Remembering Margaret Illukol (c.1955 – 2015)

Margaret Illukol

Margaret Roseland Illukol was born in 1955 in Karimojong, a remote region in the north east of Uganda. Her given name was Illukol and she was referred to as a ‘Child of the Karimojong tribe’; a nomadic hunter tribe. Margaret was attacked by a hyena in 1963 that left her with significant facial disfiguration.

Following the attack, members of her tribe carried her 160kms to the nearest Mission hospital where she received her initial treatment. By the time she reached Kampala Hospital, 800kms away, infection had set in, and doctors battled to keep her alive.

Professor Joe Shepherd was the first to treat Margaret. He was a lecturer at the University of East Africa in Kampala at the time. Margaret was not expected to survive but through strength of will and with the support of many along the long journey to Mulago Hospital in Kampala she commenced years of reconstructive surgery.

During the eight years she spent in the hospital she was exposed to Christian services and eventually was baptised, taking on the name Margaret Roseland Illukol (Margaret after her godmother and Roseland after the hospital rose gardens where she spent many hours of her childhood). The hospital staff also encouraged and supported her primary and early secondary school education.

Margaret’s reconstructive surgery in Kampala was coordinated by Dr Arnold Bisase, who recognised further reconstructive surgery was beyond the capacity of the hospital. As a Rotarian he reached out through the Rotary International Magazine for assistance.

Several Rotary Clubs around the world responded offering support. Through the Australian Rotary District 967, Margaret was brought to Newcastle in 1975 to continue facial reconstruction surgery at Royal Newcastle Hospital under the coordination of Newcastle Rotarian, Dr William Walker. Rotary Clubs and individual Rotarians in Rotary District 967 funded her medical care, education and social integration and provided her with host families.

She first came to the attention of local Rotary Club 237 at Toronto following a story published in the December 1973 Vol. 123, No. 6 of The Rotarian. pp. 32-33, 54 See: Please note that the article spells her surname incorrectly as “Margaret Rose Ilukol”. She later corrected her name to”Illukol.” Her full name was Margaret Roseland Illukol.

“New Face for Margaret Rose” by Nightingale Kalinda in The Rotarian, Vol. 123, No. 6 December 1973 p.32


“New Face for Margaret Rose” by Nightingale Kalinda The Rotarian, Vol. 123, No. 6 December 1973 p.33


“New Face for Margaret Rose” by Nightingale Kalinda The Rotarian, Vol. 123, No. 6 December 1973 p.54


On the 19 June, 1974 Rotarian Dr. Arnold S. Bisase, Specialist Dental Surgeon, Kampala Uganda, wrote to Fellow Rotarian Mr Kevin, W. Leary, Chairman District 267, Toronto, N. S. W. thanking them for their offer to help, and to begin the planning stages of modelling a “new face” for Margaret, while she was completing her General Certificate of Education. See: 19 June 1974 Bisase to Leary (1.1MB PDF file)


Dr. Bisase’s report documented that she had first been admitted to hospital on 15 March 1963, and from 1965 until August 1970 underwent numerous operations. He described her belief and ‘absolute faith’ in the benefits of surgical and medical care, as well as being a “kind, well behaved and most grateful” person, adding that:

“She is shy for instance and obviously worried in the midst of strangers but she has the courage to face her fate and accepts their reactions gracefully. Moreover, as consistent with her tribe she is very tall and now a young woman but she sees herself in a role of a dedicated young nurse prepared to serve others in needs such as she has felt in so many difficult years before.” – See full report here: Dr Arnold Bisase. Report on Miss Margaret Ilukol. Tribe: Karamojong. 25 June 1974. (1.8MB PDF)


Margaret was treated over many years at Mulago Hospital in Uganda before being seen by a visiting Newcastle Rotarian, Dr William Walker. Dr Walker assisted Margaret to come to Newcastle in 1974 for major reconstructive surgery at Royal Newcastle Hospital, which was greatly appreciated by Dr Bisase and his colleagues back home in Uganda, writing in 1975 that:

