Donna was born Donna Maloney on 17 January 1938 to Molly (nee McKinlay) and Jack Maloney. Her parents separated about a year after Donna was born and, together with her sister and brother, Donna was cared for by her mother and grandmother. Donna’s mother married Jack King in 1946, and the family lived in Fairlight, a suburb of Sydney.
After graduating from high school, Donna commenced training as an enrolled nurse at the Sydney Children’s Hospital in Camperdown. After falling pregnant, however, she was dismissed from the hospital, as was the rule at the time. Donna chose to raise her first son Julian as a single mother, strongly supported by her mother and step-father, Jack King. Donna worked for David Jones then the Bank of New South Wales.
Once Julian commenced school, Donna left her son and parents to work in Darwin circa 1966. Here she fell in love with a Dutchman Frank Groen and married circa 1970 in Pine Creek. In 1973 her second son Ben arrived. The family lived and worked in remote areas of the Territory, including the government Adelaide River Agricultural Station, Lake Julius Dam, and the Mary Kathleen Uranium Mine. It was a frontier lifestyle and Donna loved the remoteness, solitude and simplicity of living in the bush. The family would visit Sydney from time to time or alternatively Molly, Jack, and Julian would make trips to northern Australia to meet up for holidays.
Around 1975 Donna was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and underwent numerous operations and experimental chemotherapy treatment at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital. Against all odds Donna made a miraculous recovery and returned to the Top End briefly before separating from Frank and re-establishing her life in Sydney, with Ben attending primary school and Julian starting university. In 1991 Donna left Sydney to join her sons who were living in Bellingen. Over the years they moved home several times, finally settling in Urunga in 2001. Fond of travelling, Donna made several solo round Australia road trips as well as trips to visit Julian in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.
In the Bellingen Shire, Donna was active with the Urunga CWA raising money for overseas aid projects and winning top awards for her knitting. Whenever sitting she would knit angel blankets, and blankets and beanies for the homeless. She also volunteered with Meals on Wheels, Probus, View Club, and the Pink Ladies Auxiliary at Bellingen Hospital where she dedicated herself to raising funds for medical equipment and held the position of President from 2007 to 2009.
Always concerned with the demise of Australian politics, Donna felt that Australia’s political system was wrought with corruption with politicians representing the corporate elite against the interests of the Australian community. She believed we are fast approaching a totalitarian dictatorship and found it difficult to understand how such a demise was able to come about in her lifetime after the defeat of fascism.
After a second cancer diagnosis, Donna yet again defied the doctors’ three-month life expectancy to live a further three years. Always imploring her sons to ‘be good’, Donna was a great role model and friend to all who knew her. Donna is survived by her sons Julian King and Ben Groen.