Home' LOTL : September 2004 Contents Sydney-born Nora Savona, 48, inaugurated as president of
the Richmond River Lions Club in July, is the club's 2nd
female president in its fifty years of existence, but the country's
first out gay or lesbian Lions leader. If it's a change of image
for the club -- most of the members are male and over seventy
-- it's also a change for Savona.
"I have an image as a party girl, but there is another me
underneath. It is in giving that you get back, and I have never
In the early 90's when homophobic violence peaked with
eight gay murders, Savona didn't like it at all. "The boys were
having a hard time leaving venues. I reckoned 'not in our own
back yard', so I knocked on the door of the Darlinghurst
Raised by migrant parents in the western suburbs, Nora is a
tall, dark Maltese 'Fonz' whose cross-culture and class identity
synthesise into a forthright charm even the police could not
resist. Soon, there were volunteer lesbian bikies to patrol Oxford
Street, achieving national media coverage.
Nora never planned her recent seachange. In 2001 she was
running the Civic Hotel in Sydney and went camping at Byron
Bay with a house-hunting friend. In Broadwater, a tiny village
close to Evans Head, Nora noticed a beautiful 102 year old
Queenslander, purpose-built as a residence and post office.
"My friend said, 'I don't want to be a postmistress.'
I thought, 'Maybe I do.' I looked at the house on the Saturday,
rang my bank on Monday morning. By Wednesday the papers
were in my solicitor's office."
Two months later, she was living in the pub across the road
from the post office, waiting for contracts to exchange.
"I had good laughs with the local men. The first time
someone said, 'Are you married? I said 'No, I am a lesbian, '
right in the middle of the pub. Now if some bloke says, 'What's
with the postmistress?' the local guys say, 'Leave the postmistress
alone, mate. She is a cool chick'."
When influential people come out, attitudes change, and
Savona sees herself as "born out". As postmistress in a village
with few other resources, she occupies a pivotal and trusted
position. She knows the bank balance of each of its 554
inhabitants. There are delicate politics she must balance, and she
is mates with everyone from the mayor to pre-school kids.
Moreover, presidency of the community-minded Lions Club is
serious status in rural Australia. There are no religious or political
strings attached when Lions provide help and fulfill dreams.
NORA SAVONA, LESBIAN LION, AND FORMERLY OF THE DOBs
FROM DYKES ON BIKES LEADER OF THE PACK,
TO POSTMISTRESS IN A SLEEPY COASTAL
VILLAGE, TO AUSTRALIA'S FIRST LESBIAN LIONS
CLUB PRESIDENT. DAWN COHEN MEETS A
WOMAN WHO HAS DONE IT ALL.
Nora's dream? To spend European summers in her family
home in Malta, and when the chill sets in, return to the old-
fashioned warmth and community of Broadwater. Meanwhile,
she wants to inspire you to charter the world's first Lions Club
lesbian and gay branch. She suggests you think about how you
spend your spare time, and your stereotypes of what
"Just visit your local Lions Club dinner, and see what its like.
We recently gave five walking-aids to kids with spina bifida. Can
you imagine how it feels to watch a child's joy when they walk
for the first time? Nothing can beat that."
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