“I heard from Bill Walker and he seemed optimistic about Margaret – tell her how much I still care but how much I am involved with to spare sufficient time to write to her. Also if you see Bill please thank him on our behalf – all of us Rotarians from Kampala and especially Phan Ntnede and me.” – Dr. Arnold Bisase. See: Mr. Arnold S. Biases Transcribed Letter to Leary family 15 and 19 August 1975 (65 KB PDF)


Margaret Illukol in Australia

In December 1974, Mr Kevin, W. Leary, his wife Val, and family traveled to Uganda to bring Margaret to Australia. Both Margaret and Kevin made front page news three months later in the March 3rd edition of The Newcastle Morning Herald.

Front Page. “Newcastle helps courageous girl.” Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners’ Advocate. 3 March 1975.

Rotary Clubs and individual Rotarians in the District funded her medical care, education and social integration. Margaret attended high school at St Joseph’s College, Lochinvar as a boarder and completed her Higher School Certificate in 1978. Her ambition was to undertake nursing training so she could return to Uganda. This proved difficult until she was granted a training position at Gosford District Hospital, graduating in general nursing in 1983. She commenced work as a registered nurse at Royal Newcastle Hospital in 1984 in orthopaedics, returning to the ward where she had spent so much time during her own surgery.

Images describes story of Margaret Illukol, the hyenea attack in Uganda, Africa; Rotary Club efforts to bring her to Newcastle to undergo facial reconstruction surgeries at John Hunter Hospital; family support; education support; skills in handicrafts; wish to help others.
“Ugandan girl wants nurse training to help others” By Faye Lowe, Health Reporter. Newcastle Morning Herald. April 1, 1980 p.7


“Skills ‘to take home’. Two-decade battle from hyena attack to nursing sister.” By Faye Lowe, Health Reporter. The Newcastle Herald, Saturday, March 10, 1984. p.3


Margaret was the subject of a special report on Network Ten’s Good Morning Australia Program, broadcast on the 24 April 1985. The program was introduced by hosts Gordon Elliot and Sue Kellaway, and featured the work of reporter Ros Taylor, and her interviews with Margaret Illukol, Nightingale Kalinda,  and Professor Joe Shepherd, the first surgeon to treat her in 1963. The segment also featured footage of the Karimojong Tribe.


Letter – 17 June 1986 – Miss D. (Diedre) J. Anderson, Director of Nursing, The Royal Newcastle Hospital  to Miss Margaret Illukol, detailing events which contributed to Miss Illukol’s undertaking her nurse training at Gosford District Hospital to her now (in 1986) being employed as a nurse at the Royal. see: Letter – 17 June 1986 – Miss D. (Diedre) J. Anderson, Director of Nursing, The Royal Newcastle Hospital to Miss Margaret Illukol (496 KB PDF)


1990 Margaret Illukol publishes Child of the Karimojong


On the 15 June 1990, Margaret Illukol’s life story, Child of the Karimojong  went on sale across the country.

“Extraordinary child of the Karimojong” The Newcastle Herald, Page 1. Saturday, 16 June 1990.


“Woman who survived a living hell. Margaret Illukol’s story is one of courage unsurpassed. NORM BARNEY writes of a woman whose rare determination prevailed.” The Newcastle Herald, Page 15. Saturday, 16 June 1990.


Saturday Magazine: Books. A life reborn from emotional darkness. Child of the Karimojong By Margaret Illukol Review by Paul Ramadge. The Newcastle Herald, 16 June 1990, p.16.


