Page 1

100 WOMEN

edited by Gillean Shaw, Keryn Stewart and Kevin McConkey iii


National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry: Title: 100 women /editors, Gillean Shaw, Keryn Stewart, Kevin McConkey. ISBN: 9780980761887 (pbk.) Subjects: Women--Australia--Biography. Other Authors/Contributors: Shaw, Gillean. Stewart, Keryn. McConkey, Kevin. Dewey Number: 920.720994 Set in Akzidenz Grotesk by Australian Type Foundry, Australia Printed in Australia by Whirlwind Print

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The Australian Copyright Act 1968 (The Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10% of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act. ŠThe University of Newcastle 2011 First published in 2011 by The University of Newcastle University Drive Callaghan NSW 2308 Australia (612) 4921 5000 www.newcastle.edu.au


100 WOMEN

edited by Gillean Shaw, Keryn Stewart and Kevin McConkey iii


The Stories

Contents

iv

Elham Doroodchi 2

Roxanne Black 52

Senta Taft-Hendry 4

Julie Ainsworth 54

Susan Lim 6

Tina Offler 56

Ivy Ireland 8

Teela May Reid 58

Deborah Wright 10

Bat-sheva Stewart 60

Margaret Olley 12

Judy Vajak 62

Katherine Proudfoot 14

Carol Martin 64

Sherelle Charge 16

Samantha Martin-Williams 66

Liz McMinn 18

Vicki Clifton 68

Pimpimon Wongchaiya 20

Diana Rah 70

Nicole Gerrand 22

Cate Hayes 72

Giverny Lewis 24

Cheong-Chua Koon Hean 74

Irina Belova 26

Kathy Butler 76

Liz Nicol 28

Julianne Butler 78

Catherine and Jennifer Strutt 30

Afaf Girgis 80

Lauren Colthorpe 32

Emma Jackson 82

Riona Tindal 34

Katrina Kellett 84

Pauline Chiarelli 36

Shayne Blackburn 86

Felicity Biggins 38

Pamela Connell 88

Bronwyn Hall 40

Xiaoli Deng 90

Rosemary Beckett 42

Jeanette Rothapfel 92

Kristienne Thomas 44

Eugenie Lumbers 94

Pippa Robinson 46

Sarah Hilton 96

Catherine Britt 48

Oonagh Chan 98

Kerry Kete 50

Sarah Taylor 100


Contents

Katherine Jones Torres 102

Margaret Harris 152

Catherine Mahony 104

Rachel King 154

Laura Seabrook 106

Doreen Kum 156

Tara Mallie 108

Marion Halligan 158

Lois Bryson 110

Donna Meehan 160

Mahla Pearlman 112

Margaret Watson 162

Carolyn Hastie 114

Stephanie Moras 164

Penny Biggins 116

Suze Podger 166

Judith Beveridge 118

Catherine Phoenix 168

Liesl Tesch 120

Janice Petersen 170

Karen Hitchcock 122

Ruby Andrion 172

Heidi Forrest 124

Sue McNeil 174

Sarah Maddison 126

Jean Talbot 176

Jackie Sales 128

Shelley Clark 178

Rowena, Juliana and Angela Foong 130

Rae Richards 180

Alexia Sinclair 132

Marni Jackson 182

Renny Chivunga 134

Maz Smith 184

Jennifer Duncan 136

Lakin Agnew 186

Beibei Zhang 138

Veronica Pettifer 188

Sue Gould 140

Kathleen Kirkby 190

Susie Porter 142

Jacqueline Krynda 192

Patricia Forsythe 144

Cheng Smart 194

Jennie Thomas 146

Eileen Doyle 148

Josephine Tam 150

v


Contents

The Women

Julie Ainsworth 54 Ruby Andrion 172

Jennifer Duncan 136

Rowena, Juliana and Angela Foong 130

Heidi Forrest 124

Rosemary Beckett 42

Patricia Forsythe 144

Irina Belova 26

Nicole Gerrand 22

Judith Beveridge 118

Afaf Girgis 80

Felicity Biggins 38

Sue Gould 140

Penny Biggins 116

Bronwyn Hall 40

Roxanne Black 52

Marion Halligan 158

Shayne Blackburn 86

Margaret Harris 152

Catherine Britt 48

Carolyn Hastie 114

Cate Hayes 72 Sarah Hilton 96

Lois Bryson 110

Julianne Butler 78

Kathy Butler 76

Oonagh Chan 98

Sherelle Charge 16

Pauline Chiarelli 36

Marni Jackson 182

Renny Chivunga 134

Katherine Jones Torres 102

Shelley Clark 178

Katrina Kellett 84

Vicki Clifton 68

Kerry Kete 50

Lauren Colthorpe 32

Rachel King 154

Pamela Connell 88

Kathleen Kirkby 190

Xiaoli Deng 90

vi

Lakin Agnew 186

Elham Doroodchi 2 Eileen Doyle 148

Karen Hitchcock 122 Ivy Ireland 8 Emma Jackson 82

Cheong-Chua Koon Hean 74

Jacqueline Krynda 192

Doreen Kum 156


THE WOMEN

1


Elham Doroodchi One afternoon in 2006, recovering from the social whirl of another busy Christmas, Elham Doroodchi and her husband sat down with a piece of paper to do what they do best: solve a problem.

