Tale of tragedy and hardship

By Tara Whitsed

Rick Morton is a name you might recognise.

A journalist at The Australian newspaper, Rick has campaigned to improve the lives of the country’s homeless, aged and disabled.
The social affairs reporter said all he ever wanted was to become a journalist.
But it was a long road for the man who only knew the existence of being surrounded by kilometres of red dirt.
Rick grew up in outback Australia on a cattle station in what he said was a ‘‘rough and tough existence’’.
He recalled the early days, living with an abusive father.
It was Father’s Day in 1994 when Rick’s father made a decision that changed the life of his family forever.
Working on a vehicle on the farm, Rick’s older brother Toby dropped an important piece of equipment into the oil run-off pit, located beneath them.
Armed with a torch, Toby was unable to find the tiny piece needed to fix the vehicle.
Toby was passed a cigarette lighter, according to Rick, and within seconds he had suffered from life-threatening burns.
Administering first-aid until the Royal Flying Doctor Service arrived, Rick said they were able to save his brother’s life, but things would never be the same.
Rick’s mother and his newborn sister went with the injured Toby to hospital.
‘‘While my brother was in hospital ... it was just me and Dad on the station,’’ he said.
‘‘My dad had an affair with the 19-year-old governess and kicked us out.’’
Rick was just seven years old.
With quite literally nothing to their name, Rick’s mother did the best she could to raise her children.
‘‘My mum is ... the hero,’’ Rick said.
Revealing the gut-wrenching story in his new memoir 100 Years of Dirt, Rick said the book was not only a memoir, but also paid homage to his mother’s strength.
Escaping the cycle of poverty to complete his journalism cadetship, Rick said he wanted to write the book as a brutally honest reflection of those who come from nothing.
‘‘I’m just lucky,’’ he said.
Not only facing the adversity of coming from a place where he was sheltered from the rest of the world, Rick was also a homosexual man.
‘‘People from the city don’t understand what it’s like to come from the country,’’ he said.
‘‘I have a real affinity for it and I want to talk about how people who come from those regions have so much to offer.
‘‘I wanted to tell the truth,’’ he said, and reflected on just how difficult his journey was from country kid to social affairs reporter.
Rick’s brother took an entirely different path.
‘‘My brother has been affected in an entirely different way,’’ Rick said.
‘‘He’s been addicted to ice and has put my mother through hell.
‘‘I could have gone down that route.’’
Rick will discuss his incredibly story as well as some aspects of being in the media at Shepparton Library on Wednesday, August 22 at 7pm. Bookings are required; phone Shepparton Library on 1300374765 or email [email protected] by Monday, August 20.