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Kaz Cooke: Welcome to One Object, Several Stories tonight at the library. And also firstly would like to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land, the Kulin Nation people, the Borarong and the Boonwurrung here at the library. And also it will become clear why the Wathaurong of the Barwon river and Geelong area as well.
We are going to examine a treasure by the, which is right up there, much larger than it really is, as part of looking at items in the library's collection and in connection with the Victoria and Albert Museum Exhibition of Design Treasures here at the moment.
So we're going have a discussion for about three quarters of an hour and then you'll get a chance to ask questions of our wonderful experts.
So, I'd just like to introduce the others on the panel. Closest to me, Joe Ritali, who's the Collection Services Manager here at the library with nearly 20 years experience of rummaging about in major collections here and in Queensland. Her responsibilities include manuscripts, pictures, Australian history, and literature collections here at the library. So you know, just a few things.
Louise Burnett, who like me has worn her mourning-jet beautiful earrings. She's a specialist jeweller, gemmologist and diamond grader, and a collector from The French Jewelbox shop in the Block Arcade, which many of you will have, I'm sure, paused longingly at the windows of. She's intrigued by the history and provenance of antique jewellery and she's a second generation jewellery sleuth in the Block Arcade.
And further on my right, Lizzie Anya-Petrivna, the cultural collections curator from the National Trust of Australia. She's a Melbourne based curator and fashion historian. She's interested in 19th century clothes, natural history and domestic advice manuals. So, I think I might want to marry her. And she's completing a PHD on the workers of Melbourne who made artificial flowers and related objects. And she's curated exhibitions of ye old wedding fashion and Ms Fisher's costumes most recently.
So, I'll just introduce the brooch a little bit before the people who really know what they're talking about get a chance. This is a rather extraordinary object. It is made of the hair of two people woven together and gold. And it’s mourning jewellery. The idea of using hair to memorialise people was not just a Victorian phenomenon after Queen Victoria lost Albert, this was much earlier. It was in the 1840s. And, oh no, that's me pointing with the laser, that's not going to help.
So here are our two ladies, Carolyn Newcomb, and that's her on the right. A very early photo. We're not sure exactly when but I would think, I've got other experts here, but after 1860s-1870s.
You would have said earlier? Yeah. Yeah, ok. So that's really early to have a camera in the, in the colony.
And that is an artist's impression of where they look like, I don't know, they have the plague and bonnets and they're doing it quite hard near Geelong.
So Anne Drysdale and Caroline Newcomb were fascinating women. They met up in Victoria very early and there's no doubt that from that moment they were constant companions and shared a bed, and in fact farmed together for a long time.
One of the fellows at the library here has done a marvellous job of looking at Miss Drysdale's diary and really translating that, that 19th century writing. And then when Miss Drysdale died, Miss Newcomb actually finished the diary as well. So we actually have proof in a way that of this whole story. And quite amazingly, we have a number of objects in the library that add to the story as well. And we can also see that they were the clients of an architect together. So up the top on the left, this is uh, from the architectural plans that the library holds in another collection. This is the ground-floor plan of their house. So, the bedroom at the front and the parlour and then at, where it says ground plan up on the top left, that was sort of the courtyard where all the drays and carriages would have come in. And there's the kitchen and the pantry and the stairs. So, the sort of, the story sort of starts to come together. And then that's a beautiful drawing of the outside of the house and the next one is a photo and you can see how closely it, you know, and that beautiful bluestone that is, that's part of our history.
But. So Ann Drysdale was a Scot who came to Australia when she was 47. She had some money and experience in farming, and a year after arriving, she met Caroline Newcomb who was 20 years younger. And Caroline had been in Australia for a few years already as a governess in Hobart. And, you know, when Caroline came to Melbourne in 1836 she was one of only 35 white women in the whole of Melbourne. There were 177 people altogether and, quite frankly, Caroline didn't really, she had her pick of the men and she didn't pick anybody. So she took a job as a governess in Geelong, and a year after they met, they decided to move together to this house called Coriole. And they were squatters. So they took and some would say stole 10,000 acres besides the Barwon River, which means that it was land from the Wathaurong people, part of the Kulin nations. And Ann bought money and property to the relationship and did the books, and Caroline bought youth, and horse riding skills, and a huge work capacity, and a knowledge of the colony already, and hands on farming.
And there, there is a little bit of, ah not controversy, but I think you could say that there was, there's a disagreement about whether they were lovers or good staunch Methodist companions. I don't think it's really any of our business what went on in in the bedroom. Possibly a lot of card games, some embroidery. But they, Anne died in 1853 and left everything to Caroline and many years later Caroline married a clergyman, many years younger again. She said that she was doing this for God, although her friends would not approve. And eventually she too was buried at Coriole in the grave with Anne. And she wrote, in the. And Anne Drysdale, who died earlier wrote in the diary, ‘Miss Newcomb, who is my partner, I hope for life, is the best and most clever person I have ever met with’.
And I'll just finish with saying, on the March 3 1854, which is about a year after Ms. Drysdale died, Miss Newcomb was carrying on the diary and she wrote, ‘Fine and very hot. I rode Frase's horse to town’, by which she means Geelong. She ‘did her errands, sold oats, 700 bushels at four and six, took Anne's and my hair to Patterson's to set in a brooch for Mrs Thompson, and he agreed to change my clock. Returned home for tea’. So, we know that that's, so that's the diary with that beautiful writing we have the volumes in the library. And that's how the brooch came to be.
So, all of us here have inspected the brooch and I'd like to ask, just to kick it off, what was the initial reaction of everybody when they first saw it? Jo?
Jo Ritali: Well I'm a little bit grossed out perhaps by the fact that it's made out of hair, although, I mean you can, you see a large version and we actually will have the, the brooch out itself a bit later. It's tiny and looking at it initially, I didn't actually realise it was made out of hair. So, at first I just thought oh wow, it's a very interesting looking item, a very beautiful looking item. But then yeah, when you think about it being people's hair and you know, I see hair on the floor and I just think eww. So that was probably my initial reaction.
Caz: Ok, so we've got one vote for ‘eww’. Louise?
Louise Burnett: I was delighted when I saw it. The lightness of it in colour was quite unusual and the quality of the work is particularly nice. So, for me to see it also in quite good condition, there's a couple of little bits as you would expect, but it's in really good condition. So, for me it was quite a joy.
Caz: And Lizzie?
Lizzie Anya-Petrivna: I was also struck by how white the hair was and how uniform it looked. I also sort of felt it was quite an exuberant looking thing as well. Very ornamental. But it was the kind of virtuosity of it that really struck me and I remember asking a few times if anyone had looked at it under a microscope or done any kind of forensics to sort of see what the sort of strands looked like and, yeah, to investigate further.
Caz: And, and that's one of the things that we'll talk to Jo about too. You know, how you find what things really are and what, perhaps where they really came from. But, first Jo, what is a library doing with a brooch? Aren’t you supposed to just have books? And how come you've got all of the other things that come into the story as well, because the library holds the brooch, the plans for the house, the diary and the photographs.
Jo: That's right, and it's actually really interesting because they've all come in separately. So they didn't come as a complete package.
Caz: That is amazing. And. And all those donations?
Jo: Yeah, they've all come in as donations, all of those items have.
So, the brooch was actually the first item that came into our collection and it was it was donated in 1933. So it's been with us for quite a long time. And really, all we know about that donation was that it was donated a Miss C McLeod. So, so I was determined to kind of find out a little bit more about, about how the brooch had come to the library. Or even just who Miss C McLeod was and what her connection was to the brooch. And we actually know that the brooch is associated with Anne Drysdale because there was a tag that came with the brooch that said, ‘This is the brooch of Anne Drysdale’. So that's, that's kind of how we made that connection, because at that stage we didn't have Anne's diaries in 1933. We didn't have any of the other material.
So as you know, the brooch was made for a Mrs Thomson, and Mrs Thompson was a really good friend of both Caroline and Anne and she was going back to England just about a year after Anne died. And in those days going back to England was like a two year round trip really, and so Caroline had the brooch made for her just before she left as a kind of memento I guess of that friendship that they had. But then how did we get the brooch if it had been, you know, belonging to sort of Barbara Thompson and they, she had a child, one child Jane, and Jane married and they had kids. But it wasn't, it didn't come from that family, so and then…
Caz: Did you use the genealogy, genealogy section of the library to do all that?
Jo: Sort of a one-stop shop here in a way, isn't it? Yeah. Some of that, some of that research is done through those resources, but also because Jane Thompson, Barbara's daughter, had married quite a well-known Melbourne identity and so…
Caz: Well, you make him sound like a criminal.
Jo: No, no, no, no. A substantially respectable identity. And so, they, he is listed in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, and so there's quite a lot of information about him and the children that they had. And so it was reasonably easy to follow that strand.
The Miss McLeod was much more difficult because I didn't have a first name, but there is a lot of references to a Miss McLeod in Anne's diaries and it seems like she was another great friend of the women. And I don't know whether it's the same Miss McLeod, because obviously it's, we're talking about 70 years later that the brooch is donated to the library. So it's either, it could be the same woman, or it could be a relative. So, we're still not 100% sure.
The architectural plans we're the next kind of items to come into our collection and they came through again a donation. A Reverend Brenton was the donor who owned the plans. So he, he gave them to the library, and then the diaries came in 1971. They were on loan for a long time and then the donation was finalised in 2010. So, you know, sometimes these things take 40 years to negotiate, and one collection manager passes on the history of the relationship with that person and obviously we keep a lot of files on that as well. But it can take 40 years for something to become a part of our collection.
