In December 2018 we lost our much loved and respected senior instructor, Margie Brett. Margie has been with Celestial Tai Chi College since 1996. She has run the Moonee Ponds centre since 2005 and it seems like she’s been a senior instructor forever. She was such a natural leader; the role of senior instructor just fitted her perfectly.
Margie was well-known to all Celestial instructors because she ran the supplementary training sessions along with Wally Wilkinson. We’d attend these sessions four times a year and they were always fun and thought-provoking. But it must be said that one of Margie’s most important roles here was to interpret the tai chi philosophy that Wally expounded and restate it in plain English. We were always very grateful for that skill!
Margie was also well-known to Celestial students much further afield than Moonee Ponds because she performed so many leadership roles for the College. At each banquet she would be smiling in greeting along with Margaret Rogers and directing us all to our tables. Margie ran many sessions at College retreats, including ice-breaker introductions on the first night — something she did with ease. Margie led qigong warm-up sessions at World Tai Chi and Qigong Day. She travelled to China with Grandmaster Eng Chor and made brilliant memories and lasting friends. Margie was always involved in the Moonee Valley Festival each year, organising a stand and performances of tai chi and qigong. She was involved in leading and performing at the Moomba Street Parade in 2009 along with a group of instructors. Margie led a team and performed in individual events at the International Martial Arts Games in Melbourne in 2013. In subsequent years she trained as a judge and enjoyed judging at the Wushu, Tai Chi and Qigong Australia Festivals. Margie performed the Ba Duan Jin qigong with a group at Celestial’s 2016 annual banquet.
As senior instructors, we attend meetings with Grandmaster Eng Chor and Senior Master Chin Min three times a year. I know Margie enjoyed these meetings for the same reason I did — because we’ve all become good friends and enjoy catching up. And because of that, we’d sometimes get a little distracted and threaten to divert well away from the agenda. Margie would pull us back with a timely, “hang on, so what’s the action item here?” or “so have we finished with this item now, can we move on?” Margie wrote the minutes, so she needed us to stay on track. She always did a very fine job on the minutes too.
Margie always attended instructor training with the Masters and as many workshops as she could. Her weekends were very full with family commitments, but she would attend as many College events as possible, even if it meant she spent a large amount of time travelling. If she couldn’t attend a workshop, she would sponsor one of her Moonee Ponds instructors to attend so they could pass on the knowledge to the rest of the team.
The Moonee Ponds teaching team is a group I always felt had something special. Margie talked about them all with such affection: Joy Muir, Dave Brogden, Wayne Bradborn and Doreen Giannini, and prior to 2011, Bob Maver, who was a loved mentor, and Liz Moloney, who remained a dear friend. They all know each other and each other’s families well and socialise outside of tai chi frequently. They are all beautiful people, and they work so well together as a group because of Margie’s inclusive leadership and friendship.
Margie delighted in talking about their beloved bowls club venue where students didn’t face forwards or backwards, they faced “towards the bar” or “away from the bar” (it was kept locked!) In 2014 they had the honour of running a tai chi session for the Commonwealth Games Bowls Team, who happened to be training at the bowls club at the same time. That memory made Margie smile whenever she talked about it, which was quite a few times!
In fact, in just about every memory I have of Margie, she is smiling. In most of my photos she is smiling. We’d talk on the phone and I could hear her smiling. Then we’d laugh. Margie could turn any situation into one where you couldn’t help but laugh. I don’t feel so much like laughing right now, but I know I will get that back. I will always remember Margie for her warmth, her sense of fun with a hint of mischief, and for her big laughing smile.
Senior Instructor, Eltham