I’m in remission from cancer and really it’s my third chance at life because I had just got through breast cancer, and then last year I was diagnosed with leukaemia. So that’s where I am, I’m very aware of that at the moment.
I was brought up in a very patriarchal nuclear family; hideously so. It was really through my professional life as a social worker that I learnt the strength of being a woman. Little by little I learnt what the issues and challenges were, and where the inequalities lay.
Domestic violence is currently in the limelight and justly so, because in my work I had many clients who had violence in their lives. This was just at the time when survivors of childhood abuse were coming to the fore, so I became aware of all these injustices for women. There were also men though. I’ve seen men who were equally vulnerable, hurt, and hurting. Men who needed to heal.
I was born in Canberra. I went overseas when I was eight and completed my schooling there, and then came back to attend university in Sydney. After that I went off to New Zealand and America and different places.
I came back to Canberra for a multitude of reasons. I sought to lay ghosts, which I don’t think happened straight away because it never does—it takes a long time. But I also came back to Canberra because I can negotiate it with the limitations I have due to chronic PTSD. It’s manageable for me; I can get around. It’s just the right size.
I also have some brilliant friends here that I’ve made through work. They have been so supportive and I’ve been able to come out and acknowledge my own childhood trauma, and realise just how much it affected me. Just enormously. So it’s been strange; it’s been a good place to heal, but I can only realise that looking back, maybe I didn’t realise it at the time. It is full circle, and now I think I feel comfortable here. I won’t say I love it, but I feel comfortable.
The ease of movement and my friends are definitely the best things about being a woman here. I can appreciate the beauty of Canberra, but I probably don’t spend enough time doing that.
I don’t really know what to say is the hardest thing about being a woman in Canberra. I’d have to give it some thought. It’s not that everything’s fantastic, but I guess it would be very personal. In fact, yes, memories of Canberra. It’s where there are some bad memories and some rough times. And perhaps the size; when I returned in 70s it was so much smaller, everyone knew everyone. As a result there was a lot of gossip and this included misrepresentation of events when the underlying truths were not known. This could be hurtful.
Managing my health here has been helped because I have a fantastic GP who has stood by me through thick and thin, and there’s been a lot of thick there! She really believed in me; the one constant person who’s believed in me. To access all the services I’ve had to for the two cancers has also been extraordinary. I imagine that if I’d been in Sydney I wouldn’t have felt in charge of it. Here I was just so well looked after. I mean I really, really think so. My oncologist for the breast cancer was fantastic—a very spiritual, wonderful man. And there are many supportive services here—such as Bosom Buddies, community nursing and the 24 hour health line.
My perfect day would definitely start by listening to ABC Radio National. That’s absolutely essential. Only then do I start to emerge and move and come to life. After that I would meet a friend for lunch; someone where you go away feeling good, have a real connection, where you feed each other’s souls in a way, true friendship. That’s a wonderful feeling, it really is. And then I’m very happy being with myself, so just pottering in the garden, reading, watching TV. It sounds awfully dull and boring, but it’s actually really nice.
My most favourite things in life are my children. They live away from Canberra but they’re just wonderful and they are pivotal in my life. My friends would be my second most favourite thing in life. And then writing and/or gardening. I did go back and do professional writing as a mature aged student, so at the moment I am working on something.
Image created by Josey Carnovale