And then the photographs of the most recent and they came to the library in 1987. They're by a photographer, John T. Collins, who had a very long relationship with the National Trust of Victoria. Used to go out and photograph all of their sort of heritage-listed houses and so, and often went back several times. So the photographs that we have, we have some from the 1970s and then we have some from the 1980s.
Caz: And is it a National Trust property now or is it privately owned?
Jo: It's a privately owned property.
Caz: Don't go and knock on the door. That would be rude.
Jo: But it's, it is, it is in the, I think it is heritage listed so…
Caz: It would have to be wouldn't it?
Jo: And it's on the National Trust Register, so they would go and photograph those houses.
Caz: Ok, wow, and so that's one of the reasons why I guess cataloguing is really important, so that people can make those connections between objects and things. So, we'll talk a little bit later about keeping things safe. But Louise, our specialist jeweller, are these common do you see them a lot coming into your business?
Louise: Definitely not. They, they have been ruined. I think they've, by and large, you can find sometimes frames with the hair missing. I think there’s been probably a very big backlash over time against hair jewellery.
Caz: That it's out of fashion?
Louise: Out of fashion and, and people really don't like it.
Caz: People like you Jo, people going ‘eww’
Louise: I imagine that's why it was donated. I can imagine somebody feeling it was important and going ‘nobody wants it’.
Caz: Yeah, I can understand how if it's not your friends or your, it's not someone in your family. I think we were all talking before that there's hair and there's hair, in a way.
Louise: There's a good core of Gothic folk out there who really love this stuff and do collect it heavily.
Caz: Help us out with the symbols, Louise. So there's a lyre in the middle and I quite confidently was telling somebody the other day that it had a little briar roses. But.
Louise: No, no.
Caz: So, I did, I did wonder.
Louise: Ok, the symbolism is extremely strong in this piece. Basically you’re gold as a starting point. Gold was, because gold can be melted and solid in alchemical terms, it refers to the transition of the soul. So there's a strong reason for using gold for this kind of jewel. And it also represents eternity and perfection. And the lyre in the centre is, it, it's got quite a few different meanings. I found some references. Well, it's Orpheus, the Golden Lyre of Orpheus, and I think Orpheus.
Caz: Who's Orpheus when he's at home?
Louise: He was the son of Apollo.
Louise: And, and all of this gets debated because there's more than one version of it being ancient stories, but the, the son god Apollo and one of the muses Calliope, who did verses in music. And so, so Orpheus was very famous for Eurydice. His wife was killed, suppose again variations on the myth, bitten on the heel at her wedding by a serpent and died, is gone to the underworld. He found her body and played his harp. He could make trees and rocks, and everything move, his music was so beautiful. So he charmed Hades and Hades took pity and said you can have your wife back. He rescued her from the dead. He's the only one ever to have done it.
Caz: What a reception. A wedding reception to remember.
Louise: Exactly, well they love a bit of drama don't they? Yes. But the, the problem with the story is that he got to the surface. So he comes out of the underworld, gets to the surface and looks back at her. And the condition was he mustn't look until…
Louise: Yep, she wasn't up yet. Deal breaker. She goes back to the underworld and he loses his wife. So umm.
Caz: That’s a lot going on in that broach.
Louise: Well, there absolutely is. Now there's also a cross. We know that Caroline was extremely religious. So the cross is also important. And our flowers, not roses, but forget-me-nots.
Louise: And forget…
Caz: Would they have had little blue, little blue jewels in them at any point? Or did they…?
Louise: Yes. They did in Victorian jewellery. A little, hmm, there's so much of it, sentimental jewellery and mourning jewellery is so, so huge that there's all sorts of variations. Enamel comes in a big later. They started to enamel forget-me-nots. But this is definitely the little five-petalled flower. It would've had a golden centre, flower blue, leaves are correct. It's, it's spot on. Quite naturalistic really if, if you know the flower and, and also, very, very known at the time.
There was a book Sentiment of Flowers from Robert Tyas, that was reprinted over and over and over through the '40s, 1840s that is.
Caz: So everyone would know the language of flowers.
Louise: Everyone, everyone knew it and forget-me-not was one of the really basic ones. And, and the quote, there's little verses in that book, and the one that is for forget-me-not was ‘It softly tells an absent friend that links of love should never rend’. So
Caz: Aw. Well, we're going to run out of time, so we better move on a little bit. But let's, that sort of Spirograph passion of the hair, I know both of you it reminded me of the knitting Nancy. So I wondered if perhaps that was what had happened with the hair.
Now Lizzie, you have done some research into the hair workers, and there were hair workers here in Victoria, I think and here's a chap who I think is making a merkin, but it does say in the book that this is from, that he is making hair jewellery. And behind him, those rather anatomical looking things are moulds that the hair was placed in to be sort of set into, into a shape, is that right Lizzy?
Lizzie: Yes so that kind of machine that he's using, that's almost like a lace pillow is all, is weighted around the base, so that the braids can, can happen. And it actually then travels down through a little hole in the middle, and it would be worked over a form. So the broach that we're looking at tonight would have been woven with a centre of a kind of rod to kind of keep its, keep its shape.
Caz: So if we have a look at some of the other, the patterns. And, and this here it says Albert's. And, now, in those days an Albert was a watch chain. So these ones here, that sort of braided hair that could be made into a chain, these that—don't look up Albert jewellery on the internet because it doesn't mean that anymore. Penis. A horizontal penis piercing now, which I don't think Miss Drysdale and Miss Newcomb had any knowledge of—so Lizzy, and Louise, these are the other kinds of designs and it, it looks like it was very easily-recognisable that these were sort of patents that people could perhaps go and order.
Lizzie: Well, I managed to find some really lovely information from the Police Gazette, and of course jewellers are often robbed. So, finding a list of a jeweller called Gant. He was a well-known hair-work jeweller in Geelong. He had his premises on Ryrie Street. And he was entering many, many competitions of, you know, of industry and expositions of colonial expositions and so on, and winning gold medals for his work.
And some of the descriptions just from the Intercolonial Exhibition for instance he's making roses and thistles and shamrocks, butterflies, his boomerangs, and waddies, a snake, all sorts of different objects. And when he passes away, his wife takes over from the business, and has her premises in Russell Street and is also exhibiting.
But she's making things like temples and architectural structures. So, these are listed on, in the Police Gazette as being stolen, and as well as just ornamental broaches, colonial gold-work, Alberts. Yeah, so, so quite a variety.
Caz: Wow, that's, that's amazing. That, so, that's just the side of the broach to show you how 3D it is. And you will be able to see it afterwards. We're going to have a look at a few things. But that was one of the things that really surprised me about it because when you see the front of it, it feels flat like a Spirograph. And there's just some more which, which also shows that lyre symbology was very, very common to be used with, with the hair.
That is the back, which I'll just leave up for a moment. So Lizzie, were the hair workers mostly young girls or were they very experienced?
Lizzie: Um well.
Caz: It sounds like quite hard to.
Caz: Weave a temple, and I have heard that there was a tea-set made, I think Louise found it online, out of hair.
Lizzie: So I guess it's get back to that kind of virtuosity and being able to take, take a handcraft and actually sort of excel and display your work. So that's where these sort of exhibitions were really great places for women to sort of show, show their abilities and sort of take some of these tasks and create them into an art form for themselves.
I found the Gant example really interesting because, you know, Henry is exhibiting while he's alive, but then his wife takes over and is exhibiting temples and all sorts of things. So I kind of wondered what the story was there and who was actually doing the work? And who you could actually attribute the hair work part of the jewellery business to? And who actually did the, using the, you know, I guess you can sort of look at it from the hard materials and the soft materials if you wanted to kind of divide it in that way.
The, it is I guess with a lot of these sorts of skills, which required dexterity, small hands are, you know, a necessity. I mean, if you're braiding strands of hair of up to, you know, about six strands, and you're weaving them on that machine, that sort of, device that we saw, you know, you'd have to be quite delicate at your, at your work.
Caz: And Louise, would it with that hair, the way that it's been treated there, would it be springy to the touch? They wouldn't let us touch the brooch. I did want to give it a poke and see if it sort of, you know, had any give in it.
Louise: It is very springy.
Caz: Is it?
Louise: Yeah, if you, if you touch it, it will, yeah, it's kind of how it holds. It gives. It does, it's still hair not in a natural sort of fall. So yes it does have the springiness of hair. I guess it's kind of dead once in comes out of our head anyway, but I just wonder, I've got a secret theory, you see, that this is actually a Shetland pony tail, and I wonder, without actually taking a piece of hair, which I don't think Joe would let us.
Jo: No. There will be no touching of the hair brooch tonight.
Caz: How do we know, or do we just have to kind of believe that it's human hair? What do you think?
Louise: Well, I, I, there was terrible scandal about hair. You can understand that hair weavers might be tempted to replace difficult, they brought, imagine extremely curly hair or.
Caz: Well this is said to be two people's hair and it does…look, look at your face hmm yeah…it does seem very uniform doesn't it to be two. I mean in colour and in consistency, to be…
Louise: Well do, do you want my two cents worth on that?
Caz: I do Louise. I do very much so.
Louise: I think it's one person's hair.
Louise: I think there was a locket in the centre, which you can see very clearly here, which is no longer in there. It would be right for the piece for the era and the style. And I think there was a glazed part in there and I suspect that Caroline's much darker hair would have been in that locket space. And it’s, and it’s gone.
Caz: Cause she was younger where as Ms Drysdale probably had the light hair.
Louise: Because I did loop it and it is in my opinion one person's hair. It's so even.
Caz: Wow, ok. And do you think Mr Patterson did it all himself or sent it to London? Or do you think the work was done in Geelong?
Louise: I think the work was done in Geelong.