Book Launch Flyer


Book Launch Speech notes drafted by Margaret Illukol to be read by Miss Diedre Anderson


Book Launch Speech notes drafted by Margaret Illukol to be read by Miss Diedre Anderson


Book Launch Speech notes drafted by Margaret Illukol to be read by Miss Diedre Anderson


Book Launch Speech notes drafted by Margaret Illukol to be read by Miss Diedre Anderson


Margaret Illukol Child of the Karimojong (1990) Click to download the full book (60MB PDF)


Margaret Illukol Child of the Karimojong (1990)
Click to download the full book (60MB PDF)


Margaret later moved to the John Hunter Hospital with the relocation of orthopaedics to the Royal Newcastle Centre. Margaret continued her studies and graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing from the University of Newcastle in 1996. Margaret returned several times to visit her family in Uganda but this proved difficult due to the political situation in Uganda and the nomadic nature of her family’s tribe.

In 1996, Margaret became an Australian citizen and made Newcastle her home. In 1990, Margaret authored a book, “Child of the Karimojong”, that outlined her personal experiences from the time of the hyena attack to fulfilling her desire to become a nurse.

Margaret retained strong associations with Rotary and the families that supported her in Newcastle.


2015 Death

Margaret retained strong associations with Rotary and the families that supported her in Newcastle. Margaret died in 2015 from an unfortunate accident at home. She left her estate to the Rotary International District 9670, to establish a Trust to be used for charitable purposes in the community within Rotary International District 9670 boundaries. Rotary International District 9670 has decided to honour Margaret’s life by establishing equity scholarships with the University of Newcastle for students enrolled in human health studies.

Margaret Illukol Funeral Service 5 March 2015


Margaret Illukol Funeral Service 5 March 2015


Margaret Illukol’s Hands


Farewell to a survivor. Rescued from Africa, adopted by our city, inspiring journey ends. Newcastle Herald 28 February 2015 Pages 1-2


“Nurse was an inspiration. Survivor made city her home.” By Michael McGowan. Newcastle Herald Friday 6 March 2015 p.17. (B/W)
“Nurse was an inspiration. Survivor made city her home.” By Michael McGowan. Newcastle Herald Friday 6 March 2015 p.17. (Colour)


Margaret Illukol Speech By Miss Diedre Anderson (1MB PDF)



I first met Margaret in 1980 when I was a Nurse Educator at Gosford Hospital & Margaret applied to commence her Nurse Training.

To meet Margaret was to be immediately impressed by her courage and determination. Initially her studies were quite a struggle for her, but she was in a supportive & caring environment & no one doubted for a minute that she would succeed. Such was her intelligence & strength of character.

And of course she was never without the love and support that the Rotary families gave her. That meant a great deal to Margaret, & succeeding in her Nurse Training was one way she could show her appreciation for all they had done for her.

When Margaret successfully completed her training she came to Royal Newcastle Hospital to work as a Registered Nurse. I was then the Director of Nursing. Margaret was a very good nurse – there are many here today who know that better than I do. But one couldn’t help but be impressed by her quiet gentle manner & the sense of humour that was evident in her ever present smile.

As I was not in the clinical areas, where she worked, our paths did not cross very often, but we did keep in touch.

I well remember Margaret coming to see me to say she was planning to write a book about her life. I was thrilled for her. As hers was certainly a story worth telling.

Perhaps there were times when Margaret regretted telling me about her plans for a book, because whenever I saw her after that, I would ask her how the book was progressing! Nudge Nudge!

She took it in good part of course, as she had that quiet sense of humour that stood her in good stead, & it became a bit of a joke between us.

Then came the wonderful day when she proudly told me the book was finished. What an achievement – another of Margaret’s goals attained. And then, in 1990, the excitement of the night of the Book Launch! With all her friends and supporters there to share with her the culmination of years of work, & quite a bit of pain, as it had not been an easy book to write. But she did it!

Margaret will be remembered by all of us for her many special qualities that made her such a unique person. Not the least of which was her courage – the courage it took initially for her to survive that dreadful ordeal of being mauled by a Hyena.

The courage it took for her to face years of pain and surgery – more that 70 operations. The courage it took for her to persevere to gain an education – her HSC at the age of 23.

