Born in Mackay on 23rd February 1932 to Owen Frederick Sinclair Pitt and to mother Irene Annie (formerly Turner), Phyllis May Pitt was the middle child, having older sister Joyce and subsequently younger brother Bryan. Phyl, as she liked to be known as, lived in the area and attended Oakenden State School until she contracted trachoma, a fly-borne disease common in those days that could produce blindness. The family then moved down to Brisbane where Phyl stayed at the Wilston Ophthalmic School for treatment.
The family stayed in Fortitude Valley where Phyl then went to school until about fourteen years of age, when she left for paid employment. Phyl worked in various jobs, at a shirt factory, becoming a dressmaker/tailoress, worked at Charleville at Corones Hotel as a barmaid, and worked on Heron Island in the hospitality industry.
She married and raised three children, became a Justice of the Peace and became involved in debating with the Portia Debating Club and consequently voluntary activities with Prisonerís Aid, teaching handicrafts to the prisoners at Boggo Road. In February 1965, a few days before her birthday, her father died from heart trouble.
Concerned about her motherís grieving, Phyl dedicated much energy in encouraging her mother to be interested in other activities, and getting a job to take her mind off things. Her mother took up a job at Golden Circle where Bryan worked, and he used to transport her to and from work. But in February 1967, a few days after Phylís birthday, a great tragedy was to strike her, affecting the rest of her life.† One night after driving home from work, a drunk driver went through a Stop sign and smashed into Bryanís car. Her mother was fatally injured, and passed away in hospital with Phyl holding her hand.
Phyl gave up her voluntary activities at the gaol, convinced that she would otherwise come face to face with her motherís killer.† But this was not to be.† The drunk driver walked free from the court, released on a technicality after being defended by a lawyer who was later to become a High Court judge.
In December 1980 Phyl remarried and went back to finish her secondary school education.† From there she graduated to University, studying journalism.† In 1984, after a television current affairs program featured a woman seeking to promote a petition about drunk driving, Phyl became involved with a group of other supporters, and formed the group Citizens Against Road Slaughter.
She arranged for the group to be incorporated, and began the fight for the introduction of Random Breath Testing.† At the time other states had adopted RBT but the government in Queensland resisted.† Finally, after much pressure caused by Phyl, it was introduced.† Consequently, about a hundred people a year were saved, but they themselves would never be aware of which individuals were actually saved because of this.
As a measure to raise awareness, Phyl arranged for the manufacture of a mock graveyard that went on display at King George Square and various regional locations.
In 1998, with assistance from the state government, she established Irene House, a respite centre which provided free accommodation for family members of injured victims who needed to travel to Brisbane and stay close to the patient.
Besides providing victim advocacy and counselling, she provided court support, assistance with Victim Impact Statements, and assistance with requests for appeals against lenient sentences.† She established the first victim group in Queensland, and helped victims of other types of traumas long before other groups were established to meet their needs.† In 2003 Phyl was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia.
During all this time of working for victims, Phyl had suffered progressive ill health. Besides painful fibromyalgia, she had Chronic Obstruction of the Airways Disease.† In 1994 she developed breast cancer and underwent radiation therapy.† As a consequence of that therapy she was at risk of contracting angiosarcoma, which typically does not appear until ten years later, as did happen.
In the last few years Phyl had become limited in her mobility, having to rely on a wheelchair.† In mid 2006 she suffered a crushed fracture of the spine due to osteoporosis and never regained her ability to walk.† Her eyesight was also failing because of macular degeneration.† In 2007 the angiosarcoma went on its relentless progression, and finally claimed her life.
She was outgoing and made friends easily. She made a lot of friends through the things she was involved with.† She made a difference to many peopleís lives, and will be loved and missed by many.
A photographic history of Phylís life can also be viewed online.