A few weeks before, a company had presented the two chemical engineers with a conundrum: the company wanted to recover energy from geothermal resources more efficiently, but there was nothing in the marketplace that enabled them to do so. “That afternoon, we found ourselves with some rare spare time,” Elham says. “We got out a piece of paper and started brainstorming the problem, doing calculations and thinking about applications.” The results were startling. “We not only found out that it was possible to generate the electricity but we also found out how to harness the extra heat produced by industry and turn that into energy too.” From that piece of paper, GRANEX was born, an invention that has won Elham and her husband both a judges’ choice and people’s choice award on ABC-TV’s New Inventors program. Elham was born in Iran, migrating to Australia as a teenager. “My parents have always been encouraging but they were never pushy about education. What they tried to do was bring up children who were independent,” she says. “My siblings and I all studied or worked in different countries and we all still love to travel.” Even with all the encouragement and support in the world, moving to Australia wasn’t easy. “I’ll never forget the day I arrived,” she

says. “I was standing in the airport, waiting for my luggage, and I couldn’t understand a thing anyone was saying. I couldn’t understand the announcements or read the signs and I realised then what a challenge it was going to be. I decided first and foremost to concentrate on learning English.” For six months, Elham worked on her language skills, going to different social groups and classes and having conversations with people, until she was confident enough to apply for university. “I applied for engineering, and specifically chemical engineering, because you start with the raw material and see the process all the way through to the end product,” she says. “You’re involved in everything from defining the problem to developing the problem. That’s what I find satisfying.”

It is clear Elham’s life is in Australia now. “Iran has a place in my heart but I get homesick when I leave Newcastle. Everything has changed in Iran. Even the scenery is changing. I’m not connected to the location any more; it’s the people I go back to see.” Did the New Inventors program and the interest it generated in her invention change her life? Elham is characteristically down to earth: “It’s more about having confidence in yourself rather than expecting others to have confidence in you.” Elham’s research goal is to develop technology platforms that are energy efficient and environmentally friendly. “Nothing in life is impossible,” she says, pausing to add with a peal of laughter, “as long as it’s not against the first and second laws of thermodynamics!”

Elham graduated from the University of Newcastle with a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering, first class honours and a University Medal. She then went on to complete a PhD and she is a research fellow at the Priority Research Centre for Advanced Particle Processing. “I think it’s because I am insatiably curious,” she says when asked about her achievements. “I want to know how the world works. If there’s a problem I want to analyse the problem and come up with a solution. Engineering is the key to effective problem solving,” she says, “and I’m inspired by the prospect of coming up with the answers.”

3


Senta Taft-Hendry When Senta Taft-Hendry was a small girl, she used to look for animals in the patterns of curtains.

This fascination with the “animal within us” is still the driving force in a life spent in pursuit of Pacific and Oceanic art. Taking her from Hanover to the highlands of New Guinea, via Melbourne and Africa, Senta’s passion has sparked a life crammed with adventure. As the founder and owner of Galleries Primitif, the oldest gallery of Oceanic art in Australia, Senta has spent more than 50 years travelling to remote areas of Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia in search of art and artefacts. The seeds of her career were sown early, nurtured by twin family passions for travel and art. “My mother collected art and we’ve always travelled, bringing pieces of each old country with us to the new. Our house was full of sculptures. I love sculptures. You can caress sculpture but you can’t caress a painting.”

4

Born in Germany, Senta came to Australia with her family as a child, and studied art education in Melbourne before joining Trans Australia Airlines (TAA) as an air hostess. It was during this time that her interest in the art of New Guinea was first realised. “TAA were putting together an exhibition of tribal art from New Guinea, and they asked me to go. It was wonderful – I got to fly back and forth to New Guinea for free, collecting art.” A two-year stint in

what was then Rhodesia followed, until Senta found herself back in Australia in 1956. She opened her first gallery not long after. Senta estimates that she’s walked “for hundreds of miles” around different villages looking for skulls, bark paintings, masks and jewellery. Along the way, she learned how to cook human flesh—“best flavoured with coconut”—and gained her pilot’s licence, a rare achievement for a woman at that time. Travelling to remote villages as a lone woman was not without its dangers, and Senta admits to some close shaves on buying trips. “In one village I took a Polaroid photograph. People were usually amazed to see the picture develop before their eyes like magic but this time, when the photograph developed, a line appeared down the middle of the chief. He thought it meant I was going to kill him and immediately people surrounded me with bows and arrows. The guide had to say I’d made him twice as strong and the chief finally conceded.” Quick thinking helped to turn the situation to her advantage, and Senta completed her negotiations. On another trip, she collected two skulls in Borneo and was sailing away from the island when the tribe called her back demanding their return.

