WOMEN'S WORDS IN THE MEDIA
ADDRESS BY HER EXCELLENCY
MS QUENTIN BRYCE AC
Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia
International Women's Day book launch: Women's Words of Wisdom, Power & Passion
Government House, Canberra
Tuesday, 8th March 2011
My women friends! What a pleasure to be asked to launch this unique and generous collection of stories. As I leafed through the pages it became apparent that, rather than being a guide to life, this book is a guide to sharing. We all need role models — mentors. Women who are willing to share their lives, and life experiences.
I was delighted to learn that when Tara Moss isn’t flying between continents, or researching and writing her next novel, or serving as an ambassador for UNICEF and the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children, she is riding her motorcycle and relaxing with her pet python, ‘Thing’. I’m wondering whether I could get approval for a ‘Thing’ at Government House!
Women’s Words of Wisdom Power & Passion. This smart, snazzy volume, is a snapshot of the countless ways women contribute to Australian life. A striking difference between this work and others like it, is the lens it offers into the worlds of a number of extraordinary women, who have remained relatively unknown to many of us.
Western Australian farmer, and community change agent, Sue Middleton, offers pointed advice: “What you learn when you go to your edge, and are completely outside your comfort zone, will be the most important learning in your life.”
This is a zone Jackie Frank knows well. The Australian Publisher of Marie Claire was feeling overwhelmed after the birth of her first child, when she came face to face with, what she describes as, the ‘mystery conspiracy’ that code of silence women embrace around the difficulties of childrearing. “Women can be so hard on each other,” she recalls. “... a few shared truths would make a world of difference.”
One of the qualities shared by all of the women in this book is an engaging openness; that willingness to peel back their own layers and reveal the truths and struggles within.
We all know in our hearts that often our greatest lessons are our failures.
Alana Johnson, a fifth generation farmer and pioneer of the women’s movement: “Words like mistake and failure evoke blame, self doubt and fear. I prefer to think the only failure is the failure to learn. By reflecting on what we can learn from our actions and then changing our behaviour, we create the pathway forward.”
Terri Irwin discovered that one person alone simply can’t run the family business during the day, then work evenings and weekends in a veterinary hospital, and then care for injured animals at night. But like many of the amazing women in this book, Terri turned around this exhausting nightmare. She sleeps peacefully these days in the knowledge that her team at Australia Zoo’s wildlife hospital is treating more than 7500 patients each year.
Contemporary Australia is not an easy place for women: juggling competing priorities: work, family, community. There is enormous pressure to succeed. I am constantly telling younger women that they can have it all, just not all at once. This became my mantra after I almost wore myself out teetering along that tightrope when I was a young mother. As I glance though the insights in this book, I am heartened by the common themes that emerge they just seem to write themselves: listen to your instincts we intone.
“Trust your intuition, it rarely fails you.” insists Ann Middleton, award winning jeweller.
“It’s really important for women to learn that they are number one…If you don’t, you’re no use to your kids.” says our trailblazer Pat O’Shane.
Optimism is an important barrier against the challenges life throws at us. It is one of the qualities shared by all of our high achievers but what is more interesting is how much of that positive thinking is rooted in mother’s advice. So, what did we learn from our mothers?
“Generosity and encouragement.” says Margaret Olley.
“Kindness, honesty and trust.” says Ann Peacock.
“To care about others.” says June Dally-Watkins.
“That you’ll feel better after a shower!” Kay Danes laughs.
And, that: “It’s not good enough to be a pretty girl. You have to be beautiful from within.” reveals Roma Blair.
Karen, I congratulate you! Women’s Words of Wisdom Power & Passion is a remarkable selection of our leading lights. It is beautifully presented and superbly edited. My friends, as we celebrate our past, present and future we do indeed have so much to be proud of.