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Vale Ashley Montabello (1990-2023)

Ashley Anne-Maree Montabello was a kind person. Whenever we met – for lunch or coffee at Barn Doors Café on Redfern Street, with carers from St Vincent de Paul, at the Uniting Church in Raglan Street, in Phillip Street – she would greet me as a friend, with affection, humour, respect. And I will never forget it.

Ashley was a brave person. In April 2022 she was at Redfern railway station when a man fainted and fell from the platform. His head hit the tracks. A bystander recorded it. The Daily Mail reported it. How Ashley leapt from the platform, how she crossed herself and positioned herself between the fallen man and the approaching train – that she offered him whatever protection she could.

Those who knew Ashley best know that she often showed this kind of compassion.

We gathered for Ashley’s funeral on Thursday March 23, at the Liverpool Cemetery Chapel. We gave thanks for Ashley’s life – for all the ways her life blessed ours. We grieved her passing and offered support to Ashley’s partner Tommy, Ashley’s sisters and many friends.

We read from the gospel of Luke. In the parable Jesus tells (Luke 10:25-37), the one who showed compassion was an outsider, a Samaritan. In contrast to the Judean religious leaders – “respectable”, “important” – the Samaritan was quick to respond to a person beaten and fallen, to offer help and then ongoing care. The Samaritan – according to southern prejudices suspect, improper – was properly religious, that is, concerned for a neighbour in need.

We recommitted ourselves to compassion – in the Spirit of Jesus, with properly religious concern, in honour of Ashley – compassion, understanding, advocacy. We recommitted ourselves to opposing harmful stereotypes of drug users, people in pain; overcoming ignorance, including our own, when it comes to addiction, when it comes to trauma; seeking adequate health care, housing, support services. We recommitted ourselves to speaking up, taking action – trying and trying again.

Ashley Anne-Maree Montabello was a good person.

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