Rosemary Taylor (? – 2019)

Rosemary Taylor attended St Aloysius College from ….-1955 and joined the Sisters of Mercy immediately after graduation. She studied at Adelaide University, followed by teaching appointments at St Aloysius College and Mercedes College.

Rosemary decided to leave the Sisters of Mercy in the 1960s and worked as a missionary in Alaska for seven months before returning home to Adelaide. In 1967 she joined a World Council aid team to work with women and children living in refugee camps in Vietnam. When she saw first-hand the suffering of the poor and underprivileged, she decided to dedicate her life to improving their circumstances.

She began working as a volunteer in Phu My, a Catholic refuge for 1500 adults and children, including the homeless, the destitute, the incurably ill and the dying, as well as an orphanage and centre for children with polio. The Vietnam War was having an enormous impact on the civilian population; so Rosemary and her staff up nurseries in large houses, saving as many children as possible by arranging overseas adoption for abandoned children. In 1973, the program was registered as Friends for All Children (FFAC).

Rosemary Taylor
Rosemary Taylor 1954, St Aloysius College Annual, p. 26
Rosemary Taylor
Rosemary Taylor (from St Aloysius College Archives)

In 1975, the political situation in Vietnam had deteriorated and the fall of Saigon was inevitable. On April 4, USAID in Vietnam notified FFAC that the USA had authorised air transportation for 230 children to go to the United States. Rosemary and Margaret Moses, her close friend from school days at St Aloysius College, who had also spent some years as a Sister of Mercy with Rosemary, discussed the plan and agreed to accept the offer. Tragically, the plane crashed within minutes of take-off. A total of 78 children died and ten were hospitalised. Seven of the eight staff who accompanied the children died, including Margaret Moses and Lee Maak, a nurse from Adelaide. Despite the crash, Rosemary and her team continued to help evacuate almost 1500 children that same weekend.

On April 29 1975 Rosemary, along with two of her team, climbed over the high walls of the US Embassy and went to the rooftop where they were evacuated by helicopter to a refugee ship. They flew to Colorado to finalise the adoptions of the latest arrivals.

On Australia Day 1976, Rosemary was awarded an AM (Member of the Order of Australia) by the Australian Government in recognition of Rosemary’s work.

Rosemary continued her work in Thailand, working with Kampuchean refugees and then in Phnom Penh, assisting with the resettlement of refugees in Cambodia. It was here that she set up a facility to teach the disabled as well and to train teachers and caregivers of the disabled in Phnom Penh.

(adapted from article written by Sr Judith Redden for Southern Cross Feature Article Thursday 6 Feb 2020)

Reference

Redden, J 2020Rosemary Talor AM – mother of a thousand childrenSouthern CrossAdelaide, viewed 6 November 2020, <https://thesoutherncross.org.au/features/2020/02/06/rosemary-taylor-am-mother-of-a-thousand-children/>.