And then the courage it took for her to pursue her dream to become a Nurse, with all that that entails. Not the least being the need to be involved with people when she was so self conscious about her appearance. It took great courage, and perseverance, but Margaret achieved her goal.

The Nursing profession has indeed been enriched because Margaret had a dream to be a nurse and did not give up until her dream came true.

And I count myself fortunate to have been a small part of that dream.

Thank you Margaret.” – Miss Diedre Anderson


Extract from the acceptance speech of Sam Owori, President Nominee, at Atlanta Rotary International Convention, 14th June, 2017.

“I joined Rotary in 1978, and I will remain forever grateful to two people. First is my friend, doctor, and mentor, professor Charles Olweny, who invited me and made it his duty to persuade a reluctant and suspicious me to attend a Rotary club meeting. I finally went out of respect and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the club was full of people I already knew. This is the power of invitation and persistence.

Charles brought me into Rotary. But what made me want to remain a Rotarian were two successful Rotary projects, starting with a young Karimajong girl, Margaret Rose Illukol, from a remote north-eastern part of Uganda. Margaret’s entire face had been chewed up by a hyena when she was left sleeping alone in the thatched hut of her nomadic parents. The Rotary Club of Kampala took up the case, and after wide press publicity, Australian Rotarians came ahead of American Rotarians and collected Margaret from Kampala and took her to Newcastle, Australia, where it took more than 20 complicated surgeries over several years for her face to be reconstructed. Margaret Rose not only survived, but went on ahead to become a registered nurse at the same hospital where she had been treated.” – (Courtesy of Professor Howard Bridgman and Emeritus Professor Maree Gleeson, OAM)



2020 The Rotary District 9670 Margaret Illukol Trust Health Scholarships


Rotary District 9670 Margaret Illukol Trust Health Scholarship

Margaret died in 2015 and left her estate to the Rotary District 9670 to establish a Trust to be used for charitable purposes in the community within Rotary District 9670 boundaries.

Rotary International District 9670 has decided to honour Margaret’s professional role as a nurse, and life by establishing equity scholarships with the University of Newcastle for students enrolled in human health studies.

Rotary have worked with Maria Pavela from the UON’s Alumni & Philanthropy in establishing the Margaret Illukol Health Scholarships. See:

Please listen to Sarah Farley 2NUR-FM Interview Emeritus Professor Maree Gleeson, OAM announcing the new scholarships at University of Newcastle in memory of Margaret Illukol, 18th October 2019.

Please see link to the interview on 2NURFM’s website:

Rotary District 9670 also decided in July 2019 to entrust all Margaret Illukol’s known records documenting her life and legacy into the care of the University’s archives in Cultural Collections, Auchmuty Library. We thank Emeritus Professor Maree Gleeson, Helen Ryan and Leanne Innes


Archival Sources

This post for the Hunter Living Histories was compiled from Margaret Illukol’s archival papers and personal reminiscences provided by Emeritus Professor Maree Gleeson, OAM, who met with several people who knew Margaret Roseland Illukol in their capacity as members of Rotary District 9670 (previously 267) and were involved in Margaret’s journey to Australia and her early years in Newcastle. They have generously talked about Margaret and provided her with the following information. They have agreed to have the information and associated documents
provided on the University of Newcastle’s Living Histories website.

  • Professor John Hamilton and Dr Alison Hamilton knew Margaret through their association with her when she worked at Royal Newcastle Hospital and also through Christchurch Cathedral associations. They were unable to attend the launch of her book but Margaret signed a copy of her book with a personal note of thanks to Alison. Margaret dined with John and Alison at their home. She briefly joined a Meditation Group. Dr Alison Hamilton provided:
    • a newspaper article from the time of the book launch that appeared in The Newcastle Herald on Saturday, June 16 1990, page 16 “A life reborn from emotional darkness”.


