To me, to be a woman means to be who I am; you have to know who you are and not be restricted by gender stereotypes and judgements.
I’d say I’m passionate, committed, warm, genuine and funny.
Of my three favourite things, number one would be family. I have two daughters aged 21 and 22 and of course, extended family around Australia. Second would be my job. I’m Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner as well as Public Advocate and love my work. In the ACT and Federal public service my experience has been that you get to where you are on merit—that’s a big thing to me, to be able to achieve what you want on merit. And thirdly would be friends—I have fantastic friends here in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and all around the world.
I’ve been here 31 years, come Canberra Day. I moved here for a job and an opportunity to do a Masters part time; that’s how I met my late husband Terry and had two beautiful daughters in ‘92 and ‘93. I worked in the federal public service all that time, left in ‘97, got a job in Geneva with the UN, and came back and did a PhD and post doc and then got this job. I grew up in Western Sydney, Guildford and went to school in Parramatta. So in Canberra you’re not restricted by your background, basically you do the job and you’ll get there.
In Canberra there is very easy access to facilities, like gyms and beautiful outdoor places to walk. The hard thing is having the time and balancing work and other commitments. I like to do yoga weekly, gym twice a week and walk the dog as much as I can.
It’s great to start the day exercising, so if I can get up and walk the dog somewhere beautiful near where I live, that’s a favourite start to the day. This would be followed by breakfast with family. If it’s a non-work day, relaxing by reading or going to see an exhibition at the art gallery or elsewhere. Lunch somewhere nice, Arboretum’s a favourite—I just love the feeling of being there, it just feels very Canberra, you see the best of Canberra all at once. And dinner with friends somewhere in New Acton or Braddon. And I love to see plays and films and musicals, so that’d be my perfect day. It’s also a reflection of how I like to juggle lots of things!
The best thing about being a woman in Canberra is the freedom to dream and to realise potential, to not be restrained by your upbringing or what school you went to. That people don’t judge; that people actually see you for who you are and make an assessment based on what you do.
The hardest thing about being a woman in Canberra? Gender discrimination is all over Australia. The pay equity gap is about 17 percent, although in Canberra in the public sector it’s a much lower gap than in the private sector. And knowing that there are other women who are vulnerable to domestic violence, mental health issues and of course our [the Human Rights Commission’s] recent work into women residing in the Alexander Maconochie Centre.
Image created by Liz Thompson