Broadcast 6.30pm on 02/07/2003
||Twins Moiya & Dorothy O'Brien
Moiya and Dorothy O’Brien are almost 80 years
old but nothing, least of all age, can repress their incredible
passion for helping the disabled. 27 years ago these twins launched
a Brisbane care centre that is still thriving today. Their passion
for caring is matched only by their passion for the colour pink –
their clothes and house have led them to be affectionately nicknamed
the "Pink Twins".
GEORGE NEGUS: The couple in our next story came from an episode
we tagged 'Passion'. But this was passion of a very different kind -
passion with a tinge of pink. In fact, a lot more than a tinge.
Here's Dave Adams.
DAVID ADAMS: It's often the case that
twins have a strong bond. But the two ladies we're about to meet
have one of the strongest sibling connections you're ever likely to
see. Throughout their lives, they've stood side by side as they've
tirelessly worked to help others.
DOROTHY O'BRIEN: And when
we were born, my mum said that... In those days, they didn't do
natural births and she'd been under an anaesthetic, and she woke up
and heard this funny little noise each side of the bed going,
"Uh-oh," and the other side going, "Oh-oh." And she said, "What's
that?" And they said, "That's your little twin daughters - they're
talking to each other." And she didn't even know she had twins. She
said for 24 hours we just did that and answered each other, so we
said we must have been missing each other. (Laughs)
ADAMS: In case you haven't realised, Moyia and Dorothy O'Brien are
identical twins who are in their 80th year. Their story is one of
joy for life and dedication to love and care for others.
MOYIA O'BRIEN: We really feel better when we're together. I
mean, we can cope quite adequately without each other but we're
always happiest and feel more complete when we're together.
DOROTHY O'BRIEN: And we've never married, because we had a
real great companionship. And they say that most marriages are
people looking for a compatible mate and we've got it in each other
so we didn't need to get married and it gave us more time to do our
work. We love our work. Our work is our life, really. We came on
earth wanting to help people, and even from children, we were always
wanting to help the children, lost children and little animals, and
we just grew up knowing that was going to be our life - to do
service to other people.
MOYIA O'BRIEN: (In office) Better
make that phone call, eh?
DAVID ADAMS: The twins spent their
working lives as occupational therapists. But by the time they
retired, they noticed a huge void in the health care system. There
was nowhere for mentally handicapped people to spend their time
other than in hospital, which is far from fulfilling.
DOROTHY O'BRIEN: We've got to set up a place where they can
continue to get love and therapy and continue to grow, and so that's
what we started SWARA for.
DAVID ADAMS: Well, this is SWARA
- or to give it its full name, the Sunshine Welfare and Remedial
Association. It's a place where you instantly feel welcome. And it
plays an invaluable part in the lives of more than 100 people who
come here daily and can call this place their own.
O'BRIEN: (To SWARA workers) You all have a lovely holiday. It's
wonderful to see you all again.
MOYIA O'BRIEN: We work here
on three levels. First of all, they come in and they're assessed. We
put them into an area downstairs, what we call our assessment area,
and we find out where they can fit in. See, some of them are
physically disabled, some of them are just nonachievers, some of
them are psychiatric... we get quite a lot of psychiatric people
here. But they're all people that don't fit into other areas, either
because they're too disabled, they're too disruptive or they're too
intelligent or they're too frightened. Remember the actions?
DOROTHY O'BRIEN: We wanted SWARA to be a place where they
could come and be themselves and grow in their own way, just at
their own speed, and reach their full potential.
workers sing with Moyia)
I love myself
The way I am
There's nothing I need to do
I feel the love
It's easy to love you...
MOYIA O'BRIEN: We
believe that if you're really strong about something and you've got
an idea or a dream, that if you've got enough fortitude and
endurance and hope, that...and perseverance, that it'll happen. And
it's happened with us, because when SWARA started, we had no money,
we had a little derelict, run-down building, and just because of
this love and joy in life and living and the determination it would
be a success, it's just grown. It was a miracle. Everybody said,
"You'll never survive."
DAVID ADAMS: (Walking with Moyia)
You were adding to these buildings all the time?
O'BRIEN: Yes, yes. We started off with one, then we acquired...this
was the second one, then this one, then that one. And we'll just
quickly have a quick look in here, because... This is our therapy
area. This is where they come first and we do assessments in here.
Some of them never move beyond this area but some of them move on
into more upgraded programs. And what we do in here, we do a lot of
creative work, as you can see.
(To Dorothy in their garden)
Come with me, Dorothy.
DAVID ADAMS: If a person is loving,
they're said to have a pink aura. Well, the life of the twins is
surrounded by the colour of love.
MOYIA O'BRIEN: I used to
wear pink. I always loved pink and that was my colour. As a
therapist, that was the colour I wore. Dorothy wore blue. And then
suddenly, she said, "Look, I like pink too. Would you mind if I move
into pink?" And I said no. So...and then, people started to call us
the 'pink twins'.
DAVID ADAMS: To say that Moyia and Dorothy
are close would be something of an understatement. Apart from one
very brief period, they've lived together in the same house for the
majority of their lives. So surely a relationship like this must
lead to the odd argument. So have they ever fallen out?
MOYIA O'BRIEN: Very early in the piece, we worked out a
solution where we could work it through. Instead of getting annoyed
with each other, we'd try and work the problem through and sometimes
she would get her way and when my turn... I'd get my way the next
time. We've worked under a system like that most of our lives.
Someone said, "Is there anything you don't like about each other?"
and we said, "No, not really." We can't really think of anything we
don't like about each other, except I wish Dorothy wasn't in a
GEORGE NEGUS: In the pink, so to speak. That was
exactly what I said last time we ran that story. Consistent,