  • Miss Deirdre Anderson knew Margaret initially as the Acting Head of School (Nursing) at Gosford District Hospital and was responsible for accepting Margaret into their nursing training program. Nursing training at this time was undertaken within the hospital setting. Miss Anderson also had regular contact with Margaret after she completed her nursing training in Gosford and was accepted as a registered nurse at Royal Newcastle Hospital (RNH) in 1980. Miss Anderson was the Director of Nursing at Royal Newcastle Hospital at the time and attended Margaret’s book launch and has a personally signed copy. Margaret asked Miss Anderson to read her speech for her at the launch as she did not think she would be able to deliver the speech. Miss Anderson has provided the following documents:
    • A reference for Margaret Illukol (on RNH letterhead) outlining Margaret’s nursingtraining at Gosford Hospital (dated 17 June 1986)
    • An untouched copy of the book Margaret Illukol authored in 1990 “Child of the Karimojong” for the purposes of digitising the book for the UON archives
    • The invitation to the book launch from Rex Meehan (District Governor of Rotary District 967 at the time) at the David Maddison Building, RNH.
    • The speech written by Margaret (cover note in Margaret’s hand writing) that was delivered by Miss Anderson at the book launch on Margaret’s behalf
    • The speech written by Miss Anderson (typed) as the introduction at the book launch
    • Copies of three articles that appeared in The Newcastle Herald on the occasion of the book launch (Saturday June 16, 1990)
    • Front page story (no author credit), with photo of Margaret (by Allan Jolly): “Extraordinary child of the Karimojong”
    • Saturday Magazine section, page 15. Human interest story by Norm Barney with photo of Margaret in nursing uniform with Miss Deirdre Anderson as Director of Nursing, RNH ”Woman who survived a living hell”
    • Saturday Magazine: Books, page 16. Book review by Paul Ramadge with a photo of Margaret: “A life reborn from emotional darkness”
    • An email to Miss Anderson from June Graham (Deputy Director of Nursing at RNH from 1986 to 1994) on the occasion of Margaret’s death. The email included the text of an article written by Sam Rigney (28 February 2015) for the Newcastle Herald about Margaret’s life and death (15th February 2015)
    • The Order of Service booklet from Margaret’s funeral, with a photo of Margaret’s hands on the cover (see note below from Ros Brown). The funeral was held on 5th March 2015 in Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle. Both Miss Anderson and Ros Brown attended the funeral service.
    • An email introduction to Ros Brown (26th May 2019) that includes details of Ros Brown’s association with Margaret.


  • Ms Ros Brown knew Margaret as a patient in RNH when she first arrived in Newcastle, and later as a nursing colleague when they both lived in the Nurses Home at RNH and worked in orthopaedics at RNH and then in the Royal Newcastle Centre (RNC) rehabilitation services at John Hunter Hospital (JHH). Ros was a first year nursing student when Margaret was admitted to hospital for the first of the many reconstructive surgeries undertaken at RNH. The facial reconstruction was initially undertaken by Dr William Walker, but Ros advised that over the years it involved dentists and other surgeons and years of multiple admissions. Ros advised that Margaret was always admitted to the same ward (100C) and the same single bed room (22) to allow her some privacy during the many operations. Ros later become a good friend of Margaret when she returned to RNH as a registered nurse. She described Margaret as shy, socially reclusive due to her disfigurement and difficulty eating in public, but very intelligent and that she had a wonderful sense of humour and often played practical jokes on other nursing friends. She rarely went out socially unless it was with a small group of her three closest friends. They worked together at RNH and later at JHH, where Margaret was mainly assigned to the night shifts. Ros advised that Margaret looked after her hands and they were always beautifully manicured. It was Ros who advised that the photo on the funeral Order of Service booklet is of Margaret’s hands. She also advised that Margaret continued to knit (mentioned in her book as a skill she learnt while in hospital in Uganda) and most of the items were given to local charities to sell or as gifts to friends at Christmas. She also spent her time making beaded jewellery and her Christmas gifts were often small beaded Christmas objects (Ros told me she still puts her Christmas broach on each year to remember Margaret). Ros attended the book launch and has a personally signed copy. Ros also attended Margaret’s funeral.