Louise: Yep, definitely the gold-work, there were certainly good enough jewellers to execute a piece like this. And I asked my jeweller about it, and after he sort of wiped his brow and said ‘Oh hello, ooh I haven't done’, talking about the sheneers on the back, which are the sort of pipy looking pieces.
Caz: What are they called?
Caz: Sheneers. Yep.
Louise: He said, ‘Oh I haven't had to do anything like that’. And he looked at me and said, ‘Oh two days work’ and then he went ‘make that four’.
Caz: Right. Wow.
Louise: So, yeah, that gives you an idea of how much work would go into it.
Lizzie: And I guess just back to the, sorry Kaz, just back to that idea of is it, is it really their hair what's going on? I brought along a household manual, of course. I can't leave home without it; bringing one of my manuals out with me. It's a Cassell's Household Guide and there's a section on hair work, and it begins with sort of saying, oh, you must learn to do this yourself, so that you don't find yourself swindled and, and, you know, find yourself self-wearing the hair of a stranger.
And certainly the instructions provided are very simple. So it's all platting and curling. Adhering hair to goldbeater’s skin, which was the intestine of a lamb. Doesn't sound very palatable.
Caz: Sounds delightful!
Lizzie: But really, it sort of seemed like the ornate stuff was professional and some of the more simple displays were, were home, were amateur.
Louise: I did find an interesting, a piece of information that was in the middle of the 19th century. 50 tons of human hair a year was imported into England for use by the country's jewellers.
Caz: Do we know where it was from?
Louise: Europe, across Europe.
Caz: Oh, wow, ok. So that's…I'll just leave it on the back for a sec. Now we've got all the experts we need here, so I'm wondering if, if you found something like this in a drawer at home how would you clean something and I'm thinking probably a bit of Spray and Wipe and steel wool. I love saying things like that to Joe.
So Lou, firstly Louise, what, how would you? Would you ever touch it in your profession as jeweller?
Louise: Yeah, yeah, absolutely and, ok, you'd have it with some brass iron. If it's got. Well, well the first thing with this is the lightness of it, so it could easily have a stain spot or something like that.
I would go at it with a cotton-bud and some water, very gently. Just over, over it. And I would do that very slowly over the whole thing. You need it to dry out. You don't want mould. Hair often has mould because it's been immersed at some stage and not dried out properly.
Caz: Oh wow.
Louise: And the gold work, again, probably I would leave it alone. I think oxidized this kind of, because it's textured on the front that actually looks really good with a bit of bloom to it anyway. So I would be tempted to leave that alone. It doesn't need to be bright and shiny and new looking.
Louise: But certainly the hair I would recommend very gentle cause obviously.
Caz: But don't.
Caz: Take it to Louise.
Caz: If you find one.
Louise: Let me do it.
Caz: And Joe, what's the philosophy? What's the theory of the library? Does everything have to be cleaned up and gorgeous? Or do you never? Cause I have seen some broken jewellery in the collection. What's, how do you approach that?
Jo: I think for the library it's about, well, do we need, I mean we try to keep things as authentic as they were or they.
Caz: As they arrive or as they were in their heyday?
Jo: Well probably as they arrive, really. But we also have to make sure that things are able to be handled and stored and displayed. Because, you know, it's no point in us keeping everything in a dark vault and not being able to kind of make it accessible to people. So, a lot of the kind of treatment work that we do is, is around making, being able to make the material accessible. So, and not shiny and pretty accessible, but just so that it can be used or looked at by people.
So with something like this object, again because we are a library and we mainly deal with paper, so we do have conservators who work with our collection material and we mainly have paper conservators, so we would actually get a specialist textiles conservator, or an objects conservator to to do any work on this particular piece of jewellery.
Luckily for us the, the brooch is actually in really good condition. And that's because we've, we've, we've made a great effort to store it quite carefully in a specially made box so that it doesn't have to be handled a lot. So when you see it tonight, you'll see that it has its own box and it has a little tray that we can lift out of the box so that we don't actually have to touch the brooch, because hair is quite fragile.
Caz: And I, in fact I should just, I just want to interrupt, just to say that I have seen even little Safeway lapel badges from the 1970s treated with exactly the same care and, and having their own box. And there, there's a conservator here called Caroline Fraser who makes a beautiful box, everything fits in perfectly. And the ribbons that you can sort of pull the top layer out of and then underneath there's sort of some more things if, if perhaps it's a donation of several things from one person. And it's, it's part of the joy of being able to see that everything is treated with the same respect here, which I think's really interesting.
Jo: I think, yeah, I mean one of the things is that, you know, about, I mean one of the things that Caz and I were talking about when we were talking about the brooches, about how we value objects, or how we value material that comes into our collections, and of course, you know, monetary value is something that does come into play. But for us it's, there's a lot more involved in how we, how we assess material and, and so it’s historical significance. It, it could be association.
So this brooch is really important to us because of its association with Anne and Caroline, who were very interesting women in Victoria's history. Not so much because it's a beautiful object, but obviously, you know, that's important as well. But for us it could be quite, you know, it could be a really ugly piece of jewellery and we would still consider it to be really important because of its association with those two women.
So there's a whole range of things. So, you know, a badge, a Safeway badge can be just as significant to the library, because it might have belonged to someone who was really integral to Victoria's history. And so that's why we would, you know, we would put it in its own beautiful box just as we do with this one.
Caz: And that's, that's what I love about that collection. Is actually from a man who went to Collingwood Tech and he kept his Prefect's Badge and then went to work for Safeway for 35 years, and he kept his the badges that commemorated you know his 10 years, 15, 20. And they were obviously really precious to him, and it shows some of, you know, some more of Melbourne's working history that is not, not so pretty.
So, I just want to show some more things, just quickly, we'll, we'll whip through. But here's some hair jewellery we have in the collection, and Joe will be really familiar with, the things that belonged to Georgiana McCrae who lived down on the peninsula and was an artist.
And bottom right is a miniature that she painted of her dad, the Duke of Gordon, back in Scotland, who was, look, I'm going to say it because I can, he was a mad rooter. And he had three illegitimate children, and that's not in the library catalogue, but it's true. And so, Georgiana was one of them, and she came to Victoria and when he died she painted that portrait. It's in a pendant and about that big and it's actually in the exhibition that I've put together, the little one up on the fifth floor that you can see until November.
And on the back side of that portrait is—it's, it's a terrible photo cause I took it—but you'll have to take my word for it that on the left at the bottom is a basket-weave pattern of Georgiana's own hair on the back of that pendant as a memorial. And up the top, is the legitimate wife of the Duke of Gordon. The Duchess had bracelets made when he died with Jet and real diamonds and the ducal coronet on the top. And that was the top of the bracelet that went there. And then underneath hidden was her hair in a basket-weave pattern.
So they're all at it at the same time, but just in their various ways. And this is another brooch which we'll have a look at afterwards in the foyer. It's in the collection. And, I mean I think partly why hair was so important was that it was a way to connect with people who were gone because they were across the seas and someone had travelled a long, long way away. And it was, it was still quite dangerous to do that, you know? There was, there were no antibiotics, people would drop off from Diphtheria, or Measles, or whatever. So you didn't know whether you were going to see somebody again. So they didn't necessarily have to die for you to make the memorial jewellery.
But then, of course, when photos came along, much more popular later in the 1800s, things like lockets and that beautiful idea of being able to close a locket and have two faces together, which I think is very nice.
And, this, I've had a blog as part of my exhibition, which is about what people wear to show where they belong or to say something. And, so, these earrings that I'm wearing are the ones up on the left, and they're made of Jet and they're from the late 1800s. And I just thought I'd ask Lizzie and Louise, that was such a thing, wasn't it? Jet jewellery, and it, they feel like plastic, they feel really light. And I, when I first saw them, I thought they were, loved them, but that, but, but I particularly loved that they have sort of an industrial cogish kind of look to them.
Caz: Steampunk. But what was the deal with Whitby Jet? Was it discovered at the same time that Victoria lost Albert? Or why was Jet such a thing?
Louise: Yeah, it was, it was pretty close in time. She started to wear it.
Caz: And Whitby is the area in Yorkshire, isn't it, where they dug it out? Yeah, exactly right. Beautiful little town where Dracula landed. The, if you've been there it's so cute. And they still make Jet jewellery there, hugely expensive don't buy it there unless you have to. And its, it's fabulous because it takes a very high shine. And Whitby Jet was particularly fine. You can get Jet from other places, but there was a decent amount of it. They, it attracted then very good carvers, and they made all sorts of things out of it.
So the earrings that you got are interesting for that very geometric shape. When I first saw a chain from the same era. It's probably 1870, it's probably slightly earlier. I got the shock of my life. I thought, ‘oh, this is Deco’. Mm. This is quite a few years ago. And if…
Caz: Oh, she's really good at it now!
Lizzie: I'm much better now. She'd know now.
Louise: But no, there was some very industrial looking pieces in Victorian jewellery around the 1870s.
Lizzie: And I've also heard that you can tell real Jet by licking it? That it has a certain, because I guess there were other kind of natural polymers that were available at the time, like Gutter Percher and Vulcanite and those sorts of things.
Caz: Which are rubber, aren't they?
Lizzie: Yeah, and also had a kind of plasticky, sort of Jet-like…
Louise: They feel quite different. Jet feels harder, but lighter. Those other things have a softer feel to them. They also don't take that real shiny black. They're not quite as bright and shiny.
Lizzie: And we've got a lot of fake jet in the Trust's costume collection. And I remember I won't mention who, another curator mentioned that she had heard that you can tell the whether Jet was real by licking it. And I just wanted to know whether that was true? It would be quite inert, I mean its fossilised coal.
