Former Ballarat Citizen of the Year Kath Morton is being remembered as an inspirational and tireless advocate for asylum seekers and refugees and a loving mother, grandmother and friend.
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Ms Morton, aged 92, died on Wednesday afternoon in Geelong where she had been living in aged care and supported by her children for the past two years.
Ms Morton founded the Ballarat Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) Group in 2014 and was recognised in 2017 as Ballarat Citizen of the Year for her lifetime of community work.
She was highly regarded and admired in Ballarat for her support of refugee and asylum seeker families, her lobbying to the government on refugee policies and regular visits to those in immigration detention.
She was also recognised for her involvement with the social arts project Rebel Elders, the Ballarat Interfaith group and the bereavement team of St Patrick's Cathedral.
She had compassion and empathy in bucket loads.- Marg Stammers, Kath Morton's eldest daughter
Ms Morton moved to Ballarat in 1995. She was born in Bright and grew up there with her three half-siblings and three siblings.
Ms Morton attended boarding school at Sacre Coeur in Melbourne for two years and went on to study at Melbourne Teachers' College where she specialised in secondary teaching and mathematics.
She worked as a teacher in Yarrawonga where she met Bill Morton and they soon married.
The couple moved to the small town of Goroke, west of Horsham, where Bill took up his first professional chemist role as manager of a pharmacy.
The Mortons' first three children were born in Goroke before the family moved to Charlton and had two more children.
Eldest daughter Marg Stammers said it was a busy household, with dad running the pharmacy and mum the pharmacy goods shop.
"She started doing a lot of volunteer work when we were young and that became an important part of her life," she said.
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Catastrophe hit the family when Bill died aged 44 and Ms Morton was left to raise five school-age children.
"She was very strong and brought us all up. It was a big thing for mum but she did an amazing job and she kept up the volunteering efforts," Ms Stammers said.
"Important things in our family are strong moral values, ethics and a very high value on education.
"It goes right back the generations that mum's mother was one of the very first women to do an arts degree at Melbourne University in 1910."
Ms Stammers said the bush and nature were also important to her mother and she instilled a love of nature in the family.
"There was a lot of bushwalking. We had picnics and drove 100 miles to go for a picnic with mum and dad," she said.
"Wilsons Promontory is one of her favourite places and Port Fairy Folk Festival was an absolute highlight for mum."
Ms Stammers said her mother had travelled throughout her life, with a particular love for the Australian bush and Australian flowers, but also a sense for adventure visiting places like Turkey and Greece.
Ballarat RAR member Doreen Roache met Ms Morton 37-years-ago when they both lived in Charlton.
Ms Roache said her friendship with Ms Morton led her to become involved in social justice groups and she has been a part of RAR since its foundation in Ballarat.
"Kath has always had a very strong social justice conscious and fought tirelessly for human rights," she said.
Ms Roache said Ms Morton had left a strong legacy in Ballarat, with her rallies for refugee rights every Monday outside Catherine King's office and involvement in making Ballarat a refugee-welcome zone.
"She was inspirational to many people," she said.
"Towards the end of her time in RAR here, she wrote out these pillars of support and used to quote them: acceptance, compassion, diversity, empathy, integrity, respect and responsibility."
Neil Para and his family formed a strong family-like relationship after they met Ms Morton when they moved to Ballarat in 2013.
She organised fundraising to support the family and advocated to the government for them to be granted visas.
Mr Para said the family considered Ms Morton a close friend - like family - and his daughters called her 'grandma'.
"She has always supported us, never made us worry and she always wanted us to have a happy smiling face. She was happy when she saw us happy," he said.
"In one word, she is amazing. She is a wonderful lady.
"She was accepting, empathetic, she was living those mottos. She was a very passionate, strong and brave.
"She gave us love, she gave us kindness, we felt secure and safe when we spoke to her."
Mr Para said Ms Morton was a great model for many Ballarat people who were following what she started.
"Visiting refugee camps in Melbourne, the picnic for refugees, a lot of people are following her path," he said.
City of Ballarat councillor Belinda Coates said Ms Morton was incredibly well-loved by many people in the community and she was a 'shining light of compassion'.
"It is a sad time for everyone but she had such a beautiful life and a beautiful soul," she said.
"She was doing advocacy and support right up until the last couple of years, so she is a great example of ageing well and living life and giving back to the community."
Ms Morton has left a beautiful legacy for her family, her friends and for the Ballarat community.
"I learnt to keep true to your values, that no one can take away your education from you, education is highly valued and educating yourself throughout your whole life is important," Ms Stammers said.
"I learnt a lot of things in society don't change unless it comes from the grassroots. The grassroots have to work hard at getting change and getting our politicians to change sometimes as well.
"I learnt you can be a really good mother and still be involved in all of those activities.
"She had compassion and empathy in bucketloads and determination too to work through problems and to get people's help to work around them."
Ms Morton's funeral will be held in Ballarat. The date is yet to be set.
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