Betty and Dianne.

It’s afternoon, and Betty Martin lays out a right royal spread of homemade cakes, biscuits pastries and savories that makes high tea at The Windsor look somewhat deficient.

But it’s what Betty does. From her kitchen in the large family Herne Hill home has come the makings for morning tea that over the last decade has contributed to Betty and daughter Dianne raising nearly $40,000 for the Cancer Council of Victoria.

Betty 94 and Dianne 73, with help from loyal friends, have held morning tea functions annually over nine years, providing the food and raffling and selling magnificent handmade quilts, along with all manner of functional knitted and sewn novelty items made from donated materials.

Dianne explains that the catalyst for the fundraisers was a close friend who suffered a long battle with breast cancer. While the women over the years had put effort into varied fundraising for a number of causes including Multiple Sclerosis, they decided cancer research would be a focus, and there were many willing and skilled hands to assist.

While the pandemic has cut into their event planning, the mid-year morning tea in 2021 held at the Geelong West Football & Netball Club rooms, was one of their most successful. With around 70 attending, and “so many new faces” said Dianne. It was amazing to see some exquisite handmade quilts and other items walk out the door for the price of a $2 raffle ticket.

The next morning tea being organised to raise additional funds for cancer research will feature a guest speaker from Anam Cara. It will be held on Tuesday 7 June at 10.00am at the Geelong West Football Club Rooms (West Oval), cnr Church St and Weddell Rd, North Geelong.

These events have highlighted some of the traditional skills developed by women through a need to provide the comforts and accessories for their families – that are now either lost or ignored for mass production.

“Of course I don’t get to see much of what happens,” quips the effervescent Betty. “They just say, get in the kitchen and stay there!”

Betty attributes her staying power to a sense of humour and a positive attitude. “That’s how to live to old age, you have to laugh!” And the inherent need to help others: “Both of my parents would go to any lengths to help others. And that’s the way we were raised.” 

Story and photo: Denise Civelli