Caz: Yeah. I'll lick mine later and I'll report back.
Oh, see, we're, we're going to be talking until three in the morning. But down in the bottom left is a fabric poppy, about 1919, in the collection. And bottom, bottom right is a tiny badge about that big that looks quite modern, looks like it's sort of perhaps the bass player in Elvis Costello's band, but it was an actor called Max Clifton in the early 1900s. And, and that badge was passed down through his family as a memorial.
And here's, we'll be seeing these afterwards too. I just put these in because lovely metal and saved from the picture collection who also looks after objects, and Joe said that we could so that was exciting.
Cause, there are things that you'll see tonight that won't be on show possibly for years again, because once they come out they have to go back for their own protection. But these were sort of do-it-yourself lapel badges with the colours of the English flag on the left. Dardanelles 1915, and then of course Gallipoli 1915 as well. And this was a badge I found early on during my project, and it was a badge given to mums who had sons in the war. And you got one star along the bar for every son who died. And there was a very different reaction, some women wore them proudly and some women threw them in the bin. So, I thought that was really interesting as another form of memorial.
And here in the collection there are lots of textiles. And although there isn't a textile conservator, there are a few textiles in the, my exhibition upstairs. We, we got a conservatory in. And but, there was some things that I couldn't show and one of them was this, because it's in such bad nick. It's a morning cape and a little bit of an outfit. And you can see down in the bottom left, just a little—again a very bad photo, I didn't know they were going to be blown up on stage—but you can see the little Jet buttons and the lace. And I learned this word ‘top left’ that when the fabric is rent it's called ‘shattered’. Which, it does look a bit shattered. And Lizzie, you work a lot with, with costume and, and textiles. Will, will this sort of thing just stay in a box forever because it's so very fragile now?
Lizzie: Yes, once the shattering starts it's irreversible unless, you know, you've kept something in pristine condition and it's been in perfect, perfect in museum environment and it hasn't started the shattering process. You know, it's really, it's irreversible and it's inherent in the textile.
From the, in the late 19th Century. Of course, silk has always been sold by weight. And textile, silk was weighted with mineral salts that in, in, in the baths would create tin, a tin compound. So the fibres were all impregnated with these salts and over…
Caz: So, it's actually a metallic fabric, even though it's not shiny.
Lizzie: Yeah. It, it gives it a kind of scoop, a sort of froufrou, a weight. And so it could be sold and, you know, swindle people, because, of course, you're paying more for something that's an inferior quality. Or you could buying for its actual feel and the sound, the froufrou sound it might make, and…
Caz: The froufrou sound.
Lizzie: Well, you know,
Caz: No, I love it.
Louise: Like rusting petticoat
Lizzie: You know, when you, when you rub silk together, that rustling sound.
Caz: Yeah, yeah.
Lizzie: And of course, you know, over time it just turns the silk to powder. What is also quite troubling when this sort of occurs, and I'd advise wearing a mask, is that you can't always be certain that the right mineral salts were used, because a lot of people used lead and it would poison the wearer. And then you've got the added sort of chemical soup of the aniline dyes, which were sometimes fixed with arsenic. So umm.
Caz: Great. Snugly. And speaking of aniline dyes, because one of the first ones was mauve, wasn't it, and purple, and. When I looked at this dress, which is in the collection. And they come down in flat, in huge boxes that are about that tall and, you know, way long, from the storage in Ballarat. It's terribly exciting, and then you take off the lid and there, you know, there's crackling tissue paper. And there was this darling lying face down in the box for the last 100 and so years. And I was, I got it out because I knew it was mauve from the catalogue, and I thought it must be a half mourning dress, because Victoria, Queen Victoria, sort of decreed that it should be black and then grey or mauve, but it turns out to be a wedding dress. So it's not always what it seems. You have to know a bit more history.
We have to move on so that we've got time for questions. But, I just wanted to ask all of you, I know that it was considered that mourning was a fetish after Prince Albert died. Do you think all these things that we've been looking at are, umm, are weird? Or do you think it's just different in different times? That now we have tattoos, or we have Facebook pages or, you know, do, do you feel that this is something that somebody might do now, I guess, Joe? You know.
Jo: I mean, I don't. I don't think it's weird.
Caz: She does really.
Jo: I mean maybe the, the, the hair thing seems a bit odd. But, I guess it's, because of, I mean I must admit when I first saw the brooch I didn't realise that working with hair was such an industry at that time and that it was actually quite common to have different pieces of, you know, whether it was the Albert, or a brooch, or other, or bracelets made out of hair.
But I guess, you know, things, personal objects that have some, you know, real strong connection to an individual is something that you see throughout our collection and they come from all periods of time. So, yeah, I don't see that as being weird. And I think, you know, contemporary society does it as well, whether it's, whether it's something that they wear on their body, as in the form of a tattoo, or a piercing, or…
Caz: Like armband.
Jo: Yeah, or, or it's, you know, or it's, you know, the, the friendship bracelets and things that, you know, I remember from when I was a teenager and we all, you know, wore them. So, I think, I don't think it's weird.
Caz: And actually, so that we can get the questions in. I'm just going to get a little bit vulgar and ask Louise, if somebody turned up with this for you to sell and you popped it in the window of the French Jewel Box. What would the tag say?
Louise: Ok, I, without provenance, because obviously with the provenance it wouldn't end up with me. Umm. I would be probably putting somewhere around $2,500 on it.
Caz: Ok. And Lizzy what do you think it might have been worth back in the day? To have this made?
Lizzie: Mm, I think it might have been between £5 and £10.
Caz: Which would be what now do you think?
Lizzie: Oh, I don't like these questions I can never…
Caz: No, I know it is vulgar.
Lizzie: Oh, I, I, would say that that was. I mean if you think that a working man's weekly wage in to mid-to-late was about a pound or something or other. So you know you put that into context and it's an expensive.
Caz: That's two months wages.
Lizzie: Yeah, yeah.
Caz: Yeah. And Joe have you insured it?
Caz: Are you going to tell us how much for?
Jo: No, I can't tell you how much, cause it, we have a, basically we have insurance for our entire collection, so.
Caz: I imagine that you just get a form and write ‘everything's priceless’ on it.
Jo: Everything. I mean obviously the broach is priceless to us and it's interesting because we don't actually have an individual evaluation for this particular collection item.
Jo: It's never been out. Well, as far as I can tell it's never actually gone out on exhibition externally. It's been on exhibition here in our own building.
Caz: But didn't it go to Ballarat for the Scottish exhibition?
Jo: I don't, I don't know that it did or.
Caz: Oh, ok.
Jo: So, so that would be a point where we would get it valued.
Caz: I'm guessing you don't just call a taxi.
Jo: No, no we have very rigorous processes. Yeah. And hopefully no one from our conversation department is here and cringing at this point in time guys.
Caz: Oh, they're always cringing when I ask them things.
Jo: But no, it's so…we don't actually have a value amount for that particular item. And it, so I was quite interested to sort of hear what Louise would sell it for as an unprovenanced item, and then what we might then add to that considering that, you know, it's got all that history associated with it.
Caz: Well, before we all go out and have a look, cause I was reminded too of I think that you, that some people can use the remains of a loved one to be compressed into a diamond.
Louise: We have set one.
Caz: Oh, ok, so there you go. Oh, that's got the biggest gasp of the night, hasn't it?
Well, on that cheery note we might go out and have a look at the objects. But please do check out the exhibitions, both upstairs and downstairs. And before we go, I just want to say thankyou so much to the Library, to Pete on sound, to Zoe and Harry on door. Thank you to Tara Christian Palet for organising the whole shebang and doing some research herself.
A wonderful panel, all of whom have done independent research, well, all their lives, but particularly for this evening. So thankyou for coming.
And if we could thank Joe, Louise, and Lizzy as well.
Thankyou so much.
Manuel Warosz: A very monumental and old building, historical, in a big city. The first time it was in the Grand Palais, which was a beginning of the 20th century building. Very large, approximately the same, same scale for the place we were. So, I think that we were unaccustomed to this kind of space. And it was a challenge and very interesting to, to work well with this kind of monumental space.
Anais Lellouche: I'm curious to know how much architecture this space itself will influence what you make, what you create. Are you inspired by the architecture?
Manuel: For sure the architecture is very inspirational. This artwork couldn't, could not be done anywhere else. Every little bit of light and every colour and every composition is completely composed by the space.
Antoine Audiau: The thing is that the work is meant for this architecture. It was the same as Le Grand Palais and, and the thing, and the weird thing in a way, it's only meant for this place and only for one night.
Manuel: Yeah, and after this one, this night, nobody would be able see such a work. And if we have to work anywhere else, because the atmosphere, because…
Antoine: The mentality, you have to experience this.
Manuel: It would be very different. Maybe we could use the same inspirations, but it would be completely different because here you have arches, you have balconies, you have certain heights and when you are down and you look up you, you have only one experience possible. You, you, you can't have it anywhere else.
Antoine: And it's a mix between the void, the voids and the plane.
Antoine: You know the, the walls and the, the emptiness.
Manuel: Of course.
Antoine: And the, the structure of the work and how it's, how it's made.
Manuel: The, the title of the artwork is Eat Me. It’s based on the Alice in Wonderland story. And in…we…so we found this title. First it was Drink Me.
Manuel: Because it was so funny that an object can talk to you.
So maybe we tried to make object talk to you in a different way here and if you look closer to the work you, you'll see cakes that we bought in a French patisserie and we made them live like, like, not, not like beings.
Antoine: You know, like creatures.
Manuel: Yeah, they are, they're living. They’re are like organs also. Like living like organs.
