I love the adventure in those real live moments where you’re taken somewhere else or something’s illuminated or you are moved to see differently, where curiosities appear.
I absolutely love transformational experiences, and so I look for that obviously in the arts and where I work. That’s probably a great driver in my life. I love just being with people and chewing the fat and getting stuck into life issues from the mundane to the very deep. I love that sense of connection that comes from just being with someone and being able to let it roll. I think it’s deeply satisfying and it’s been that way always and I can’t imagine it getting any different going forward. Its language, people, and the two together are a wonderful combination.
I guess another favourite thing in my life is place and connection to a place. You know, that at some level that connection with land, and with the flora and fauna, and the energy of a place is running through you.
I came to Canberra seven years ago to be CEO of the Street Theatre. I came here to a situation that I felt had enormous potential and should have had a stronger presence in both the Canberra landscape and national landscape, and so my story is one of making that happen. I came here to do that job and to make sure that the professional and independent creative artists we have here are strongly supported. That those voices are an integral part of the Australian landscape and that we’re able to tell our stories here in Canberra in a way that makes the rest of the nation listen. So my story is a story of work, and more work, but work that I obviously love doing in a community that is on the cusp of something very exciting.
My perfect day wouldn’t be in winter, I can tell you that! My perfect day would be waking up, going for a fantastic walk around the lake and listening to all the beautiful birds and just the whole natural landscape here. And then going to The Street and having a day where we got lots of calls about people excited about the artistic work that’s happening in Canberra. You know, like wanting to be a part of that; wanting to volunteer, or donate, or see a show—a day of general positivity around the stories that we’re telling. Then maybe I’d go into a rehearsal—perhaps it’s an opening night, and we have all the world here for it! So it’s a sort of final tidy, and we have a work that is absolutely critical to the narrative that we want to tell and share about Canberra, and the creative team are pumped. We have a fantastic opening night where people are just thrilled and excited by, and deeply connected to the story that’s being told. And that work is clearly going to go on tour around the nation. That would be my perfect day. And perhaps it’s a March summer night and we’re all standing around at 11:30pm on Childers Street swapping stories about what else needs to be told, what else we need to say about the world we live in and how we’re going to do it with our next project.
The thing that strikes me most strongly in this city is the celebration of women, the respect for women, and that there are so many powerful and strong, rich in character women that I meet every day. There’s a very strong intellectual and emotional foundation for women here that you don’t hit in such a comprehensive, entwined and embedded way in many other cities in Australia. So it’s deeply respectful of women I feel in many ways. There are some great individuals, and great organisations, working at local, national and international levels. How those women speak and articular their individual experiences is absolutely awesome. I think it’s a good city to be in as a woman, of any age. Yes there are challenges, there are things that are not right, but there’s a lot less that’s not right than many other places.
I’ve always thought it’s the best thing in the world to be a woman, from being a child. I’ve always thought it would be very boring to be anything else. I’ve always embraced and felt really comfortable in that space. I’ve always enjoyed being in my body, being who I am. Being a woman is just simply the way that I am and I embrace it fully.
There are challenges in Australia that come from being a woman, so there is a sort of provocation attached to all things womanly. I think meeting that provocation is probably critical in this world. It means doing things and making a difference. It means not stepping back from the potential of that; not somehow diminishing all those facets of body, biology, mind and ways of seeing. It’s one dimension of being human in this world, but it’s obviously a critical one. It clearly shapes the way that I rub up against the world.
I’m not sure what the hardest things about being a woman in Canberra are! I don’t see the things as being specifically connected to Canberra but really shared issues in a national arena. It’s really to do with the level of sexism and gender inequality in this country and the way that it’s talked about and not talked about; you know, the silences in many areas of life and work. Clearly Canberra has the issues that everywhere else has around domestic violence, around inequality in pay, around women having access to education but I feel like the issues are issues of national importance. I guess the challenge is always how as a women you push through networks or areas of life that won’t let you in. Whilst my experience of Canberra has been of being let in—I don’t feel that I’ve been blocked in any way here—I’ve certainly had that experience in my industry and in other places in Australia. I know many colleagues and friends that do in many areas of life.
I don’t find it easy to maintain my health and wellbeing in Canberra because I work incredibly long hours and I am incredibly time poor. I find it very hard to prioritise and make time for looking after my body, mind and soul. So in the work context there are issues around resourcing, and aspirations and ambition versus practical reality. I work in a sort of collaborative art form and it’s long, long hours. I find it very difficult to step away from that and actually just make time.
Also, we have a terrible public transport system. It’s not well set up for people to traverse easily across the city in different ways and I think in the national capital that’s not good enough.
At this moment in time I feel like I’m on the cusp of something and I can’t quantify that in any way but it’s certainly on a deep level, it feels like there is change in the air. I say that because in the area that I work in, the arts, there’s a lot of changes to the sector and politically in Australia. Personally, I’m looking at the challenges that I want to set myself for the next decade and so I feel that change, whilst it’s not in my life, is coming. That’s probably how I would describe myself at the moment, waiting for change, or perhaps just waiting to make change.
Image created by Liz Thompson