  • University of Newcastle’s  Alumni & Philanthropy Office (Emails to Maree Gleeson)
    • A copy of an article written by Joanne McCarthy for the Newcastle Herald (12 August 2016) after settlement of Margaret’s estate: “In death she repaid the gift of life”
    • Confirmation from UON Records that Margaret Roseland Illukol graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing in 1996


  • PDG Helen Ryan

Two photos of Margaret, provided by Helen Ryan (labelled as from the Rotary Club of Toronto), have also been digitised by the UON Archives along with documents provided by Miss Deirdre Anderson and the copy of Margaret’s book “Child of the Karimojong”.

Helen has also provided two letters and a transcript of a third hand written letter from the doctor who cared for Margaret in Kampala (Mr Arnold S Bisase). Helen personally typed the last letter to ensure the content was legible and not lost. Mr Arnold Bisase coordinated Margaret’s medical care at Mulago Hospital and was a member of the Rotary Club of Kampala. The letters are attached (A1-A3).

    • A1: Letter dated 19 June 1974 from Mr Arnold S Bisase to Mr Keven Leary (Chairman of
      Rotary District 267) seeking advice on whether the District can assist with “providing a
      new face for Margaret”.
    • A2: Letter dated 25 June 1974 with a report on Margaret’s medical treatment and
      circumstances from Mr Arnold S Bisase.
    • A3: Letter dated 15 August 1975 from Mr Arnold S Bisase (Specialist Dental Surgeon/
      Consultant Oral Surgeon) to the Leary Family
    • Provided a copy of the Good Morning Australia Network Ten TV Breakfast Programme featuring Margaret, broadcast on 24 April 1985. Video copy provided by Denis Trigg, who received the video from Kevin Leary’s collection of ‘bits’. (Email: 6 April 2020; Helen Ryan to Maree Gleeson and Gionni Di Gravio