“I gave the skulls back, of course. You have to be very careful, as tribal art is often very sacred and spiritual.’ She pauses, a glint appearing in her eye like a naughty schoolgirl’s. “I’ve had some fun times too. Once I bought a whoopee cushion in a little shop in Sydney and took it with me on a buying trip. When I sat on it, the tribe thought I had a spirit in my bum!” Senta is passionate about education and its ability to equip young people for life; with her husband, Dr Peter Hendry, she has made significant donations to the University of Newcastle and intends to establish a scholarship. “I believe the way to open doors is through education. I think the most important part of living today is gaining education so you can face life without an inferiority complex. It’s such an important time being young; you can impregnate your brain with new ideas.” Senta’s life-long dream has been to establish Australia’s first Museum of Tribal Art; a dream that is now one step closer with the donation of her personal collection to the University of Newcastle and the opening of The Senta Taft-Hendry Museum. “If I give something, I give it with a warm hand. This is the way I want to be remembered. I’ve had the opportunity to do so much in my life, and I want the same for others.”


Susan Lim A wax model of surgeon Susan Lim’s hands sits in the Madame Tussaud’s exhibition in Singapore. Nails cropped close by professional necessity and long fingers painted to a lifelike lustre, the model captures thirty years of motion in the stillness of wax.

These hands have moved with precision and delicacy within the most intimate spaces of patients’ bodies; gently probing, invisibly mending, even performing the seemingly impossible feat of turning back the clock. Ever since she was a young girl, Susan Lim knew she wanted to be a surgeon. “I was interested in the more physical aspects of medicine and using my hands,” she says. Susan grew up in a large extended family of doctors — though her father was a mechanical engineer and her mother a “wonderful” full-time parent — and she was a diligent and focused student at school. Susan went on to successfully perform the first cadaveric liver transplant for Asia in 1990, and the patient – in the pink of health twenty years posttransplant - is the longest survivor of the procedure in Asia to date. “This is important and meaningful for me because there is a life that has resulted from this breakthrough procedure, and in fact another life after that, since my liver transplant patient subsequently delivered a healthy baby boy, now in his teens.” When the second wave of suicide bombers struck Bali in 2005, twenty-two people, including four Australians, lost their lives. Many more were injured and the Australian community went into shock. In the days that followed, critically injured Australians

were flown to Singapore, where they were placed in Susan Lim’s capable hands. She treated the victims of the bombing, some of whom had suffered horrific injuries, from within the hospital’s intensive care unit, restoring them to health after surgery. Susan’s work following the Bali bombings was so respected and appreciated by the Australian community that she was both awarded an honorary doctorate and received a personal mention in the Australian Parliament recognising her contribution. This has reinforced Susan’s connection to Australia and she has since encouraged young students from Asia to pursue their undergraduate studies in Australia. “I won a scholarship to study at Monash University,” she says, “and it set me on the path I’m on today. I’m only too happy to give something back.” With this in mind, she has established the Dr Susan Lim Medical Scholarship for deserving students at her previous college. A sense of national pride prompted Susan to volunteer her skills as a surgeon in the Singapore Armed Forces, where she served as a volunteer captain. Unsurprisingly, combining her full-time clinical work, stem cell research and entrepreneurial activities with five children and a husband means that time is the most precious commodity Susan has. “It is always a fine balancing act,”

she says. “I have tried to involve my family in my career and my children spent their early days in the waiting rooms of the operating theatre, or at conferences overseas. I remember Sundays were ‘Special Days’ when they would accompany me on ward rounds and then for scones and pastries at the Deli.” Susan stays motivated by dedicating her time and effort to researching cures for her patients’ diseases. “I meet patients whose lives are turned upside down with the discovery of some dreaded cancer; I see them personally battle to live, and this motivates me to pursue academic research to try to work towards new discoveries and cures that can benefit patients in our lifetime,” she explains, as her team researches adult stem cells and breast cancer stem cells. Medicine moves with astonishing pace; Susan is confident that advances in molecular science, stem cells, gene therapy, mobile health and – futuristically – robotic surgery will enable us not only to enjoy longevity, but also a vastly improved quality of life. For this committed, talented surgeon, the gift of time is the most precious of all.

7


Ivy Ireland For poet and harpist Ivy Ireland, it feels as if she was born performing.