So this time we were very happy to meet a musician. It was the first time for us to have this kind of experience. Usually we work with images and we always feel that, we feel that music is missing. When we look at the pictures and when we watched the videos something is missing. And this time we had the opportunity with Anais to meet a great musician and we worked together and it was fantastic.
It's an honour to be asked by the Murray-Smith family, to follow many distinguished speakers, in remembering the life of Stephen Murray-Smith, as we do this evening.
It strikes me that he and his wife Lita lived a very Melbourne life, even allowing for the happy escapes to Aerith and Bass Strait and the family base being at Mt Eliza.
The Murray-Smiths drank deep from the pleasures of urban life and in turn, because of their smarts and their style, they undeniably boosted the pulse rate of Melbourne in the post-war years.
They must have been grand days.
For a young returned serviceman, one of patrician bearing but egalitarian temperament, to engage with some very different Australians. The newly arrived Jewish émigrés, among them Stephen's future wife Anita, they were all there on the campus of the University of Melbourne. Alive to the possibilities of life, intellectually precocious, challenging themselves and everyone else, and above all intensely political.
Stephen's initial chosen path would be the god that failed. He was an early apostate. Good for him. But he paid a price in being shunned by some who would take decades to arrive at a similar position. No doubt it left its mark, but Stephen would go on to become, in Joanna's memorable phrase, ‘A missionary for the imagination’.
A historian, a literary editor, a great promoter of the talent of others through his editorship of Overland and always a teacher.
Did Stephen, I wonder, consciously think of himself as an educator? He certainly appears to have understood that we learn best from those we love.
Joanna's recollections are of a dad who put her to bed each night by reading the stories of Henry Lawson. Years later, in pursuing her own brilliant career, she realised that among other things, she'd absorbed important detail about structure and pace. Then there was the careful cultivation of an artistic sensibility. Joanna also recalls that the necessary accompaniment for trip, for a trip to the opera, the ballet, or the theatre, was a mini-tutorial by Stephen or Nita on the life of Mozart or some foundational points about the plays of Beckett or Osborne. They were quite consciously helping shape Joanna's aesthetic.
Australian contemporary drama, I think, can be grateful that the Murray-Smiths never favoured the fuzzy and increasingly forlorn idea that Joanna just might pick it up as she went along. Which brings me to my theme tonight, and if Stephen's ghostly presence joins us this evening, I wouldn't be surprised. I suspect he would have robust ideas on the subject of modern education.
Now, as Jill said, I've been working on a book that I've titled Class Act. I've been doing that work for about, really about the last two years.
I had the opportunity, first of all as a federal MP, to spend a lot of time in schools in the Northwest of Sydney, and it was really one of the highlights of the job. I also had a key role to play in shaping public policy on early childhood. And it is gratifying to see that changes that were put in place in 2008, the Early Years Learning Framework, which I spent a lot of time on, and the National Quality Standards, that they are still standing today and indeed have been endorsed by a group as hard-headed and as budget conscious as the Productivity Commission.
In writing Class Act, I had a couple of goals in mind. Primarily, a practical one. I wanted to document the specific approaches that schools are taking to transform themselves. To lift the academic achievement of all students and where teachers follow the mantra of Professor John Hattie, ‘Know thy impact’.
The elaborate song and dance act that teachers might put on in front of their students really counts for naught if they are unaware of what it is that students are learning. So the critical questions to be asked in the classroom, and in effective schools this is what's happening, the critical questions are around student growth and challenge. What's been absorbed? Can you explain this concept to others? How do you get to the next phase of learning? How to go deeper, rather than just do more of the same?
Now, you might have noticed that a few of these questions form part of the public education debate. As in so many areas of public policy, we are stuck in pretty useless binary debates. Whole language versus phonics, public versus private, autonomy versus command and control, and so on. These are all secondary issues. What matters is what's working. How we can replicate success across what is now a very fragmented sector and how we get a system-wide lift.
We need that lift because there really are some red lights flashing. The international data, the PEARLS and PISA tests show that we have a wide gap between our top performers and our lowest achievers, a gap that many of the top-performing countries manage to bridge. Well, actually, they don't allow that gap to emerge, because they intervene early.
Equally worrying, and quite puzzling to many, is the fact that since the start of the century our best students are trending down. Now, there's another statistic that I find the most depressing of all. In surveys conducted among Australia's primary school children, a worrying 45% say they only read if they have to.
You think about that. The keys to the kingdom, the world of intellectual discovery that meant so much to the Stephen Smiths, that is closed to these children because most only begrudgingly pick up a book.
It's why one of the Class Act stories that I love concerns Garran Public School in the ACT, because they did something quite revolutionary. There are no basic readers. There's no basic or standard anything at that school. They teach children to read, wait for it, by putting the best and most emotionally engaging literature in front of them. As a result, Garran is able to get more of its students into the top achievement bands than most others in the country. And at Garran, 80% of students say they read for the love of it. At Garran they also have a policy of only employing teachers who understand functional grammar.
I know you're gasping.
A real class act in education would be if we could have national figures that more closely resembled that of Garran. Now, in order to do that we need to get some fundamentals right.
Only this week, a friend of mine, a highly qualified math teacher, she quit a regional Victorian high school where she's been teaching, mainly because the school has such a lackadaisical attitude towards something as basic as attendance. Year 10 attendance levels can be as low as 60%. Now, this is discussed in a kind of relaxed way in the classroom, ‘Oh, sorry’ in the staff room, but there's no strategy in place to deal with it. To state the obvious, if the kids aren't there, you can't teach them.
There are things you can do to ensure that children attend regularly and they are in place in some of the poorest areas in the country.
Now, fortunately, my friend has not been lost to teaching. She's relocated to another very low SES school here in the city, and it's a place that actually puts a premium on attendance, on achievement, and growth in student and professional practice. But that regional high school that she's quit, more than likely, they've dragged in the PE teacher who's now attempting to teach maths.
Now, I want to stress that I have not come up in my book with a unique, I'm sorry, a piece of unique scholarship, but I have applied my narrative skills to the mountain of reports, the mountain of documentation that's been compiled over the years, all looking at what works and how we can apply those lessons.
You won't be surprised to hear that what I found is that it's a complex story. You can get some quick wins, but lifting academic performance and sustaining that performance is a whole lot more intricate than just getting a bit of a kick in NAPLAN.
Now my starting point is to celebrate success. To acknowledge the quite exceptional efforts that are happening right here in our major cities and in schools where children in some cases are bringing themselves up. Either that or they come from families where there is very little social capital and certainly not much geographic mobility.
The most shameful part of our education story as many of you would know is the extreme social segregation now of our schools and for poor children that means all sorts of things. They don't travel past the State Library every day. They don't get to see the Italian Masters at the NGV. More often than not, you are told of these schools that a lot of suburban kids don't even come to the city. That physical isolation has an effect on how you view the world and how ambitious you're likely to be.
I was at St. Alban's School, St. Alban's Secondary College a few months ago, and through one of their partnerships they had organised a trip to the city for the Year 7 children. And I was told one little boy looked out at the CBD towers as they drove across the West Gate Bridge and said, ‘Sir, is that New York?’ I hope his teacher said, ‘No son, New York has a better transport system’.
So what does a successful school look like? Well with the exception of one school I've written, and that's Garin, I've written five case studies of what we can call turnaround schools. Now these are places where, before major, whole school improvement took place, nothing was going on in the academic department. Children were being looked after. A lot of pastoral care. Teachers felt sorry for these children. They did their best, but not much else.
I'll mention a couple of things that are common to all these schools. Leadership is absolutely critical. Leadership that sets the bar high, sets a plan, finds the resources to back that plan, and follows through with effective implementation with the whole team. And we've got a wonderful asset here in Melbourne, we've got the Bastow Learning Institute in North Melbourne, which is doing really some fine work in this regard.
Schools, as I say, are complex places and the skills required to lead can be learned. The starting point is to recognise that getting promoted to the position of Principal is the first point. That doesn't necessarily equate to you automatically having the leadership skills.
In all the cases that I have documented, you have leaders who push and push. They push themselves, they push their teaching staff, and they push the system. They test the limits of their authority all the time. Not because of some power trip, but because they want to address significant educational deficits.
Now this kind of leadership does mean unsettling the status quo.
When Mark McConvel took over the very troubled Toronto High School on the New South Wales Central Coast, he thought he would take about 12 months to take a good look around before he started his change program. Well that idea went out the window in the first week, just after he called for a look at the learning plans for all subject areas and at the curriculum documents, pretty standard. Well, there was almost a riot among staff, and when McConvel got to the bottom of it and got all his staff behind a closed door he found out just how poorly organised the school was. In some Year 12 subjects, there was no curriculum plan. What was worse, some teachers didn't even seem too embarrassed about this. And by the way, I'm talking about the period of seven or eight years ago, not 20 years ago. Toronto had a dismal academic record but that has changed, and I say in about seven or eight years, now around 40% of those students from Toronto go on to university, about another 30% go on to TAFE.
To start with something even more basic, that of the personal safety of staff and students. I spent time over in Perth. A wonderful school, Roseworth Primary, and a better model of integrated schooling. It's a bit like a Scandinavian model, where the health, the social and the educational needs of children and parents are met. They really have brought it all together. But again, very, very different about a decade ago.
When Geoff Metcalf started there as Principal, no teaching was possible because the place was so violent. Teachers just hunkered down. Either that or they were too afraid to even get out of their cars in the morning. Because standard practice was that local families—my, my, editor kept questioning me when I had this in my initial draft. She said, ‘Are you serious? Local families who are actually coming into the school during the day. Certainly at lunch time and continuing their inter-family feuds in front of children?’—Well, that was tolerated. It wasn't tolerated for long by Geoff Metcalf, who literally put his own safety at risk, at first by staring down the worst of the offenders and then by setting new rules and enforcing them.
