A living legacy
With my mind I saw the flower
and all was dissolved,
for the flower was a symbol
around which thought revolved.23
The knowledge base Kathleen accumulated was extensive and shared through different forms from her delicate watercolour paintings to well-researched submissions and publications.
Her legacy lives on in multiple ways including through the Caloundra branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland. Now known as Wildlife Queensland – Sunshine Coast and Hinterland Branch, the members keep a vigilant eye on council meetings and decisions that impact on the natural heritage of the region.
While significant achievements and gains were made in her lifetime, Kathleen often grappled with frustration as she witnessed the loss of so many unique environments that she loved. However, it was her love of nature and her art-making that fed her soul. That intertwining of art, environment and action is what sustained her:
At times it has all seemed too much to bear and it has been tempting to sell out and shift to some as yet unspoilt beach ... But when despair has led to hopelessness, that state of mind has to be overcome with the therapy of painting and writing or escape into fiction. It is such a beautiful coast it deserves all the care we can give it.24
Kathleen’s achievements were recognised in many ways. She was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science from James Cook University in 1996. She was named the Sunshine Coast ‘Citizen of the Century’ in 2002. The Currimundi Lake Conservation Park Reserve, that she also crusaded for, was renamed in her honour in 2003.
Since her passing in 2000, three exhibitions have featured her work, with two at Caloundra Regional Gallery (2004 and 2018) and one at Noosa Regional Gallery (2016-17).
These exhibitions and related activities help to ensure that Kathleen’s legacy is a living legacy. Her commitment to the environment, to caring for country through art, artistry and activism lives on through the actions of many from environmentalists to educators and artists today and into the future.
She reminds us that the task of caring for country is important, is inspiring and that we need to be ever vigilant.
It isn’t until people realise that they’ve lost something, but they begin to value it. There is more hope now, that much of what remains may be saved, … but there is never sufficient hope to relax. (Kathleen McArthur, n.d.)
23. Kathleen McArthur, Looking at Australian Wildflowers (Kenthurst, NSW: Kangaroo Press, 1986), 9.
24. Kathleen McArthur, Living on the Coast (Sydney: Kangaroo Press, 1989), 149.