“I was always in ballet concerts, eisteddfods and school plays,” she says. “If I am terribly honest, though, I’ve always had a lack of self-belief. It’s such a debilitating, light-destroying thing.” This destruction of light has been on Ivy’s mind recently, as she has overcome serious illness following a burst ectopic pregnancy and car accident. “I’ve had some huge health issues in the past year, and I must confess I was really shaken up by them,” she says. “While I have been very lucky, and terrifically blessed in my recovery, the art of stillness has been a horrible lesson for me. For better or worse, I have now experienced what it is like to be in a position where I simply can’t do that thing or be that person like I used to be able to. Being in hospital, being ill to a near-lifeless point was a shock; the waves and echoes that crash through into my life now are still hard to ride.” Ivy might put her heart into poetry on the page, but fragility and honesty are also the things that make her performances so appealing. She invites you into her innermost secrets with her harp music, or dances across the stage on broken glass as part of her performances with partner Jason “Dangerboy” Hodgson. There is a humbleness to her words that contrasts the vibrancy of her life, perhaps a reflection of the lessons

learned on a three-year exchange trip to Ireland. “I think all that cold-grey-wet was good for my poetry,” she says. “It gave me balance.” Perhaps it was also seeing things anew, experiencing a different landscape and attitude. Ivy can draw strength from her continued success on the local and national stage. In 2007 she won the Australian Young Poets’ Fellowship and published her first collection, incidental complications. She is now studying for her PhD in creative writing while performing in sideshow acts and cabaret shows. “My PhD is motivating because I am constantly encouraged to enter things and publish my work,” she explains. “I get so busy; I would forget to send things off to any competition if I didn’t have someone reminding me.” Ivy’s parents have also been supportive, encouraging her dance and music activities from an early age and now building props for her performances.

outdoors has amplified and now she has a penchant for cosmology and mysticism. “I wish I could combine all the things I love,” she says, “but I’m the kind of person who always divides things up, fragments self, puts on a different hat each day depending on which job I’m going to. It would be terribly convenient if I were a performance-poet, wouldn’t it? But I’m just not. I do write musical epic poems for the harp, though, and I find that all the different art forms I’m involved in all have a certain dialogue with each other.” Ivy will continue to recover, perform, write, publish and love. Although these things were almost taken away from her, “the threads,” as she writes in a poem, “are sung back into our bodies.”

“I was fortunate enough to grow up in a very small coastal town in New South Wales. Both of my parents grew up in that area too, so we were very well-rooted in community,” she says. “I remember being outside most of the time when I was growing up – mostly up trees, on the mountain, in the lake or in the ocean.” Ivy’s affinity with the

9


Deborah Wright Deborah Wright likes people and they like her.

As chief executive officer of NBN Television in Newcastle, and the first woman in several senior Australian media roles, her firm handshake and friendly smile testify to a career spent building relationships. They don’t completely hide the fighter within, though; it’s there in the directness of her gaze, and a certain way of tilting her head when she’s considering the answer to a question. Deborah’s life is one of opportunities seized with both hands. She tells the story of how as a young woman, after four days working for The Star newspaper in a junior advertising sales role, she was called into the general manager’s office. He offered her the role of features manager, a huge leap for someone with minimal media experience. “And I said ‘That’s unbelievable, that’s brilliant, thank you very much! I’ll take it.’ Then I got to the door and turned around: ‘Just one question, Brian. What, precisely, does the features manager do?’” From that initial leap of faith, her career in media is testament to her personal drive and commitment. In 2005, Deborah was appointed NBN station manager and two years later became CEO, only the second woman in Australian television to hold this role. A life in the cut-throat world of media wasn’t what Deborah Wright had planned. When she finished school in

10

Newcastle, Deborah intended to become a physical education teacher, but circumstances intervened and she ended up teaching social science in Sydney’s western suburbs. After teaching in a few different schools, Deborah came to an abrupt realisation: although she loved contact with her students, teaching, or more specifically the culture of the Department of Education, was not for her. “I felt that my wings were clipped within the Department,” she says. “There was this negativity. I really didn’t want to end up like a lot of the teachers that I saw there, who just struggled, who just got by, who just existed. I saw that the kids deserved much more than that.” During this period of her life, the death of a beloved older brother brought home the fragility of existence and the importance of making every second count. “We lost my brother from chickenpox when he was thirty-one. To me it reinforced this drive that I have in all things that I do. But more than that, it was a sense that life is a bit like a pilot lamp: it can be snuffed out at any time.” Sitting by the water on a holiday break from school, reading a local newspaper, she spotted an advertisement for an advertising role with The Star. It marked the beginning of a new career, one ideally suited to her energetic, competitive nature.

Deborah’s strength comes from many places. She credits her parents for refusing to limit her sense of her own possibilities: “I wasn’t pigeonholed into the whole ‘you’re a girl, you’ve got to do these things’ mentality,” she remembers. A keen athlete, she was encouraged to play football and cricket “with the boys”; she has a clear memory of her father holding her up to a pool table as a toddler so she could take a shot, the little girl chanting “I can. I can myself!” Even today, sorting through the hundreds of job applications that arrive for any job in media, she looks for candidates with sporting backgrounds: “I can’t help myself. It’s the leadership qualities in sport.” Much like a champion sports team, Deborah plans to keep NBN in its dominant position by continuing to embrace new broadcasting technologies and seize opportunities as they arise.


