moved from one house to another we also had to move schools and make new friends. Our years in Gordon Street seemed happy and carefree. We played in the paddocks behind our house and spent many hours playing down by the river (Ruamahanga River) that ran through these paddocks. As we set off to play mum would warn us with "If you drown I will  kill you". We never did drown for fear of what mum would do to us if we did! When we moved from Masterton, for good, we left behind a small legacy. Dad spent his spare time doing up old tractors and he donated one of these tractors to the children's play ground in the Queen Elizabeth Park. This was done around 1960-65.

Hooper Family: L-R Lynda, Claire, Jenny, Joanne (front), Danny, Sue, Lois (on knee) Norm.

  After Masterton we moved many times and the places are to numurous to name. A career change, for mum and dad, found us deposited into the 'Cook House' at the Topuni Saw Mill. Here they took care of all the meal requirements for the single men of the mill. Then, at some point of time, followed our move to Thames. Thames is an old gold mining town on the Coramandel Peninsular. Here my Primary School days ended. I was actually enrolled at Thames High School for the beginning of my High School years. Mum and dad's catering career took a new twist in Thames. They established a cafeteria in the main street of Thames and aptly named it 'The Lucky Strike'. Then, whilst they still owned this, they also established a bakery in the main street. They called it 'The Golden Nugget'. On numerous occasions I was kept home from school to serve behind the counter of the bakery. One of my morning chores was to make the icing and to ice the cakes before going to school. Any time left, after homework, was free to do with as I pleased. Our house was in Crafton Road. The Thames Racecourse was not far away.

High Country Horse Riding in Australia - I am on the far right of the photograph

 My spare time was spent hanging around the nearby paddocks with horses in them. One day an elderly gentleman, who lived nearby, asked Lois and I if we would like to ride his horses and exercise them for him. We spent every free minute of every day doing just that. We would ride them up into the beautiful Kaueranga Valley. We would also ride them when we were supposed to be in Sunday School. Lois and my prayers had been answered anyway. I am sure mum would have known what we had been up to when we arrived home each Sunday smelling of horses. We were never scolded for doing this and our riding days blissfully continued up until the day we left Thames. The shops were sold and we moved to the Rangitkei Co-operative Dairy Company. Mum and dad took over the running of the staff caferteria and I became a waitress for them. I brought my own horse with my earnings and mum and dad eventually brough one for Lois too. By this time horses were not my only interest in life and I got myself into trouble by getting pregnant. Another move was quickly emplimented and we went to live in Auckland. This is a time that appears to me as a blur. I had my baby and was guided, by mum and dad, to put him up for adoption. In May of 1972, one month after the birth of my son, we left New Zealand and arrived in Australia for a fresh new start. Memories of what I left behind have never faded from my mind nor will they ever!

Friends for life : Jo & Flo

  We settled in Sydney for a time but mum and dad decided the pastures were greener in Melbourne. I did not move with them and a new chapter in my life was opened. I made a friend whom I was able to keep until her life was shortened from cancer. Flo and I shared a flat on the beach front in Manly. Circumstances arose that lead to us to invite another person to share the flat with us. His name was Anthony Arthur Warby. Tony and I married in 1976 and relocated to Melbourne. Our son David Anthony Warby was born in1877 in, what was then, the new Moorabin Hospital. We brought a house on three quarters of an acre in the Dandenong Ranges east of  Melbourne. This remained our home for over 20 years. About 10 years ago we decided on a change of life style and sold up our Dandenong Ranges home and move to another suburb.


  • Sexual Abuse:  Anyone that has been sexually abused as a child will understand how this affects you for the rest of your life. My life became shrouded in a veil of secrecy for 25 years. The experience has helped me have compassion and understanding for those less foruntate than myself. Those who are so traumatized that they struggle to survive, such as my younger sister Lois. Sexual abuse is another handicap in life that one learns to live with if one wants to survive. I endured years of taunting by my peers due to my harelip, followed by years of sexual abuse. Be it verbal or sexual abuse it is important not to become a life long victim of it. We have little power as children to control what happens to us but as adults we have the power to decide what road in life to take. Our abusers must have had truly horrible childhoods to want to steal the childhood of others. I pity them and not myself. They are the damaged ones. The path I choose in life was built upon these words of wisdom: "It takes more energy to hate a person than it does to love someone. Let go of the hate and fill the empty space with love - you deserve it".
  • Losing a child:  In 1972 in Auckland, New Zealand I gave birth to a dark haired little baby boy. I gave him the name of Michael Hooper. I cannot tell you the name he is known by today. The day I gave birth was the last day I ever saw him. I was sixteen and, guided by my parents wishes, I gave my baby up for adoption. I live in hope that he has had a life full of love and laughter. He is constantly in my thoughts and always will be. People often ask me if I have ever thought of finding Michael. The answer is yes but out of respect to everyone concerned this is not a decision for me to make. This is Michael's choice and should he ever find me then I would not hesitate to meet him. Michael was not a result of the abuse I endured but he was the result of immature love.
  • Suicide:  I have had two members of my family commit suicide and another who wants to. My eldest sister Jenny took her own life and two years later my father did the same. My younger sister is constantly battling her demons. Only those who have lost someone to suicide can understand how deeply and unrepairably this effects your soul. My mother died from Emphysema. Although not classed as suicide it felt, to me, as though she had killed herself in a painfully drawn out way that we, her children who loved her dearly, were forced to standby and watch. Mum knew the Emphysema was killing her but she continued to smoke until the day her lungs could take no more. Mum was given two choices - stop smoking and live - continue and die - she made her choice. The person who opts out of their troubled life leaves behind a legacy of hurt and sorrow, for those who loved them, that never goes away.


  • Marriage:  In 1976 Anthony Arthur Warby and I became husband and wife. This brought many positive experiences for me that I had never known before. My life was touched by a love I had never felt before. It provided trust so deep that it allowed me to share my secrets with someone at last. With Tony I have shared travel and adventure safe in the security of having a place called 'home' to return to. Tony is a friend I will never have to leave behind. Together we plod down the road of happiness meeting, sharing and overcoming all it has to offer.
  • Motherhood:  Our son David Anthony Warby was born in 1977. This was an intensely emotional time for me. The hole that had been left in my heart, so many years ago, was now so much smaller with David's arrival. He is now married with children of his own but the only time I except he is no longer my little boy is when he sits on my knee. I am forced to admit, but only then, that he has definitely grown alittle!
  • Horse Riding:  My love of horses was instilled in me from a very early age. It did not matter where I rode, a backyard, a New Zealand beach or in the High Country of Victoria, as it always gave me a feeling of freedom. The very nature of a horse embodies my soul. It has a spirit that can be tamed but not broken, a will that can be unpredictable and a heart big enough to withstand the weight it must carry. Horse riding is one of life's pleasures I thoroughly enjoy.

"Try to do unto others as you would have then do to you
And do not be discouraged if they fail sometimes
It is much better that they should fail than you should"

'Charles Dickens'