Pink Twins – Moyia O’Brien And Dorothy O’Brien

Dorothy And Moyia O’Brien

Dorothy And Moyia O’Brien


Episode 15
The Pink Twins

ABC Broadcast 6.30pm on 14/05/2003

Moiya and Dorothy O’Brien are almost 80 years old but nothing, least of all age, can repress their incredible passion for helping the disabled. 27 years ago these twins launched a Brisbane care centre that is still thriving today. Their passion for caring is matched only by their passion for the colour pink – their clothes and house have led them to be affectionately nicknamed the ‘Pink Twins’.

GEORGE NEGUS: As it turns out, the couple in our next piece actually share Barbara Cartland’s famous passion for pink. They’re not married and they’re not lovers, but they do have a passion – albeit of a different kind – as David Adams discovered.

DAVID ADAMS, REPORTER: It’s often the case that twins have a strong bond. But the two ladies we’re about to meet have one of the strongest sibling connections you’re ever likely to see. Throughout their lives, they’ve stood side by side as they’ve tirelessly worked to help others.

DOROTHY O’BRIEN: And when we were born, my mum said that… In those days, they didn’t do natural births and she’d been under an anaesthetic, and she woke up and heard this funny little noise each side of the bed going, “Uh-oh,” and the other side going, “Oh-oh.” And she said, “What’s that?” And they said, “That’s your little twin daughters – they’re talking to each other.” And she didn’t even know she had twins. She said for 24 hours we just did that and answered each other, so we said we must have been missing each other. (Laughs)

DAVID ADAMS: In case you haven’t realised, Moyia and Dorothy O’Brien are identical twins who are in their 80th year. Their story is one of joy for life and dedication to love and care for others.

MOYIA O’BRIEN: We really feel better when we’re together. I mean, we can cope quite adequately without each other but we’re always happiest and feel more complete when we’re together.

DOROTHY O’BRIEN: And we’ve never married, because we had a real great companionship. And they say that most marriages are people looking for a compatible mate and we’ve got it in each other so we didn’t need to get married and it gave us more time to do our work. We love our work. Our work is our life, really. We came on earth wanting to help people, and even from children, we were always wanting to help the children, lost children and little animals, and we just grew up knowing that was going to be our life – to do service to other people.

DAVID ADAMS: The twins spent their working lives as occupational therapists. But by the time they retired, they noticed a huge void in the health care system. There was nowhere for mentally handicapped people to spend their time other than in hospital, which is far from fulfilling.

DOROTHY O’BRIEN: We’ve got to set up a place where they can continue to get love and therapy and continue to grow, and so that’s what we started SWARA for.

DAVID ADAMS: Well, this is SWARA – or to give it its full name, the Sunshine Welfare and Remedial Association. It’s a place where you instantly feel welcome. And it plays an invaluable part in the lives of more than 100 people who come here daily and can call this place their own.

DOROTHY O’BRIEN: You all have a lovely holiday. It’s wonderful to see you all again.

MOYIA O’BRIEN: We work here on three levels. First of all, they come in and they’re assessed. We put them into an area downstairs, what we call our assessment area, and we find out where they can fit in. See, some of them are physically disabled, some of them are just nonachievers, some of them are psychiatric… We get quite a lot of psychiatric people here. But they’re all people that don’t fit into other areas, either because they’re too disabled, they’re too disruptive or they’re too intelligent or they’re too frightened.

DOROTHY O’BRIEN: We wanted SWARA to be a place where they could come and be themselves and grow in their own way, just at their own speed, and reach their full potential.

(PEOPLE ATTENDING SWARA SING) “I love myself the way I am. There’s nothing I need to do. I feel the love. Inside myself. It’s easy to love you.”

MOYIA O’BRIEN: We believe that if you’re really strong about something and you’ve got an idea or a dream, that if you’ve got enough fortitude and endurance and hope, that…and perseverance, that it’ll happen. And it’s happened with us, because when SWARA started, we had no money, we had a little derelict, run-down building, and just because of this love and joy in life and living and the determination it would be a success, it’s just grown. It was a miracle. Everybody said, “You’ll never survive.”

