Mum's secret life
The Australian Women's Weekly|September 2023
When a mystery photo appeared at her mother's funeral, Amelia Oberhardt embarked on a 12-year quest to fight through a veil of shame and find out the truth about her family's past
Mum's secret life

The day my mother was buried was the day I realised I never really knew her at all. Thousands of people packed into a traditional funeral service to pay their respects at St Brigid's Catholic Church, a red-bricked fortress perched on a hill overlooking Brisbane.

For her wake, we moved on to a large city pub where alcohol, nostalgia and stories began to flow. It was here I stood watching a slide show my best friend had made of my mum's life: Her as a little girl, laughing with friends and with our family in the early years. But then a photo I'd never seen before flashed up on the screen. There she was as a teenager, a wedding ring on her finger, a new baby in her arms and a young man standing awkwardly next to her, his hand across her back. It looked like a family portrait.

Bewildered, I leaned over to my friend who put the slide show together and asked her who was in the photo.

"That's your mum," she smiled, "with your dad, and you as a baby."

"No," I replied, "that's not my dad, and that's not me." 

The photo was time stamped August 1973, almost 13 years before I was born. Mum would have been 17. Who was this man? Who was this baby?

My quest to find the truth began.

Today I'm 36, and I am a breakfast newsreader for Southern Cross Austereo in Brisbane. Journalism runs in my family. In his 50-year career, my dad, Mark Oberhardt, was well known as a radio presenter and sports and racing writer for Brisbane's newspapers. While my mum, Cecelia, was the glamorous socials editor for The Courier-Mail during the golden years of newspapers in the 1990s.

Mum got the job when I was aged around six and my younger brother was still a baby. It was a job that meant a lot to Cecelia, the equivalent to being a top social media influencer today. She'd be invited to all the most exclusive parties, gifted luxurious products and wielded power to make or break celebrities.

This story is from the September 2023 edition of The Australian Women's Weekly.

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This story is from the September 2023 edition of The Australian Women's Weekly.

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