Now a huge help, and this is where the resourcing matters, a huge help was a complete redesign of the school with supervised entrances and exits. Roseworth now picks up Safe School awards, but it's taken a lot of years, some critical partnerships, because no schools transform themselves without critical partners, and very purposeful leadership.
In the case of Metcalf, he was driven by a very basic idea. The children deserve a slice of normality. A safe environment where they can be taught and where performance can be lifted.
Now that kind of leadership is always allied to a particular ambition. All of the effective principals I've interviewed have big ambitions for their schools. They all repeat that much quoted line that by trying to overcome the soft bigotry of low expectations, time and time again they still come up against the view in poor schools that ‘well, these kids can't cope with much’.
Maria Karvouni, in this town, heard all of that when she took on the principalship At Charles La Trobe. When she looked at an analysis of how students spent their time, and again, this was only five years ago. When she looked at this analysis for how students spent their time, she found that far more time was spent in PE than in English. Yet most of the students had extremely poor vocabularies and exceptionally poor writing skills. When she, when she queried these priorities she was told, ‘well, this is what suits the kids. It's where they're happy’. It didn't suit Maria Karvouni. She changed the timetable, put a major emphasis on literacy at all levels and got rid of the dumbed-down electives, junked the lot of them. This is another theme that comes through.
She's interested in challenging her students, not in feeling sorry for them. A migrant herself, she remembers the public schools of her day where she was pushed to do better, and that's what she's been doing at Charles La Trobe. You visit today and they'll take you to a philosophy class for Year 9 students where they practice Socratic dialogue. Attendance is up, behaviour is not the problem it was, and the school is no longer bypassed by parents because of the poor reputation of the school.
So leadership, ambition and that brings me to the third element, rich content. Give the kids the good stuff, where else are they going to get it?
In schools that are stretching their students. In secondary schools they're ensuring a broad range of subject offerings and in primary schools they're getting rid of the idea that you give your poorest performers the low calibre readers with the baby vocabularies. Turnaround schools are doing the reverse.
We know that a child's vocabulary is one of the best predictors of success at school. So smart schools are ensuring that young children are exposed to rich literature.
I've interviewed—it's one of my favourite chapters—I've interviewed a University of Canberra academic by the name of Misty Adoniou. Wonderful name, isn't it? I recommend her very lively, and in some cases quite iconoclastic pieces, in the conversation, if you, if you look through the conversation regularly.
Misty is prepared to say out loud what many won't. That too many of our children are falling through the cracks because teachers don't have the tools to help them to develop sophisticated language. So she teaches pre-service teachers functional grammar. And she doesn't do it the old way, you know the noun, verb, predicate. She hit on something again, quite radical, she takes teachers through the wonders of the English language by getting them to read and reflect on great children's literature. Who would've thought it?
One of her favourites is the book by Margaret Wild, Fox, if there are any teachers here. And she takes students through, you know, Margaret Wild’s language line-by-line, talking about the adverbial phrases, why writers use language in the way they do.
She also runs, she's actually run off her feet doing this, she runs seminars across the ACT and increasingly across the country, and she calls this 10 things that every teacher needs to know about the English language. She goes through simple compound, complex sentences, you know, how many tenses in English, what's ellipses, you know. By morning tea, the kind of the, the grammar if you like, what we say the grammar bores, the people who think they know everything, are sounding, you know, a little bit shaky.
The point is not to be a grammar fundamentalist but to give children, guess what, an important framework. And it's poor children who don't get to hear rich language and they surely deserve the same repertoire of language as children from affluent homes.
The final feature I'll mention from the schools I see as successful is that they have a lot of respect for the people at the heart of the system, the students. Now, I know everyone says this, you know, it's about the students. But you have to see a school that takes seriously the idea of student voice, before you appreciate this point. And I mentioned St. Albans again, here in Melbourne. It used to be one of the schools I mentioned; a lot of fluffy care but lousy results.
And I have to say that people who, you know, who've engineered the change say this about themselves, which is very interesting.
We know that it turns out that it was St Albans students who actually thought that they were getting a pretty mediocre education. We know this because St Albans did a very bold thing and actually asked the entire student body what they thought of the place. This is a very big school about thousand students, years 7 to 12, and they conducted forums right across the student cohort. The students took the exercise very seriously. It turned out they were acutely conscious of the fact that they were at a low-performing school. They mentioned the fact that many teachers turned up late for class with no organised learning plan, that they rarely provided feedback, and more than not set homework that was never marked.
Now, in the hands of someone else this might have caused a bit of an industrial relations meltdown, when the feedback went back to the staff. But with Carrie Dosley as Principal, someone who had been at that school for a very long time, she managed the very difficult conversations with the faculty about the response of students.
Kerry then took a second step. She went back to the students and she asked them what they thought a high-expectations environment would look like. Back came the answers. The students wanted order, structure, clear guidelines and teaching of the curriculum. They didn't want to go into exams and be surprised by what they encountered. Above all, they ordered specific feedback and feedback about how to get to the next stage, you know, how to keep on learning. This is all the stuff that is invisible learning. The product of Professor John Hattie's immense research over 20 or 30 years.
Well, needless to say, you cannot conduct an exercise like that and not act on it. So, of all the lower SES schools I've looked at St. Albans really has achieved the most consistent uplift in results, because they have acted on this. And I invite you to read the chapter. It's most interesting, I think, in the precision and the detail that the school has applied, but it has not happened in five minutes. It's really been a 20 year process at that school, marked again by intelligent leadership, a high-level of collegiality and significant ambition. The result is a huge pride in what's been achieved and a culture of consistent improvement.
So lead, be ambitious, challenge students and above all listen to them.
I could mention many other things, and I've heard some exceptional stories over the last couple of years, but I'll just go to the end point. As I go around schools, I find myself thinking a lot about the world that young people are being tipped out into. Excuse me. For those of you, I think with teenage children or young adult children or grandchildren, it is a compelling question. Degrees have never been more expensive and about to become more so. Apart from the professions, and even there we are going to see a lot of disruption, but whether it's a straight bachelor degree, a combined degree or a masters, graduates are finding the labour market a very difficult place to negotiate.
Many are in jobs that have nothing to do with their area of expertise. So the post-GFC world is a very different beast. We're seeing plenty of creative destruction, because of massive changes in technology. More and more, the expectation being that young people are required to create their own work. How many times have we heard this? That's fine for the entrepreneurial types, but what about the others?
We've always had a mixed record on innovation in this country, and I don't see much evidence that in schools we’re any more savvy about nurturing a future generation of creators and inventors. It's why there is huge interest in what Sir Ken Robinson talks about in his TED Talk lectures on education; the importance of building and encouraging the creative potential of our young people. He claims to have had something like 20 million hits on his TED Talk. The one, I think its entitled How Schools Kill Creativity. And as he says, the fact that so many people have downloaded and looked at this video suggests that a lot of people feel, you know, badly done by in terms of their education.
At the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, where I've spent a good deal of time over the last two years, Professor Patrick Griffin has had nearly 20,000 students across the globe sign up to his online moot course on 21st century skills and those skills that emphasise collaboration and creative problem solving.
And you might say, what's new about this? I bet Stephen Murray-Smith did that a bit of that in his time. Certainly, many of the big breakthroughs in science and elsewhere have come from an ability to work and share data and to systematically work through problems. But this is now an issue not just for scientists in the labs, but an issue for the wider workplace. As Pat Griffin says, some of the big global corporates, the Intel’s, the Microsoft's, they've backed the 21st century schools project, because they want to hire people who can work out what the problem is in the first place. And they have significant skill shortages because too few individuals can effectively work like this.
It’s why I think we might see a revival in the study of the humanities. As long as they are challenging courses, they can help extend the ability of young people to synthesise their arguments and to understand the power of language and concepts. Humanities studies teach people how to play with possibilities and how to be comfortable with ambiguity. And if you look at some of the inertia in either I think our commercial arenas or in this country or in government, boy do we need people who can imagine alternative ways of solving problems.
One of the more interesting things I've read on the subject has come from a column written by Tom Friedman, the New York Times columnist. And it was, it was done about six months ago. It's one that gets passed around a lot. What Friedman did, he interviewed the Vice President of People Operations, don't you like that, for Google, who made some very interesting points. He said, ‘For every job, the number one thing we look for is general cognitive ability and that's not IQ, its learning ability. The ability to process on the fly and we assess that using structured behavioural interviews that we validate to make sure that they're predictive. Ongoing learning ability’. Very, very interesting. And, and Friedman concludes that column by saying, ‘Beware’, this is his message to young people, ‘Beware, your degree is not a proxy for your ability to do any job. The world only cares about and pays off on what you can do with what you know.’ I think they might be right.
So to conclude, I'm hoping that my little work Class Act is something of a catalyst for some different discussions about what success looks like, about how we can create a richer set of opportunities for all of our young people, and particularly, about how we can apply a more consistent policy approach to one of our most compelling national issues.
Thankyou very much Jill. And it's such a great pleasure and delight to be, to be with everyone here tonight in such a fabulous space. It's just fabulous. I haven't been in here before, but to be covered in books in a room like this is very uplifting. And I have to say, as someone who's never had a TV—I didn't have one growing up, I don't have one now, but instead I have a reading room—it's fabulous to be surrounded by books. I feel like I'm at home. My kids are still trying to work out what kind of dysfunctional family they live in that we don't have a TV. But anyway, that's another conversation.
