Cover image by: Rod Spark

Just a Mum

A mother’s fight for her son’s equality.

Shelley Argent’s love for her son, grit,  determination and persistence helped realise some of the biggest human rights reforms in Australian history.

This is her story.

Hi, I’m Shelley

Over the past 20 or so years, I’ve grown sick and tired of people telling me: “Oh, I couldn’t do what you do”. What rubbish! I’m no more special than the next person.

Too many people let silly things hold them back. That’s why I wrote this book.

Life has thrown me lots of challenges. I grew up in a poor and dysfunctional family in 1950/60s Brisbane. I hated school so left at 16, to work in retail and office administration. I married a wonderful man and together we’ve raised two sons, of whom we’re very proud.

Don and I have faced situations no parent should ever have to face, ones that threatened to tear our family apart. Love, strength and determination bonded us together, stronger than ever. Family is everything to us.

Our eldest son James came out when he was 17. He faced a life of discrimination through no fault of his own; simply for whom he chose to love. That was untenable to me and I could not remain silent. As a parent, I believe there are times when you stand behind your child, times when you stand beside them, and times when you have to stand in front. This was one of those times. I wanted both my sons to be considered equals in their country. So, I did what I could to bring about change.

The older I get, the more I realise life is what you make it. The years I’ve spent working for equality for the LGBTIQ community have constantly forced me out of my comfort zone. To be honest, I’ve shocked myself and achieved more than I ever realistically believed possible.

I wanted to and I could, so I did. You can, too.

This is my story.

Image credit: Markham Lane

How do I make a difference? What contribution can I possibly make to reforming discriminatory laws or challenging prejudice? These are questions I am asked almost every day by people outraged by an injustice they have encountered, but don’t have a clue how to tackle it and may not feel up to the task. This book about the life of Shelley Argent goes a long way to answering those questions. It explains how she learnt early on not to retreat from challenges and wilt under the weight of other’s expectations. It shows how she learnt instead to stand up for herself and trust her own judgement. It illustrates how she taught herself the best ways to lobby, advocate and educate by observing others and learning from her own mistakes. It gets to the heart of an Australian who knows, more than most, what it takes to right wrongs.”

– Rodney Croome, AM

I read Shelley Argent’s story and felt the full range of emotions – anger, disgust, dismay, disbelief. I laughed – she’s a crack that woman! And, I cried. Tears of absolute sorrow and tears of joy. How grateful I am there are people like Shelley and all of the wonderful people she has worked with and continues to work with, who ensure information and support is available for young people discovering their sexual identify. And, who stand up and speak out for a more inclusive and diverse society. Bravo”

– Jacinta Finger, The Word Girl

The strength, courage and determination that lie within the pages of Shelley Argent’s life is absolutely undeniable. Shelley is the ultimate ‘accidental activist’, who, because of a genetic roll of dice, her own difficult childhood experiences and an undisputed love for her children, was able to face up to the challenges of an untenable societal and political situation, and make a positive difference for hundreds and thousands of people.

Reading Shelley’s story, co-authored by the hugely talented Leanne Edmistone, will have you asking yourself what you truly believe in, and then see you standing up to fight for it with all your might! Knowing what Shelley has overcome, and achieved, will give you the courage to face inequality, unfairness, or any unsatisfactory situation in your life that needs changing. This book will make you weep, shout and pump your fists, in frustration AND elation!”

– Caylie Jeffery, Author

Your story is testament to your courage, perseverance, loyalty, inner strength, integrity, authenticity, loving kindness and compassion. I loved the mixture of personal history, local Brisbane history and gay history.

The story was full of intimate surprises and humour, and was really comprehensive in sharing a message of advocacy, anti-discrimination, vulnerability, compassion, hope and empowerment. I laughed out loud and also got choked up in sections.”

– Dr Kirsty Williamson, Clinical Psychologist

Shelley holds nothing back in the telling of her life story [and it] is a powerful story. Just a Mum is a great read, but it’s more. The book is an important accounting of important moments in our histories at LGBTIQ communities. And it provides important guides to future actions.”

Read more:

– Destiny Rogers, editor QNews

I have just finished reading Just a Mum. There were times, I felt Shelley was speaking directly to me with her humour and personalised way of writing.

And, then there were times I had tears flowing down my cheeks, because of how she was treated in her early years. Shelley is a real survivor who doesn’t seek sympathy. However, after reading the book it doesn’t surprise me how she has succeeded with her lobbying and activism.”

– Trish