  • Mr Peter Frost knew Margaret from the time she arrived in Newcastle in December 1974 and was involved in her life until her death in February 2015. Emeritus Professor Maree Gleeson, OAM met with Peter in the company of Alison Hamilton who organised the meeting. Peter recollected his role in Margaret’s life.Peter advised that the initial engagement of the Rotary District 267 came after the international Rotary Magazine, The Rotarian, carried an article in 1974 written by Mrs Nightingale Kalinda from the Rotary Club of Kampala in Uganda on the story of Margaret and her injuries and a request for assistance by Rotarians worldwide to provide further rehabilitation that was not possible in Uganda. Among several responses there were two Rotary offers under serious consideration: one from District 267 Australia and the other from Rotary Club of New York, USA.The District Governor of District 267 called a meeting of all Club Directors to seek support for bringing Margaret to Newcastle for medical care, acknowledging this would require a commitment by all Clubs financially and in personal support for Margaret. The coordinator of the efforts by the District was Mr Kevin Leary (Rotary Club of Toronto). At the meeting they were seeking a first Host Family for Margaret. Peter and his wife Denise decided on the way home from the meeting they would be willing to take Margaret into their home and advised the District Governor of their offer when they arrived home. They had a son, Anthony, who was 7 years old at the time and discussed the situation with him and said Anthony was totally accepting of having Margaret stay with them.Peter advised that Margaret was assisted by QANTAS to come to Australia and with short notice (due to the political upheavals in Uganda) Margaret arrived in December 1974. Kevin and Val Leary went to Uganda to accompany Margaret to Australia. Margaret first met the Leary’s at the home of Idi Simba, Governor of the East Africa Development Bank at a dinner arranged by the then President of the Rotary Club of Kampala, Mr Phan Ntende, who involved in her care and an occasional host family between surgeries.The children of the Leary family and Peter, Denise and Anthony met Margaret at Sydney airport. Peter drove Margaret to Newcastle. After her first surgery in January 1975, the Frosts were her host-family for a year. She was 18 years old when she arrived in Australia.Margaret’s surgery at Royal Newcastle Hospital was coordinated by Dr William (Bill) Walker and the reconstruction commenced soon after she arrived on 17th December. Margaret was discharged from hospital for the day and spent her first Christmas in Australia with the Frost family. Peter advised the other significant host family in the early years was the Thorpe family; David and Yvonne Thorpe from the Rotary Club of Adamstown.The Rotary District established a bank account for contributions from Clubs and individual Rotarians to assist with Margaret’s medical expenses and education. This enabled Margaret to continue her education as a boarder at St Joseph’s High School at Lochinvar where she completed her Higher School Certificate (HSC). Due to the many interruptions to her education for ongoing surgery Margaret’s results were not high enough to allow her to immediately commence nursing studies.The Frost family maintained close contact with Margaret and assisted her during her training to become a nurse at Gosford Hospital. Peter remembers her as a kind person, very self effacing but with a wonderful sense of humour. Peter advised that even after all the surgery Margaret still had difficulty eating and was very shy and did not like being in strangers company or eating out. When she returned to Newcastle to work as a nurse at Royal Newcastle Hospital she lived in the Nurses Home for many years.She eventually purchased a town house in Nesca Parade on The Hill in Newcastle. It was there that she tragically died. Peter was contacted by the NSW Police to come to the house and identify Margaret. The Police explained that it appeared that she had prepared a meal and was carrying it on a tray when she tripped and hit her head on the corner of a shelf. This resulted in her bleeding to death. As she lived alone and was on holidays from work at the time, her death was not discovered for several days.Peter was able to assist the Police in locating a copy of Margaret’s will. It was noted that the copy of the will in Margaret’s home had a hand written change to the will that had not been
    witnessed.Margaret’s funeral was held on 5th March 2015 at Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle. Anthony Frost was one of the people who provided tributes – “A Reflection” on Margaret’s life at the service.A few small side notes. Peter advised that:

    • Margaret was a member of a nursing syndicate that had a small win on Lotto. This assisted her with renovation of her apartment.
    • when the Rotary Club of Toronto awarded Dr Bill Walker a Paul Harris Fellow on the 10th Anniversary of the first surgery (1984), they invited Margaret to do the presentation and Mrs Nightingale Kalinga came out from Uganda for the celebration.
    • Margaret returned home to Uganda about 5 times to see her family, but this was often difficult due to their nomadic life and the political upheavals in Uganda. Margaret found it difficult to fit back into life in Uganda and elected to make Australia and Newcastle her home.
    • Margaret worked at Royal Newcastle Hospital (RNH), The Royal Newcastle Centre (RNC) at John Hunter Hospital (JHH) and also at the Newcastle Mater Hospital.


  • Mr Peter Evans was Margaret’s solicitor and knew Margaret from the time she arrived in Newcastle. Peter’s father (James Evans) was a Rotarian and Chairman of the Board of Royal Newcastle Hospital at the time they were asked to consider assisting to bring Margaret to Newcastle. James Evans discussed the situation with the CEO of RNH (Dr Elwin Currow) and initially they felt they did not have the resources to provide Margaret’s rehabilitation care. However, when Margaret was brought to Newcastle by Kevin Leary, RNH supported her care.Peter advised that Margaret was assisted to come to Australia by Rotarian Kevin Leary and his wife, Val, who flew to Uganda to arrange for Margaret’s flight. The District’s clubs then supported Margaret and several Rotary families assisted with her accommodation, education and personal support. Initially Margaret stayed with the Frost and Thorpe families and she had long lasting associations with these families.Peter was the lawyer who prepared Margaret’s will (22 May 1992) and resolved the legal complication of the unsigned/unwitnessed handwritten changes Margaret made to her will (dated in her handwriting 15/11/02) on the copy found in her home after her death.Peter confirmed that Margaret’s body was not found for about 10 days after her death and was therefore the subject of a coronial inquiry (her death is officially listed as 15 February 2015). The inquiry led to the delay for her funeral service.As the Executor for Margaret’s will, Peter also established the Trust in her name as specified in her will to be an ongoing fund administered by Rotary District 967 (now 9670). Peter provided Maree with the following legal documents:
    • Copy of Certificate of Australian Citizenship for Margaret Roseland Illukol, dated 24 May 1996. Margaret’s date of birth is listed as 26 November 1955 on the certificate.
    • Copy of Certificate of Probate issued by the Supreme Court of N.S.W. on 7 January 2016.