Margaret Olley Margaret Olley’s Paddington house is full of the sound of opera. The radio proclaims that Dame Joan Sutherland has died, the announcement followed by piercing, unearthly arias.

Almost claustrophobic beauty is everywhere in this room; sculptures and flowers compete for space with scattered canvases, and paintings cluster in wild profusion on the sienna walls. At the centre of this sits the diminutive frame of Olley herself, at eighty-seven recognised as a giant of the Australian art world and a National Living Treasure. A painter whose artistic vision centres on the genre of still life or domestic interiors, Margaret Olley has always pursued her creative vision without regard to changes in style and convention. As a young artist, Margaret traveled to Europe to draw from the great art collections, becoming part of the critical post-war cultural scene. She met Chagall, worked with Sir Francis Rose, and shared afternoon teas with Alice B. Toklas in a room “wallpapered” with the paintings of Picasso and Braque: “I was so innocent. I didn’t know she made those famous cookies!” For Australian artists, raised on bookplate images of Western Art masterpieces, encountering the same paintings in the flesh can be intimidating. “It was like your wall collapsing and having to build it up again,” admits Margaret, musing that she “might have gone over too early, because I was just beginning to make my own handwriting.” Returning to Australia after the death of her father, she battled depression and

alcoholism, emerging from these dark times with an unusual degree of artistic clarity. She is firm on this point: “I don’t want to paint dark. People who paint their dark places are passing on their dark. Who wants to know?” There are two paintings that come to mind when one thinks of Margaret Olley. One is the Archibald portrait by Sir William Dobell, showing Margaret as a glorious young woman in a floating white dress. Like any good picture, it has a story behind it. An artist friend had asked her to come to the opening of his exhibition dressed as a duchess. With wartime restricting material to coupons, he “made me a dress to wear from a lot of aeroplane silk and the top of his grandmother’s wedding dress. Just the bodice part, because the rest had been eaten away by moths.” The exhibition ended and Margaret found herself on the same “rattling tram” as Dobell, an interminable journey that ended with him asking if he could paint her portrait. She later sat for him and he painted the duchess dress from memory. Another is an early self-portrait of Margaret looking in the mirror of her Sydney flat. Despite the decorative aesthetic (flowers, shells, fruit and postcards crowd the foreground) she encounters herself without sentimentality; the painting is a depiction of the self that is honest, strong and direct. The painting also reflects a vital

truth; any person, and especially a woman, who has given their life to art is necessarily tough. Resisting social expectations to marry and have children, Margaret chose her own destiny with determination, crediting her strength to a country upbringing, common sense and parents who encouraged autonomy. Art always came first. “I saw examples of artists marrying and the male dominating - and the female was the better painter! And then having children. And I thought ‘oh no, I don’t like that at all.’” When waves of feminism swept through Australian society in the 1960s and 1970s, Margaret remembers being nonplussed. “I didn’t know what it was all about, because I’d always done what I wanted to anyway.” A generous benefactor and patron of the arts, Margaret Olley has continued to paint well into her eighties. When asked what drives her to keep painting, her response is immediate: “To push the barriers. Everything you do should be the right moment; you must put everything you’ve got—everything— into that moment.” Margaret Olley died on 26 July 2011. She was 88 years old.

13


Katherine Proudfoot An extra hour or two of sleep doesn’t mean much to most university students, except maybe to those sleeping off the excesses of the night before.

For Paralympian Katherine Proudfoot, the decision to drag herself out of bed on one particular day changed the course of her life. “I often wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t decided to get up and go to the gym that morning,” she muses, glancing down at her muscular forearms and smiling at the memory of her life before elite sport. “I’m not sure that I really believe in fate, but it’s one of those moments of being in the right place and the right time. It’s quite uncanny how much of an impact that can have on your future direction.” On that Saturday Katherine, a PhD student in speech pathology, walked into the campus sports centre at the same time that the Australian Paralympic Committee was running a talent search. It was a bright, sunny morning and Katherine was thinking about her work-out, a breakfast to follow and the possibility of a day at the beach with friends. Out of curiosity, she stopped at the registration desk and was offered the opportunity to try out for the Australian Paralympic team. Katherine has cerebral palsy. She spent the rest of the day at the gym, swimming timed laps, running, jumping, throwing and having all aspects of her cardio­ vascular fitness measured and tested.

When she finished each exercise, the organisers would make notes on their clipboards, and lead her to the next testing station. “It’s really hard when you’re doing these tests, because you don’t know what kind of standard they’re looking for; you’re not sure if you’ve done well or not,” she remembers. “It was a really pleasant surprise to open the letter in the mail a few weeks later and find out that I’d been selected. I felt that I’d been given an opportunity and it was up to me to see if I could take it to the next level: that’s something I really embraced!” The testing indicated that Katherine was a natural athlete, ideally suited to events that require throwing actions like shot put, discus and javelin. She was assigned a throws coach, and plunged into a rigorous training schedule that completely re-organised her life. Although Katherine loved the challenges of her new role, pushing her body to the limit took its toll. “I’ve broken my right elbow twice and hurt my shoulder a few times,” she says, grimacing in remembered pain.

