My personal story is that I am the third generation in a line of strong women whom I grew up with—my maternal grandmother, my mother and myself. So each of us in our own way and in our own time, has had the opportunity to a very large extent to be ourselves and to excel in our chosen fields.
At this moment in time I am sitting in front of you as a WWDACT Officer, answering some questions. Stepping outside the room, I live in Canberra. Stepping outside of Canberra, or stepping into different parts of Canberra, I would describe myself as an older woman who is socially and professionally engaged as a human rights lawyer.
I first came to Canberra to look at a Betty Blockbuster exhibition in the 1990s. I was staying at the Brassey Hotel and I walked around the corner from where I was staying into an old Canberra street: country cottages and huge trees! I said to myself: I could live here. At that moment I fell in love with Canberra. Then found my way here. And that street is the only street I’ve ever lived in here! I’ve had to move away for work over the years, but Canberra has always been my heart home. Wherever I’ve lived has been my home—I’ve always been content wherever I’ve lived. But I’ve always referred to Canberra as my heart home. I love it.
Canberra has a lot of expertise: and a lot of national experts live here. For example, I went to an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery on the weekend, called In the Flesh, mainly featuring these fabulous contemporary women artists. Marvellous! Inspirational to see what contemporary women artists are doing in Australia…So that is a wonderful thing about being in Canberra—that there is a cultural life and cultural activities that are curated by national experts who often, if not always, will include a women’s perspectives. Ah! There are lots of good things about Canberra. I don’t know that I can pin gender tags to all of them.
It is easy to maintain your health and wellbeing in Canberra because the city itself has a fantastically healthful environment. You know we have fresh air, we have low traffic, we have good water, we have relatively uncontaminated soil—despite Mr. Fluffy. We have access to food. We have access to cycle ways and walk ways, all of which are free. And despite the criticisms, we have a good health care system. I have lived in rural areas of Australia where access to medical specialists is very complex and difficult. I’ve lived in countries with no running water or reliable electricity. I love that, very typically, a lot of what is great in Canberra is free. You don’t have to spend money if you have the cultural capital to know what is on offer here.
I think the hardest thing about being a woman in Canberra is not getting the breadth of experiences that comes with living in a more diversified community. A broad range of people exists in Canberra, but they are often invisible. So it’s easy to kind of get wrapped up in your own little world. I think that’s a negative. It can be too contented in a funny way!
My three favourite things in life are Buddhism, fun, and people.
I don’t have just one perfect day. I let each day evolve as it arises. That is perfection.
Images created by Liz Thompson, Nicole Zimmermann, and Josey Carnovale as part of a workshop with Jane Duong from PhotoAccess