Margaret’s name has been spelt with one or two Ls. In all her legal documents, nursing registration and university graduation certificate her name has two Ls.

Peter also provided an article from the Newcastle herald of Margaret’s funeral.

      • A4: Article written by Michael McGowan in the Newcastle Morning herald (6 March 2015) of Margaret’s funeral: “Nurse was an inspiration – Survivor made city her home”.
        The article includes a photo of Margaret and also one of the mourners at her funeral.



  • UON Archivist, Gionni Di Gravio – Emails to Maree GleesonThe UON Archivist has been able to locate several newspaper articles about Margaret Illukol published in the Newcastle Herald. These documents (A5-A9) will also be included on the Hunter Living History website, along with a digitised copy of Margaret Illukol’s book “Child of the Karimojong”. This will ensure access to the book by scholarship recipients.
    • A5: Article written by unknown journalist for the Newcastle Herald (3 March 1975) after Margaret arrived in Newcastle: “Newcastle helps courageous girl” – includes a photo of
      Margaret with the Chairman of the Rotary Foundation Committee, Mr Kevin Leary.
    • A6: Article written by Faye Lowe, Health reporter for the Newcastle Herald (1 April 1980) on Margaret’s quest for nursing training: “Ugandan girl wants nurse training to help others”.
    • A7: Article written by Faye Lowe, Health reporter for the Newcastle Herald (10 March 1984) after Margaret graduated from nursing training: “Two decade battle from hyena attack to nursing sister – skills to take back home”. The article includes a photo of Margaret with her “host parents” Reg and Elaine Lenaghan.
    • A8: Article written by Sam Rigney for Newcastle Herald (28 February 2015) advising of Margaret’s death: “Farewell to a survivor – rescued from Africa, adopted by our city, inspiring journey ends”. Includes a photo of Margaret and also the photo of Margaret with Reg and Elaine Lenaghan (see A7).
    • A9: Article written by Joanne McCarthy in the Newcastle Herald 912 August 2016) after resolution of Margaret’s will: “In death she repaid the gift of life”.


1955 exact date of birth unknown but listed on her Citizenship certificate as 26 November 1955
1963 attacked by hyena/ reconstructive surgery at Mulago Hospital, Kampala, Uganda
1975 arrival in Newcastle, Australia and commenced further reconstructive surgery at RNH
1978 completed HSC at St Joseph’s High School at Lochinvar
1980 commenced nursing student training at Gosford Hospital
1984 Commenced as a registered nurse at RNH and lived in the Nurses Home
1990 publication of her book “Child of the Karimojong”
1991? moved out of Nurses Home into her own accommodation (The Hill, Newcastle)
1996 Australian citizenship certificate dated 24 May 1996
1996 graduated from UON with a Bachelor of Nursing degree
2006 orthopaedics department relocated from RNH to JHH (Royal Newcastle Centre)
2015 died in Newcastle 15th February 2015 / funeral 5th March 2015

Her dedication page on Living Histories @ Newcastle is here:

Gionni Di Gravio, OAM
University Archivist & Chair, Hunter Living Histories

4 thoughts on “Remembering Margaret Illukol (c.1955 – 2015)

  1. As a member of Toronto rotary club at the time of ‘Margaret” I can recall all the happenings very clearly and have only memories of a remarkable lady.
    Dennis Trigg .president toronto rotary club.

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