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Our founding President

Pauline Jillett worked tirelessly to fight the stigma associated with mental illness and to improve support services in the community.

In the 1984 she was raising three sons and was looking forward to a comfortable retirement when one of her children was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

It was a devastating diagnosis, at a time when the stigma associated with mental illness was so much greater than it is today.

It was well and truly a taboo topic. It was mostly treated by individuals and families as a “private matter” or even worse, a profoundly shameful one.

There’s little doubt why – it was a time that many in the medical profession and academia actually believed that schizophrenia was induced by bad mothering or a toxic family environment.

Pauline sought information and help, but encountered indifference and disregard – like so many other families at that time. But she refused to accept the labels and lack of understanding.

The daughter of a Presbyterian minister, Pauline was raised in poverty in the North of England during the Great Depression.

Developing a passion for literature and a commitment to social justice, Pauline trained as a teacher and migrated to Australia in the post-war period.

There is little doubt the resilience learnt at an early age came to the fore when her son received the “damning” diagnosis.

Pauline eventually found a way forward when she contacted Margaret Leggatt from the then, Schizophrenia Fellowship of Victoria.

Margaret encouraged Pauline to start a Queensland branch of the Fellowship.

Fed up by the attitudes and lack of support, Pauline gathered her resolve and, with a friend Debra Fawcett, called a public meeting in January 1985, to discuss the formation of a Schizophrenia Fellowship.

They invited interested people to contact them, and it quickly became clear that their message was resonating with a great number of families. For the next three months, they spent countless hours on the phone talking to parents, carers and patients, who were desperate for help.

On February 23, 1985 about 60 people attended a meeting in the Arthritis Centre at Wesley Hospital. A steering committee was formed, with Pauline as President and Debra as Secretary.

The inaugural meeting of MIFQ was held at the Arthritis Centre on 1 June, 1985 and Pauline was elected.Sadly, Debra passed away before the incorporation of the Schizophrenia Fellowship of South Queensland.  A branch was also established at the Gold Coast later that year.

MIFQ life member, Gavin Bird OAM, was appointed Treasurer at that first meeting and fondly remembers a woman with an amazing fighting spirit.

“Pauline worked hard to encourage sufferers and their relatives to get together, well aware that families were generally the only carers, and well aware of the shame many of them felt,” says Gavin.

“In the early days we also stirred things up a lot, trying to get something done about the lack of attention from government departments and doctors.”                                            

“Pauline set the agenda for the organisation and worked hard to set up education and outreach initiatives that really were the foundations of (MIFQ).”

Pauline’s time as President was short-lived, ending in 1986, but she continued to encourage the efforts of MIFQ, and actively promoted awareness of mental illness in state and private schools throughout Queensland.

Always humble about the great strides she had made, she declined acknowledgements and accolades from MIFQ. Instead she insisted to the end, that it had been a privilege to witness the outcome of her initiative.

Pauline passed away in 2009 at the age of 80, with her family by her side.