A Grand Character Performance

By Logan J. Farrell

Val Hardie knows better than most what it is like to have a bit of drama in life. Val’s connection with the performing arts on the Mornington Peninsula, both in adult and youth theatre companies, spans more than forty years, and still counting; however the dramas she has faced have not always been limited to the stage. Theatre is only one of many roles she has assumed with her trademark humour, determination and endless energy; this intrepid thespian is one of those ‘behind the scenes’ stalwarts that are the heartbeat of a community.

Val Hardie at her home in Mornington. Picture by: Jan Farrell

Val Hardie at her home in Mornington.
Picture by: Jan Farrell

Val has an eclectic mix of community passions but her professional life is that of a teacher; a career she has now extended to the area of Special Education, a rewarding job that she still enjoys part time at a local campus. She is a big-hearted woman prepared to roll up her sleeves and tackle things head on. Her ‘I don’t like it when I’m told something can’t be done’ attitude has seen her achieve great things in the community.

Back in the more conservative ‘70s and ‘80s Val, as a young single woman with a strong mothering instinct, was already bucking the system when she took on the role of a foster mother. More than twenty children had the benefit of her care during her twelve years as a foster parent. Like many foster parents she entered the battleground of a flawed system, difficult family situations and disengaged children and experienced some hair-raising and heartbreaking times; especially when children had to be handed back to their families. It was a decision that defined her life and she emerged a single permanent mother of three; the youngest of which is now eighteen. She is also now the very proud ‘nanny’ of three grandchildren.

As an even younger girl Val was treading different boards when she entered the male dominated world of 1970s football. Her mother had been a founding member of the South Mornington Junior Football Club and Val became a regular volunteer. In those days her mere presence in the clubrooms would elicit a warning that there was a ‘female on the floor’. Over her forty year commitment to Peninsula Junior Football there is not much she hasn’t done. Val is always up for a challenge, often going where others fear to tread. Being a woman didn’t stop her regularly entering into the male bastion of the ‘front bar’ at all the local hotels and convincing the patrons to exchange good beer drinking money for tickets in the weekly chook raffle. She also washed jumpers, acted as canteen manager, gate attendant, strapped players and was a property steward.

During those days when sexism was rife, Val often drove senior league figures to premiership celebrations only to be relegated to the car until they were ready to leave. In spite of such bias, her passion for junior football remains strong and after being named Mornington Peninsula Nepean Football League’s Inaugural Woman of the Year in 2010, she went on in 2011 to receive an Australian Football League Award of Merit. Since 2012 she has been a Director of the MPNFL and still maintains a keen interest in local games.

Whether in theatre, football or the game of life, Val’s ability to laugh with others or at herself has always been a defining factor. She’s the type of gal that would have made a great boy scout: she is always prepared. In local circles there is a popular rumour that Val keeps a secret filing cabinet where most ladies keep their cleavage. Anything that shouldn’t be left lying around or any last minute items that may be needed in an emergency seem to be filed away by Val to be produced at exactly the right time. Her uncanny ability to reach in and produce anything from duct tape or safety pins to head microphones or even petty cash is legendary; and on the subject of money, the entire gate takings from the weekend football match have been known to reside there for safekeeping until they make their way to the bank.

By senior standards, Val is still a spring chicken, albeit a very busy one. She is a life member at two local theatre companies and two local football clubs and has been the recipient of the Telecom Award of Merit in 1983 and the Fairfax Newspapers ‘Above and Beyond’ Award in 2011. Her broader community commitments have seen her involved in the Lifesaving Club, the Blue Light Disco Committee and the Oz Child Foster Parents Association to name but a few. She has now stepped back from some of her hands-on roles so she can spend more time with her ever-expanding family but maintains her directorship with the MPNFL and her backstage activities with local youth theatre.

Val is a real character in every sense of the word, more authentic than any you will see on the stage; she can be wickedly funny or deadly serious and exudes an infectious force-field of warmth and enthusiasm that draws everyone around her into its path.