But thankyou so much Christine and Jill for that lovely introduction. And I also want to acknowledge Sue Roberts, the CEO of the library who's doing such a great job in directing and progressing the State Library of Victoria.
I've been Australia's Sex Discrimination Commissioner now for seven years and it's an incredible privilege this role. It's a job that takes me from 200 meters under the ocean in a submarine, to the United Nations in New York, to spending time with survivors of acid attack in Bangladesh, to camping out with aboriginal women in the beautiful Kimberley, to the abattoirs and boardrooms of Australia, to the White House, NATO, the Pentagon, and everywhere in between. I mean there's no other job like this, I have to say.
And that's the tremendous privilege of this role. That every day I get to work with people, whether they're business people, refugee women, defence-force personnel, women of faith, aboriginal women, survivors of domestic violence, every day I meet inspiring individuals who are committed to using whatever influence they have to create change in Australia.
And, I have to say, one of the great joys of the role is also the ability to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. So I want to acknowledge that we're meeting here on traditional lands, the lands of the Kulin nation, and to pay my respects to aboriginal elders, past and present, and to really recognise this strong advocacy for equality over the generations.
Next week, some of you will know, on the 25th of November we mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It's a day that heralds 16 days of activism to eradicate violence against the women, violence against women and their children across the world. And one of the things that I do during this period of 16 days of activism is I start every speech with a story about violence against women. I don't care whether I'm speaking at a financial services conference, telecommunications, aviation, security, that's what I start with because I think we need to really bring this into the conversation.
And it's inspiring to be here in Victoria, because I think of all the states and territories in Australia, Victoria is absolutely doing the most in this area.
So did you know that there are more women living in an intimate relationship characterised by violence than malnourished people in the world? I know that because I recently attended the World Bank's board meeting on gender, I sit on the gender board, and this is data coming through from the World Health. Yes, that's about 980 million women, almost 1 billion.
And if I bring that back down into Australia. There's currently 1.2 million women who are either living in an intimate relationship characterised by physical violence—and we know domestic violence is much wider than that—or have recently done so. And you'll know the data as well as me that more than one woman a week is murdered by her intimate partner, about 75 a year. And, I have to say having spent the day with Rosie Batty yesterday and then going home and turning on the TV and seeing a woman in Sydney who had been attacked with a garden implement in her front garden and murdered on the day, it just keeps bringing it home just how pervasive these issues are.
But small actions can have a powerful impact. Two years ago now, I delivered the Vincent Fairfax Oration. I delivered in every state and territory around Australia and I chose to speak about the overlap between domestic violence and workplaces. And one of the women attending, Margo, she rang me the next day, she attended my speech in Sydney. She told me that following my speech, she'd called her staff together, and she's a very senior manager in one of the large banks in Australia. She has responsibility for many staff. She said, ‘Liz, I called them together and I told my staff that today I wanted to speak about something different. I wanted to talk about domestic violence, the prevalent starter, the lived experience. And I started by recounting my own story. A story I've never told before’. She told the story of growing up in a violent household, of wiping the blood off her mother's face, of taking her to hospital, of the shame and the silence. And she said to her staff, ‘Now I want you to do one thing. I want you to go back to your desk and tell everyone in the bank my story. Because in that small way maybe I can make it easier for someone to tell theirs’. And I have to tell you that that bank is now a leader in its response around domestic violence. So I think it speaks to courageous small actions that create change.
But I've had a busy last few weeks, I have to say. Three weeks ago I was in Korea on a floating island in the middle of the Han River, to be precise, and I had the opportunity to address the World Federation of Security Exchanges. So these are CEOs who lead securities exchanges in nations all across the world. And in that room were 85 men and five women. Between them, they were responsible for 98% of traded assets across the world. And we talked about the research which showed that gender diversity, particularly at the senior levels, delivers better outcomes for any organisation. We talked about the social norms that constrain not just women but also men in nations across the world, including Australia. And we agreed that stock exchanges, security exchanges as key economic players in nations could have a multiplier impact if they really set out to embrace gender-diversity.
Imagine if every exchange in the world used their influence in the way that the Australian Securities Exchange has. And you may see, we've had a doubling of the number of women on boards in the last two years. That's a result of systemic intervention in the Australian Securities Exchange.
And just two days ago, just today is…isn't Tuesday…I'm trying to work out. But really, two days ago I returned from visiting our armed forces in the Middle East, and then working with NATO up in Europe. And once again the challenge was to engage powerful men, military leaders, not just in our own armed forces in deployed environments—and I have to say how professional our deployed environments are—but also to engage men, military leaders, in NATO nations and to help them understand that how we treat women in military environments is directly linked to capability.
In NATO, as in many other military environments, I have to say it's very much a work in progress. For example, if you look at NATO, which is now around 75 years old, there have been 15 Secretary Generals of NATO, no women. If you look at who heads the member states. Over the years there’s 56 heads of member states, not one of them is a woman. And I thought it was an interesting contrast because we have the data for the CIA, and I don't know if anyone watches Homeland here, but 46% of people in the CIA are women, which I found quite fascinating. And maybe part of that picture is the success of you know public, or productions like Homeland, where we see very visible senior women carrying out important work, because one thing I know for sure is that it's hard to be what you can't see.
So these recent work-assignments have once again reinforced for me something that I've become more and more convinced of over the seven years that I've been Australia's Sex Discrimination Commissioner. And that is that if we are to deliver equality for women we actually have to focus on men. I now also understand that to move men from just being interested in this subject to actually taking strong action, we need to make the case for change personal. We have to engage both their heads and their hearts.
So, you might say to me, ‘Well why are we focusing on men?’ Well, the fact is in nearly every nation in the world, every institution and organisation, whether you’re looking at Australia, the United Arab Emirates, the Middle East, Korea, Spain, it doesn't matter, men hold the levers of power in nations and organisations.
When men step up beside women, not speak for us, but step up beside us, to take action with us, that's what accelerates our path towards a more gender-equal future. And why do we need to make it personal? Well, one thing I've learned is that when you take the case for change from people's heads to their hearts, that's when individuals feel compelled to take action.
So tonight that's what I want to explore with you. I want to look at two different case studies of how we have engaged men, and how we've taken the case for change from their head to their heart. And I'll do that first by examining the military and then looking in corporate environments.
So take a moment, if you will, to imagine a world where every private conversation you ever had is made public. A world where your most intimate secrets are spread far and wide across the Internet. And I have to say, the fact is, we already live in that connected world, where sexualised imagery and words are everywhere. We live in a world where the capability to transmit intimate sexual images is but one click away. And sadly, I have to say, from what I see, the transmission is not always with the consent of the other party involved.
And this was a case at ADFA, the Australian Defence Force Academy two years ago, or nearly three years ago now, when there was an incident, which you may have heard about, an incident of sexual misconduct which was called the Skype incident. It was an incident which involved two cadets having consensual sex in one room. What she didn't understand was that that was being broadcast live via Skype to his mates in an adjoining room. And after the incident broke on Australian television, and as a young cadet anonymously told her story, the community outrage was quite palpable. I mean everyone had a view. Was it about university students and cadets performing badly? Or was this something more sinister? Was this about the marginalisation and sexualisation of women in Australia's military?
And that was the world into which I was unexpectedly drawn when the Minister for Defence asked me if I would conduct a review into the treatment of women in Australia's Defence Force. The review was extensive. We have visited, I've visited more than 60 military establishments, not just here in Australia, but I have spent time underwater submarines, above water in frigates and war ships, travelled in tanks and armoured vehicles, Blackhawk helicopters, C17, C130s, and have been beyond the wire in Afghanistan up in the mountains and valleys of Oruzgan Province, in the Middle East, as well as elsewhere across the Middle East. So, over the periods, we've spoken to thousands of defence force members.
And as I travelled across Australia and beyond, a great many people told me stories. And I have to say, most of the stories were about how the Australian Defence Force had served their people so very well. I have to say, it's a great privilege to work with the Defence Force, but it's also a priority. Because on occasion, others told me quite distressing stories. Stories that had really never been told before. And that's when it occurred to me that whilst it was important for me to document these stories, because I was tabling several reports in the parliament, what was more important was that those who had power to create change in the system, and there I'm talking about military men, that they heard firsthand the personal narrative. Not only did they hear the case for change but they actually felt the case for change.
So I flew in women from all across Australia, many with their mothers, so that our chiefs of Air Force, Army, Navy, Vice Chief and others could hear what extreme exclusion feels like. What it's like to be on exercise for four months when no one speaks to you. What it's like to be sexually assaulted by your instructor, who's the very person you go to for advice. What it's like to have your career trashed because you have the courage to stand up and say something.
And I remember that first face-to-face session. The service chief sitting uncomfortably in his chair. The mother nervously escorting her daughter to the chair beside. And the box of tissues in the middle. And I'm sitting there thinking, gee, this sounded like a good idea when we conceived it but how are we going to get this conversation up and running, because these conversations are not easy to have. And then that courageous young woman, she turned to the chief and she said, ‘Sir, I am so nervous’, she said. And the chief replied, ‘Believe me, I'm scared too’. And I just thought, in that moment, we've got a chance at change, because it does take a compassionate military chief to admit that he fears what he's about to be told. And of course, it takes a courageous woman to step up and tell her story.
But most importantly, the chief also heard the pain of mothers. Mothers who had encouraged their daughters into the military, believing the enemy lay outside not within. And I remember one mother, she looked at the chief of her daughter's service and she said, ‘I gave you the person I love most in the world and this is how you've treated her’.
And at the end of a day, to hear senior powerful military men step up and say, ‘Look, if I could stand in your shoes every day and take away your pain, I would choose to do that. What happened to you in Australia's Defence Force should never have happened. I will do everything in my power to make sure it never happens again.’
