RESEARCHER EXTRAORDINAIRE: The Sunshine Coast's Jean Williams with some of her books on Agent Orange, used in the Vietnam War.
RESEARCHER EXTRAORDINAIRE: The Sunshine Coast's Jean Williams with some of her books on Agent Orange, used in the Vietnam War. John McCutcheon

Author Jean Williams was a literary warrior for veterans

JEAN Williams was a regular Letters to the Editor contributor to the Sunshine Coast Daily for many years but she was known around the world for her work and several books about the Agent Orange issues.

Vietnam veterans also have been grateful for her help - in particular, the Sunshine Coast Vietnam Veterans' Association.

Jean passed away on November 28 and will be truly missed by many.

She was born 93 winters ago at Wallaroo in South Australia.

After enduring the Depression years, Jean served in her late teens during World War II in the Red Cross Missing, Wounded and Killed section, then later in the Australian Women's Medical Corps.

Traumatic experiences there kindled her long-held pacifist/anti-war ideals.

Having raised two boys in Adelaide, widowed Jean migrated to Queensland with her young daughter.

She spent several years in Mackay with new husband Jack, then more adventurous time alongside Eungella's rainforest in Mackay's hinterland.

Settling in Nambour later, Jean became involved in the Vietnam Veterans' fight for justice regarding the serious health issues affecting them and families after exposure to Agent Orange and other defoliants and insecticides during defence force service.


TICKLED PINK: Australian author and OAM Jean Williams is one of 1500 women worldwide who has made it into the prestigious Who's Who of Women book. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily.
TICKLED PINK: Australian author and OAM recipient Jean Williams was one of 1500 women worldwide who made it into the prestigious Who's Who of Women book in 2011. John McCutcheon

With her ear tuned in to the underdog, Jean became the conduit - a collecting and disseminating vehicle for worldwide data on Agent Orange, 2, 4-D (Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid), 2, 4, 5-T (Trichlorophenoxyacetic acid), Dioxin and their insidious synergistic properties and side effects.

Good friend and noted toxicologist Dr John Pollak assisted and encouraged her.

Accompanying the writer - her veteran son - on a 1994 tour of the only recently "open for Western tourism" Vietnam, Jean obtained first-hand research and photographic evidence of the mutative legacies of toxic chemical exposure.

Further visits in 2001 and 2006 - including a speaking role at an Agent Orange conference in Hanoi - gleaned even more evidence to assist veterans and families battling for information to help and validate their claims.

Jean's first foray into print was a veterans' poetry anthology, Homecoming, followed by several hard-hitting volumes relating to toxic chemical exposure: The Devil's Rainbow, Harvest Of Tears, Children Of The Mist and Cry In The Wilderness.

Her deep-seated anger over the conscription lottery, denials and false result regarding the official Agent Orange Study prompted further research in Canberra's archives and worldwide.

Uncovering the Strongaloides parasitic worm infestation problem, exposing the Innisfail human experiments and the ill-informed prescribing of the anti-leprosy drug Dapsone as a panacea for malaria treatment, kept Jean busy at her typewriter and away from everyday pursuits for many years.

In 2003, she was awarded an OAM by then Queensland Governor and veteran Major-General Peter Arnison for services to the veteran community and their families.

At 93, Jean remained frail but feisty, with failing body and sight, spending her twilight years in a quality nursing home near Nambour, until her passing.

Long will she be remembered and appreciated by her loving family and those veterans and families she helped directly and indirectly - her tireless efforts seeking truth and justice and assisting others affected by Vietnam`s collateral damage, while many in officialdom sat firmly on their hands.

Rest in peace, Jean.