“It was a really fast transition from just doing things recreationally to getting involved in elite sport,” she says. For Katherine, the highlight of her sporting career so far has been winning a silver medal at the Paralympic Games in Beijing. “It’s not always an easy thing to throw a personal best at an international competition with 80,000 people looking on,” she laughs. Katherine is effusive about the potential of sport to build self-confidence, friendships and tenacity in all people, regardless of physical limitations. “Everything Paralympic sport stands for is positive: you’re looking at a group of people who are overcoming significant disabilities in order to compete and achieve their goals,” she says.

Her perseverance paid off, though, and by the following year she was competing at the Commonwealth Games and then at the World Championships in the Netherlands. The pace of her progression astonished even Katherine.

15


Sherelle Charge Sherelle Charge inhabits the space around her like a fluidly moving sculpture; like many ballerinas, Sherelle seems born to be in motion.

Her physical grace is so profound that you become aware of both the positive and negative spaces of her body: the way she moves an arm and displaces air, an elegant twist as she turns to answer a question. Even the straight lines of a chair look crude against the flow of her long neck and spine. As a little girl, Sherelle pestered her parents for ballet lessons. But they, having read an article by a famous dancer that said children should not start dancing until age seven, urged against formal instruction. Sherelle, stroking a sleek wing of hair away from her face, remembers the turning point for their change of heart. “I was about six at the time and my father invited his boss over for dinner. I told my father’s boss how my mean parents didn’t let me go to ballet lessons!” Capitalising on that strategic move, Sherelle started lessons the next day. The desire for perfection in movement became unquenchable. “I left school when I was fifteen because I had to study dancing full time,” she says. “It was six o’clock in the morning to nine o’clock at night, five days a week, and then on Saturday nine until five. I didn’t have a personal life for

16

about two years.” During this time, a judge at a Sydney eisteddfod commented on her lyrical, theatrical style, observing that she was “a European dancer”. It was a judgment that would prove to be prescient. At age seventeen, Sherelle left her close-knit family in Newcastle and traveled to Europe, determined to win a place with one of the major dance companies. “I spent six weeks travelling around Europe, sleeping on trains and auditioning the next day,” she remembers. “Then I would sleep on a train to get to the next city.” With many of the world’s best young dancers making the same pilgrimage, the competition for places was fierce. “It is cut-throat,” Sherelle admits, “but if your approach is honest, you can’t be treated unfairly by others.” Sherelle was offered a place with Bayerisches Staatsballett, the highly regarded Bavarian State Ballet, based in Munich. Over the next sixteen years she would rise through the corps de ballet to become principal dancer. She lived in an intensely emotional world, fraught with the ever-present risk of physical injury. “After a performance the adrenaline is pumping until three o’clock in the morning,” she says. “This is the

danger with dancers: they develop such a pain barrier that they work past injuries. I worked on a broken toe; you push your body beyond the limit.” In 2005, Sherelle danced the leading role of the Marschallin in Graeme Murphy’s The Silver Rose, a character especially choreographed for her. Two years later, she retired from ballet. “I knew that I was at the peak of my game and I didn’t want to fall down the other side,” she says. “I didn’t want to have people saying ‘can she get off the stage now, please!’”. Sherelle returned to Newcastle with her partner Joerg to a house bought unseen, and a job in human resources at the University of Newcastle. She is currently studying towards a management qualification and plans to continue with postgraduate study next year. Sherelle’s passion for dance remains undiminished; as well as mentoring principal ballerinas of the Australian Ballet in interpretation of the Marschallin, she adjudicates ballet competitions – including, in a twist of fate, the Sydney Eisteddfod, the competition that first inspired her European journey.


Liz McMinn Liz McMinn’s story is one about power, and how it can be denied, abused or enabled. When Liz was a child, an extended family member abused her. For years she suffered the effects of somebody else’s crime, putting up a wall between herself and the world.

Growing up in a country town, she married her boyfriend, and they moved to a remote mining town in Western Australia far from family and friends. It was here that her husband became violent. They returned to New South Wales, where a conversation with her doctor, a man she trusted, changed her life. “He said, ‘if you stay, you’re going to get killed. He’s going to be in gaol, and who’s going to raise your children?’” Liz packed her bags and left with her two small daughters. “I spent about six years as a single parent,” she says. “My self-esteem was very low. I had to basically re-build my life, so I waitressed and cleaned motel rooms, just to get back on my feet financially. At that time not many women were divorced so it was hard to climb out of that.” Climb out of it she did, though, gradually moving into better paid employment and slowly re-assembling the pieces of her fragmented sense of self. She was fortunate enough to meet a kind, loving man, whom she married. Despite a happy family life and a supportive partner, Liz still felt that some part of her remained frozen, as if she was living behind a wall of glass. “I remember being on a train and hearing people talk about the beautiful countryside, and I couldn’t see what they were talking about,” she says. “It frustrated me: it was just trees and cows.” In her forties, during a plane