And I think these were the defining moments of the review. The moments when we took the case for change from people's heads to their heart. And when you see the evolution of what's happening in the defence force, yes there are other incidents coming up, but I know from very deep inspection that they're going through a major transformation, a major cultural change. To build an inclusive culture, one that includes both women and men.
But here's the thing, as the Chief of Army Lieutenant David Morrison said just two days ago in a speech. He said, and this was a speech to one of the largest boy's schools in Australia, young boys, he said, ‘I've come to understand that the terrible things have happened in war zones, murder, rape, assaults, the stripping away of dignity, the absence of hope, they are just as much present in our own communities, in our own families, as they are in other more seemingly troubled countries. It's just that they happen behind closed doors, away from the lens of a war correspondent, ignored by neighbours or even family members, unspoken, but just as life shattering’.
And he went on to say that by every credible measure women are denied opportunities that are afforded to men by virtue of their sex. At home they face levels of domestic violence that imperil their very being. This is the case in the so called first-world nations and in the developing world. It's a feature of secular and non-secular societies. Women face barriers, sometimes tangible, often subliminal, that constrains their lives and their contributions to the development of our world.
And as he says, he says ‘we need men of authority and conscience to play their part. And we most certainly need women, too long denied a strong enough voice, to be given opportunities to lead in all endeavours, in all parts of our polity and society. We all need to come to grips with our culture and how much it counts’.
And I think he makes two really important points. Firstly, that gender inequality is cultural. It's pervasive, it's systemic, it's what I call gender asbestos. It's built into the walls, the floors, the ceilings of institutions and organisations, the behaviours, the practices. It's often not tangible. You can't point to it, but you know that it's there.
He also makes the point that when powerful, decent men step up beside women and we take action together that's when momentum grows and change happens. And the fact is that what I have observed in the military, those attitudes are held much more widely across Australian society. In families, in sporting clubs and sporting codes, and indeed in the corporate world.
So, I came into my role fundamentally believing that it was women working together that would create change. That would create a more equal Australia. And I absolutely agree that women's advocacy, women's leadership is critical to progressing gender equality. But many initiatives focus on fixing women. We need to engage women to change. You know, to network differently. To do, to lead differently, which really undermines the argument for diversity. In fact, all too often we look to women to change the practices that maintain the status quo. And if you're to think about it that's a really illogical approach because it fails to recognise the site of organisational power. Power sits in the hands of men.
So about two, three years ago having had this lightning moment of starting to understand this, I decided to embark on what was quite a controversial strategy called the Male Champions of Change strategy. Some of you may have heard about it and on a couple of initiatives we've partnered with the chief executive women.
How did this begin? Well basically, I picked up, I identified some of the most powerful men in this country and I picked up the phone and I rang them. I rang men who lead Australia's iconic companies like Telstra, Qantas, Woolworths, Commonwealth Bank, A&Z. I rang men who lead global organisations here in Australia like Citibank, Deloittes, Goldman Sachs. I rang men who hold the most senior roles in our government, like the Head of the Treasury, the Head of the Prime Minister in Cabinet, and I also brought in the Head of the Army. And I made a personal plea. I said to them, ‘Will you use your power and influence, your collective wisdom and voice to create change for women in this country?’
And I still remember the first conversation I had. This particular CEO had twins, a twin boy and a twin girl, and I explained to him that in Australia today women only hold 3% of CEO positions of ASX’s 200, and to be honest with Gael Kelly sitting down, stepping down, it's going to be even worse than that. That we hold only 18.9 or 19% now of board directorships, and that it doesn't matter which sector you look at, this basic rule holds true and that is that the higher up you go the less women you will see. That's as true as tax and gravity. And that those results exist, despite women outstripping men at educational, particularly in tertiary level. I mean even my own industry Law, 60, over 60% of graduates are female out of law schools.
And finally, I told this CEO that while women are excluded from power, economic, political and social power they will be marginalised all across Australia. And I first really started to understand that when I dropped into a women's refuge—and I go to many women's refuges across this country—I met a woman who had escaped violence with her children the night before and I met her the next day and I was introduced to her. And she said to me, ‘Liz, how are we going with the Women on Board’s agenda?’ It's like, what is that, you know, you're just trying to escape with your life. And so we had a really great conversation, I start to understand that in her mind women's proximity to economic power spoke to women having power in our nation, and while they didn't have that they would be marginalised across Australia.
So, I think what shifted for the first CEO that I talked to was an understanding that we'd been talking about this, as Christine said, we've been talking about this for years. What shifted for him was an understanding that without intervention by powerful, decent men like him, this picture would become his daughter's story. And not only that his daughter would never have the same opportunities as her twin brother. And what father wants that for their daughter? So, the Male Champions of Change says that, let's not pretend that there aren't already established norms that advantage men. Men invented the system. Men largely run the system. It's up to men to change the system. And that's what the Male Champions of Change strategy is all about. It's about men stepping up beside women to change the system. The discussions are serious. They're led by men and action is taken.
And I don't have time to tonight to talk about all the outcomes and actions that have resulted. But suffice it to say, I think one of the greatest contributions that the Male Champions of Change strategy has delivered has been to change the discourse on gender equality and women's leadership in Australia. We've start, it's helped people understand that these issues are not women's issues. These issues are leadership issues. That the achievement of gender equality cannot sit on the shoulders of women alone. And they're so active in that area. I mean, the last 12 months, despite being some of the busiest men in the nation, they've presented at over 150 women's leadership events. They've travelled for me to Washington, New York, Tokyo, London, Brazil, just to name a few, and all around Australia, persuading other men to get on board.
And they're doing things that only CEOs can do. One example of that is the All Roles Flex Initiative, and Telstra's leading the work on that, but that is where they've changed the starting point of work. So that instead of a starting point being what we call the ideal worker model, 24/7, the starting point is flexibility and then let's have a conversation about why this one needs to be done differently, this particular role. And if you see all their advertising, anything, it will have this job, it's available in flexible work arrangement. They're looking down their supply-chains. They've worked out that between them they spend tens of billions of dollars annually in procuring products and services. And they want to work with organisations that care about gender equality as well.
I think in the early days it could have easy to dismiss the group as simply just another boy's club. And a few people did that. It was quite controversial. I mean, the strategy is controversial and it's disruptive. And that's what we need. Some new thinking, some change strategies. But it took us time to come to grips. We did. But once we did, we very much focused on action, that's the imperative. The time for talking is over. This is about action. We agreed that every member had to play their part. That we wouldn't tolerate any free riders.
The Male Champions recognise that the change starts with them. Every single one of them admits to being an imperfect role model on gender equality, and they are. They are imperfect. On occasion, their actions and words can still unconsciously and inadvertently come across as impolitic or outdated in a world of gender nuance norms and language. And I still remember in the early days, I'd be driving to work and Fran Kelly or someone would say, oh, and we're about to hear from a NOW champion of change, and I'd go ‘Oh my God, what's he going to say?’ But I have to say, I don't worry anymore.
It's been, it's been a safe space for men to learn about gender equality. They're committed to learning from their mistakes. And that's what strong leadership on gender equality looks like. Listening first, learning through collaborating with others, and then leading through strong action. And increasingly, they're looking to engage in societal issues.
So, having understood that it's the personal narrative that takes the issue from head to heart. Just yesterday, I brought them all together. And I engaged two courageous women, Rosie Batty and Christie McKellar, both proud Victorian women, to come and talk about their lived experience of violence. To actually move this issue from the men's heads to their hearts.
The men heard from Rosie and Christie about the pieces that were taken from them. The pieces that can never be reclaimed, such as the joy of pregnancy and becoming a mother, the joy of parenting and watching your son grow up.
The men started to understand at a profoundly human level what it's like for many women. Women robbed of dignity and living in fear in the very place they should be the most safe, and that is in their own homes. And I think what we'll see as a result of that is over the next few months as they become more comfortable talking about these issues they'll really lift up their advocacy in this particular area.
It's no question that women lie at the heart of creating a more gender-equal world. But if we are to make progress, we have to amplify their voice.
As Rosie Batty said when she spoke to the men yesterday, she said to them, ‘Look, prior to Luke's death, no one wanted to hear my story of living with violence. Now everyone does.’ And I have to say that was one of the saddest moments of our session yesterday for me as an Australia's Sex Discrimination Commissioner. That when women living with violence speak, the system doesn't listen. If someone had listened to Rosie's story earlier, would she have lost her son?
The system breaks down at various points. But it's also equally clear that women cannot pursue this agenda alone. Men taking the message of gender equality are the men. That's what'll change the picture in Australia.
So while the Male Champions of Change will change corporate environments, the military cultural reform is progressing, none of this will matter if we don't change the informal social structures that sit around us and exist within our families.
In my role, on occasion, when you're presented just with the enormity of a challenge, it can be easy to lose faith, to really lose faith in the possibility of change. And it's in the small moments that change happens.
Just like yesterday when Christie McKellar, a courageous Victorian domestic violence advocate, she told the Male Champions, she said, ‘You listening to our stories gives us back meaning and dignity. It represents the idea that there is hope for change’. Or when Rosie Batty told them, she said, ‘Advocating for a world where women and children can live free from violence, gives me a reason to get out of bed every morning’.
These are the moments that matter. These are the moments when we can work together. Because we do have the beginnings of change. We have a path to a more equal future. But it starts right with each of us. And when people ask me, what will be your greatest achievement as Australia's Sex Discrimination Commissioner? It won't be the military, or the Male Champions of Change, it will be raising a son to believe that equality is the only path.
Thankyou very much.