DAVID ADAMS: You were adding to these buildings all the time?

MOYIA O’BRIEN: Yes, yes. We started off with one, then we acquired…this was the second one, then this one, then that one. And we’ll just quickly have a quick look in here, because…


MOYIA O’BRIEN: This is our therapy area. This is where they come first and we do assessments in here. Some of them never move beyond this area but some of them move on into more upgraded programs. And what we do in here, we do a lot of creative work, as you can see.

DAVID ADAMS: If a person is loving, they’re said to have a pink aura. Well, the life of the twins is surrounded by the colour of love.

MOYIA O’BRIEN: I used to wear pink. I always loved pink and that was my colour. As a therapist, that was the colour I wore. Dorothy wore blue. And then suddenly, she said, “Look, I like pink too. Would you mind if I move into pink?” And I said no. So…and then, people started to call us the ‘pink twins’.

DAVID ADAMS: To say that Moyia and Dorothy are close would be something of an understatement. Apart from one very brief period, they’ve lived together in the same house for the majority of their lives. So surely a relationship like this must lead to the odd argument. So have they ever fallen out?

MOYIA O’BRIEN: Very early in the piece, we worked out a solution where we could work it through. Instead of getting annoyed with each other, we’d try and work the problem through and sometimes she would get her way and when my turn… I’d get my way the next time. We’ve worked under a system like that most of our lives. Someone said, “Is there anything you don’t like about each other?” and we said, “No, not really.” We can’t really think of anything we don’t like about each other, except I wish Dorothy wasn’t in a wheelchair.

GEORGE NEGUS: Well, to use a technical term, bloody marvellous! Moyia and Dorothy O’Brien in the pink – 80 and definitely not out.

Pink Twins Reference

Young O’Brien Pink Twins

Young O’Brien Pink Twins

Pink Twins Book: “The Touch of the Lord”
First published in May 1999.

“The Touch of the Lord” describes the lives of the O’Brien twins, “The Pink Twins”, and the amazing story of SWARA – the Sunshine Welfare and Rehabilitation Association – which they established after they retired to assist severely disabled people .

Dorothy and Moyia O’Brien are 80 year old identical twins who live in Brisbane, Australia. Ever since they were small children they have believed that God is love and that goodness and love are to be found in every person.

After living full lives as occupational therapists, they retired and immediately established SWARA, which provides meaningful work and education for hundreds of severely disabled people of all ages.

They have directed SWARA for the last 25 years based on the principle that God is within everyone and that every person has a wonderful Divine potential eager to be expressed. The love and joy that flows out through the Twins’ autobiography has profoundly moved and inspired many people who have read their story. The reading of their lives is an absorbing and uplifting experience.

The real miracle is how can two elderly ladies, both severely hampered in their own mobility, manage to run a workplace for over 200 mentally and physically disabled people, on 2 hectares of derelict government land in the centre of Brisbane with only dedicated volunteers and no paid employees under the constant threat of eviction?

Howard Murphett, the renowned author of “Sai Baba: Man of Miracles”, “Sai Baba Avatar” and “Sai Baba: Invitation to Glory” writes in the forward:

During the 18 years since I have met them, something special has grown in my heart for the unique twins Dorothy and Moyia O’Brien. This something seems to be a mixture of spiritual love, great admiration and a special respect.

The years too have spread their name and fame throughout the large and growing Sai Organisation in Australia; they are generally known as the “Pink Twins”, a name which Sathya Sai Baba Himself often uses for them. The reason for this is that they usually dress in pink – a simple enough reason, yet pink, the colour of love and light, seems to be specially fitting and appropriate.

O’Brien ‘Pink Twins’ Reference

Dorothy & Moiya O’Brien With Sathya Sai Baba

Dorothy & Moiya O’Brien With Sathya Sai Baba

Also see:
Official SWARA Website
NineMSN A Current Affair Australia, Moiya O’Brien, SWARA And The Sathya Sai Organisation

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