Cori Harkness 12 June 1959 - July 2010
Cori just after the International Women's Day March Adelaide March 1992
I first met Cori Harkness 20 years ago in Adelaide.
The "women's scene" such as it was (& likely still is) was a small set up: annoying, incestuous, fun, emancipating and ridiculously dramatic - and all at the same time.
Cori, newly arrived from Sydney, appeared reserved and totally cool - everyone wanted to be acquainted with her - like some of the coolness would rub off. Scene status by association. The library class soon stepped in with their own claim but Cori, ever thoughtful if you looked closely and noticed (but don't tell her that!) was more inclusive and observant. She was kind, clever, totally eccentric, funny with a sharp and cynically dry wit, reserved and shy. Did I say she was pretty cool? yeah, she was pretty cool.
When I first met my parther, AH early in 1993, she was there with her own humour - oh, don't bother, she said as I headed off to the dance floor with the latest cool arrival from interstate on the scene, masturbation is easier. Sometimes I never knew if she was teasing & being sarcastic or she really meant what she said. Cori didn't let even those closest to her too close. But she has left a trail of seemingly small actions that have made significant differences in peoples lives.
When AH moved to Sydney without me in 1994 to find us a house to live in, she ran into Cori at a pub & it was like a friendly welcome light. Years later at small party Cori was hosting, AH was stressing over a dreadful, soul-destroying job & Cori simply said, "It's Saturday night. On Monday just go in and resign. If you don't I may have to kill you."
AH resigned and never looked back. AH later also knew Cori when they both worked at the RPA hospital where Cori was a member of the MATT team of the mental health unit - the Mobile Assertive Treatment Team that case manage people seriously affected by mental illness - working as a psych nurse for many years, I think, contributed to her clever cynicism.
Early in 2001, I was showing Cori some photos I'd taken & she said, "I like how you see things" and suggested I do a course to learn the tools so I could just take the shot without having to worry about getting it right. So I did a weekend black & white photography workshop (at the prestigious Point Light Gallery) along with a pile of self-education and, as I write, my 5th solo show is in a gallery. Her kindness gave me confidence to do something.
I saw a lot of her during her last relationship, which introduced me to one of my now closest friends (MG) - one of her great loves Cori never truly let go of her feelings for MG and even though they split around 6 years ago, they remained friends.
Then one day, Cori got cancer. The side effects of treatments changed the woman I would see now and then were significant. Many kilos heavier and a shade of sallow grey, I wondered if she'd ever recover some of whom she once was. When she sold her lovely 1/2 coach house in Camperdown around 3 years ago & moved to Milthorpe in rural NSW, she sent me photos of her house & animals and then communication stopped. A friend told me there was a secondary cancer sometime last year and I knew then, even if Cori wasn't totally conscious of it, that she'd taken herself off to the country to begin again or to die. Her body chose death.
The last months of her life was her dying of cancer - horribly sick and in pain with just that little more morphine to help her along this week - so to speak.
Sad and final, I know that she would have just fobbed me off with an embarrassed wave if I said to her face the difference she made in our lives and I am sorry for me that I didn't get to say so anyway.
Funeral was today in Milthorpe as I write this in Sydney.
so, cheers Cori, check you later