flight to the Northern Territory, Liz felt something shift inside her. “I looked out of the window and I could just see a sunburnt country,” she remembers. “And I found my colour - it’s the only way I can describe it. I have always thought of it in terms of having my colour stolen. Life was almost black and white, and quite detached.” The change was profound, its effects rippling through every aspect of her personal and professional life. In her words, Liz “realised that I made life happen, rather than have it happen to me.” Liz now works to make sure that people from low socio-economic status communities have the same access to education as everyone else. A few years ago, she took her young daughter Meg to see an exhibition of Egyptian artefacts at the University of Sydney. Their conversation with Meg that day was the genesis of a great idea. “While we were there, she turned to me and said ‘you know, I can see myself here’,” Liz remembers. “Her comment was like a light going on for me.” Liz realised that taking Meg to visit a university had effectively turned an intimidating unknown into a positive, concrete reality.

workplace settings, three years in a row, with a family member. “This project is about engaging low socio-economic status families and giving those students, at an early enough stage, the motivation to attain the level of education they need to move into university or vocational education,” Liz explains. “Or whatever they’d like to achieve!” At its heart, MEGS is about empowerment: encouraging people to believe in themselves, value their lives and embrace new challenges and possibilities. As Liz so eloquently describes it, it’s about living in colour, not black and white.

Liz took the idea back to her colleagues, leading to the establishment of the MEGS (Making Educational Goals Sustainable) program. MEGS takes year 6 and 7 high school students to university, vocational education and

19


Pimpimon Wongchaiya In her lifetime, Pimpimon Wongchaiya has seen three devastating waves break across her home country of Thailand, only one of which— the 2004 tsunami—the world outside could see.

During the 1980s, Pimpimon worked as a nurse at the height of the HIV/AIDS era, which hit Thailand hard; later, as a specialist in mental health, she watched the global “epidemic” of mental illness impact her country’s ill-prepared health system. As a postgraduate student of universities in England and Australia, she knew that health systems across the world were struggling to cope with the same issues. “Projects and ideas related to mental health are not well supported,” Pimpimon explains. “This happens in most countries, but the situation is worse for developing countries, and even worse if the project targets people with chronic mental illness.” The youngest daughter of a loving family, Pimpimon was born in Thailand’s Phayao province. She smiles as she remembers how pleased her family were when she secured a lecturing position at a nursing college “just five minutes drive from home” and how her father cried when she told him that she’d won a government scholarship to study abroad. “He was so proud of me,” she says. “Sadly, he died before my graduation.” A loved child has little fear of the open road: Pimpimon’s father encouraged her to pursue higher education and gave her the confidence to study abroad. Like Pimpimon’s understanding of mental health, it was a relationship culturally at odds with the mainstream.

“In my culture, daughters used to receive less education than sons,” Pimpimon explains. “My mother grew up in a privileged family but only received a basic education. Then she was sent to the town to learn hairdressing. Meanwhile, her brothers were sent to teaching college in another city and became teachers in public schools. My mother married and became a housewife, and her life depended on her husband.” After completing her Masters in Advanced Nursing in the United Kingdom and a doctorate in Mental Health Nursing in Australia, Pimpimon returned to Thailand with a fresh perspective on local health issues. She was determined to initiate changes to the way mental health was being handled in her community. To her horror, she discovered that during her absence teaching hours for the mental health segment of the nursing course had been cut. “The students used to spend six or seven weeks on this segment,” she says. “Now, only four weeks are allocated for a mental health placement. This is in sad contrast to the mental illness epidemic happening in this country.”

explain to people the reasons why it is necessary to provide help for those who are at risk of mental health problems. We urgently need more resources to prevent and combat mental health disorders.” She smiles, looking rather tired. “There aren’t any major obstacles in my personal life, but there are considerable ones in my work.” Pimpimon works to overcome these obstacles through collaboration and communication. Knowing that the problem of mental health is too big for just one country to handle, and determined to provide leadership in her own, Pimpimon responded by creating an international unit, forming links with nursing institutions in Japan, Taiwan and Australia. As the only lecturer with an overseas doctorate, she established an international volunteer project, aiming to improve the language skills of staff and students and build a broader perspective on mental health treatment. Progress is slow, but steady. Mental health issues may threaten her country, but Pimpimon Wongchaiya is one woman working to try to stem the tide.

Despite her energy and commitment, Pimpimon sometimes experiences intense frustration in her professional sphere. “It is sometimes exhausting to

21


The Writers Katharine Gillett

Helen Hopcroft

Keryn Stewart

Katharine Gillett has a PhD in Creative

Helen Hopcroft is an artist and writer

Keryn Stewart is a writer and editor

Writing from the University of Newcastle,

who grew up on in Tasmania and now

from Newcastle, Australia. She holds

and a background in community

lives in Newcastle. After completing a

a first class Honours degree in

publishing and cultural development.

