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The Mayor who wore velvet hotpants

Newly elected Mayor of Brewarrina Shire, Vivian Slack-Smith, says she never expected a career in local government. Photo Noel Fisher

The new Mayor of Brewarrina Shire, Vivian Slack-Smith, was destined for a life of community service, even if she didn’t imagine it as a teenager back in the seventies.

Mrs Slack-Smith was born and bred in the bush, but like many young people, she sought the excitement of the city and didn’t imagine she would one day be contributing to her hometown as a local politician.

But with an uncle called ‘Barbed Wire’ Williamson, who carved a name for himself as a Shire President when she was a child, and a husband who would later become a long-standing Brewarrina Mayor, it was not surprising that in her later years, Mrs Slack-Smith would follow in their footsteps.

“I was born and bred in Brewarrina and grew up on a property my father managed and did school by correspondence,” Mrs Slack-Smith said.

“We moved to Bourke for six months when that property was sold and then went to Nevertire, where I went to the public school before going to Marsden Boarding School in Bathurst.

“Once I graduated, I left the country for Sydney as a know-it-all 16-year-old and had a ball.

“I worked at the AMP building when it was highest building in the city and Sydney was a very exciting place to be.

“That was in 1971 and I wasn’t a hippie, but I did wear velvet hot pants!” she said.

The old saying ‘you can take the girl out of the country but not the country out of the girl’ was true for young Vivian and despite the fashion and the swinging city, she returned to the country, to work in Narrabri at the Namoi Valley County Council.

In 1977, Vivian returned to Brewarrina to work with Family and Community Services for several years before meeting a bearded redhead called Matthew, whom she married in 1981.

“Our families knew each other but I met him officially on October 15, 1977, at the Brewarrina races, and he had that red hair and a beard, believe it or not,” she said.

“He was a grazier and we had mostly sheep and a few cattle and then went into farming on our property, where our son Tim is now doing the farming.

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