Jean Nunn

Jean Mary Nunn

Teacher, historian-author

Born: July 8, 1924; Loxton

Died: December 13, 2010; Adelaide

Jean was the eldest of three surviving children to Bertie and Elsie Hall, who had taken up land in the tiny town of Meringur in Victoria.

In Grade 7, in 1935, she won a scholarship to Mildura High School and left home to board in the regional city when she was 12.

In 1941 she was accepted into the Victorian teacher education program and, at 17, began her teacher training in Meringur while taking correspondence classes for the theoretical part of her training.

In early 1942 she was told she would take over at the one-teacher school at nearby Morkalla. The following year, Jean was accepted into Melbourne Teacher's College. She won scholarship to study full-time at Melbourne University and, in 1945, was given her first posting, to Ouyen, where she continued to study her BA by correspondence.

Jean and Ron Nunn, who came from Morkalla, wrote to each other often while he was training in the air force.

When Ron was demobilised in 1946 he and Jean became engaged and the couple married in 1947. Ron then received a good offer to work in Adelaide and the couple bought a block of land at Magill and built a house.

They became interested in soldier-settler farmland. They moved to Kangaroo Island to a camp for people waiting for their blocks to be cleared. Conditions were hard. Eventually, the land Jean and Ron were allocated was ready and they moved to their own farm with their three small children in 1955.

They started from scratch. When they needed something they made it, adapted it or bought it. Jean and Ron were hardworking, innovative farmers in their 30 years on the land. By the late 1960s they owned a second farm, had 10,000 sheep, 800 cattle and 300 pigs, and worked 400 acres. Jean took part in groups to organise events such as the Parndana Show and RSL Hall dances. She was involved in the CWA and helped establish a church community.

In 1966, Jean returned to secondary teaching at Parndana Area School. In 1971, after Ron's serious horse-riding accident, Jean resigned as senior mistress to help her husband rehabilitate and to run the farm.

In 1980 they sold the farm to move to Adelaide. Jean completed her honours arts degree in the late 1970s and published her first book, Soldier Settlers, a result of her honours thesis in 1979.

She completed her master's degree in 1987, her thesis for which was published as her second book, This Southern Land.

Jean was asked to be the historian for Kangaroo Island Pioneer's Association, which she regarded as an honour. She actively contributed to this association until December 2009 and was made a KI Pioneers Association life member.

In 1992-93 Jean was commissioned by the Waikerie Historical Society to write the history of Waikerie, entitled History of Waikerie - Gateway to the Riverland.

She was a member of the National Council of Women of South Australia and wrote on the soldier settlement scheme for its book Greater Than Their Knowing, as well as contributing to many other books.

Jean is survived by her husband Ronald, their children Margaret, Graham, Bronwyn, Steven and Kym, 15 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Author of This southern land : a social history of Kangaroo Island, 1989

Jean left a valuable collection of books to The Kangaroo Island Pioneers Association, in trust - currently with the Secretary.

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