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Thank you: A tribute to Adele Horin.

I and many other women across Sydney and Australia felt devastated by the death of Adele Horin.

Yet few of us had the pleasure of meeting her. We just felt we knew Adele, we felt we loved her and we knew we owed her a great deal.


Adele Horin died on Saturday of lung cancer aged 64. She was a journalist and social affairs writer for the Sydney Morning Herald for many years and recently wrote a blog Coming of Age that often appeared on the pages of Debrief Daily.

Adele’s writing was intimate without being self-indulgent. She would often use a personal anecdote but only to offer insight or a starting point to explore a deeper issue or social trend.

She was far more interested in telling the stories of the lives of the powerless – and yet we felt we knew her because she would also attempt to understand, discuss, debate and explore the complex issues of life.

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Adele passed away from lung cancer on the weekend.
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Adele Horin was one of the first to write about issues affecting women and families. She wrote with gravitas, consideration and investigation. She focused on those big issues that are too often dismissed as small. The stuff about bringing up teenagers in the present day, about the cost of being jobless, or a single mother, or homeless.

She wrote about the invisibility of ageing, the decline in function of a loved one, the confronting confusion of helping a parent move into a nursing home, the life of the mother with a disabled child. She wrote extensively about domestic violence at a time when few others considered it newsworthy. Adele wrote about all this and more with compassion, grace and power.

Adele Horin’s columns were the first thing I would turn to on a Saturday morning when the SMH was as thick as a brick and contained infinite choice. And they were often the pieces I would go back and read again on a Sunday evening. She would be worth rereading because she wrote to challenge, to make us question, to make us think, to advance understanding and to nudge society somewhere better.

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“Adele Horin’s columns were the first thing I would turn to on a Saturday morning when the Herald was as thick as a brick and contained infinite choice.” – Sarah Macdonald.

Those who knew her say she was principled, tough, inquiring, thorough, deep-thinking and practical. Those who didn’t, nod their heads upon hearing this because all this and more came through in her work.

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Her best pieces were those that paid powerful attention to the things others would not dare tackle – about the need for a less traumatic death, about chronic pain, about older people having sex, about suicide, abuse of the elderly, and other issues we should care about even if we had yet to encounter them in life.

Like many, I read her work as I would listen to a wise woman or a seer.

Yet Adele Horin was not a goddess. She seemed deeply humanist and humble. In a time of rampant self-promotion and ego, she was down-to-earth. She was the real deal.

Adele’s family and loved ones must be truly devastated. Yet those who did not know her are feeling a loss that speaks of her skill and talents, her work and her humanity.

Adele's last blog post
Adele’s final blog post.

Adele Horin’s last blog posts were typical of her richness of character and writing. She talked with gratitude about the doctors and nurses who treated her in hospital and the awe-inspiring “courage of ordinary, sick people”. Yet she warned about a loss of funding to the public system saying “don’t let the dollar rule”.

In her farewell post on her blog she wrote about having a lucky life without a skerrick of self pity or fury. Yet many of us who read it felt keenly what she knew – that life was just not fair.

Thank you Adele and goodbye.

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