Fine Arts degree at the Centre for the

English literature from the University

She is currently the coordinator of the

Arts, Hobart, she travelled to London to

of Newcastle, with a focus on Australian

Newcastle Poetry Prize and in 2011

complete a Masters degree in Painting

literature, and has published work in

will take up the post of Director of

at the Royal College of Art, where she

a number of scholarly publications.

the Hunter Writers’ Centre. She lives

shared a studio with artist Damien Hirst.

She has several years experience in

in Newcastle with her husband and

A successful exhibiting artist who has

editing for online and print publications,

two children.

won numerous awards, Helen has

and an interest in creative non-fiction.

written for Ceramic Art & Perception magazine, the Australian newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, NAVA Quarterly, unsweetened, ArtsHub.com and various other online or print media publications. Helen is currently working on a crime novel set in Newcastle.

196


Writing & Photography Credits p2-3, Elham Doroodchi

p34-35, Riona Tindal

p68-69, Vicki Clifton

Story by Katharine Gillett. Photo by Kylie Harris.

Story by Katharine Gillett. Photo by Gillean Shaw.

Story by Katharine Gillett. Photo by Michelle Groth.

pg4-5, Senta Taft-Hendry

p36-37, Pauline Chiarelli

p70-71, Diana Rah

Story by Katharine Gillett/Helen Hopcroft/ Keryn Stewart. Photo by Gillean Shaw.

Story by Katharine Gillett. Photo by Emily Hitchcock.

Story by Keryn Stewart. Photo by Gillean Shaw.

p6-7, Susan Lim

p38-39, Felicity Biggins

p72-73, Cate Hayes

Story by Katharine Gillett. Photo supplied by Susan Lim.

Story by Katharine Gillett. Photo by Bree Cunningham.

Story by Katharine Gillett. Photo by Jessica Gaudry.

p8-9, Ivy Ireland

p40-41, Bronwyn Hall

p74-75, Cheong-Chua Koon Hean

Story by Katharine Gillett. Photo by Eryca Judy Green.

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo supplied by Bronwyn Hall.

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Samantha Arnull Thondavada.

p10-11, Deborah Wright

p42-43, Rosemary Beckett

p76-77, Kathy Butler

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Gillean Shaw.

Story by Helen Hopcroft and Katharine Gillett. Photo by Patricia Aguado.

Story by Katharine Gillett. Photo by Sally-Ann Constable.

p12-13, Margaret Olley

p44-45, Kristienne Thomas

p78-79, Julianne Butler

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Gillean Shaw.

Story and photo by Helen Hopcroft.

Story by Katharine Gillett. Photo by Sally-Ann Constable.

p14-15, Katherine Proudfoot

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Miranda Lawry.

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Gillean Shaw. p16-17, Sherelle Charge

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Lanelle Lee Chin. p18-19, Liz McMinn

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Anna Morewood. p20-21, Pimpimon Wongchaiya

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo supplied by Pimpimon Wongchaiya. p22-23, Nicole Gerrand

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Emily Hitchcock. p24-25, Giverny Lewis

Story by Katharine Gillett. Photo by Keren-Suzanne Nicholson. p26-27, IrIna Belova

Story by Katharine Gillett. Photo by Sally-Ann Constable. p28-29, Liz Nicol

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Lanelle Lee Chin.

p48-49, Catherine Britt

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Sally-Ann Constable. p50-51, Kerry Kete

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Gillean Shaw. p52-53, Roxanne Black

Story by Katharine Gillett. Photo by Kylie Harris. p54-55, Julie Ainsworth

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Miranda Lawry. p56-57, Tina Offler

Story by Katharine Gillett. Photo by Gillean Shaw. p58-59, Teela May Reid

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Emily HItchcock. p60-61, Bat-sheva Stewart

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Gillean Shaw. p62-63, Judy Vajak

p30-31, Catherine and Jennifer Strutt

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Emily Hitchcock.

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Anna and Sarah Morewood.

p64-65, Carol Martin

p32-33, Lauren Colthorpe

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo supplied by Lauren Colthorpe.

198

p46-47, Pippa Robinson

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Renee Malby. p66-67, Samantha Martin-Williams

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Renee Malby.

p80-81, Afaf Girgis

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Gillean Shaw. p82-83, Emma Jackson

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Keren-Suzanne Nicholson. p84-85, Katrina Kellett

Story by Katharine Gillett. Photo by Gillean Shaw. p86-87, Shayne Blackburn

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Emily Hitchcock. p88-89, Pamela Connell

Story by Katharine Gillett. Photo by Miranda Lawry. p90-91, Xiaoli Deng

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo supplied by Xiaoli Deng. p92-93, Jeanette Rothapfel

Story by Katharine Gillett. Photo by Kylie Harris. p94-95, Eugenie Lumbers

Story by Katharine Gillett. Photo by Miranda Lawry. p96-97, Sarah Hilton

Story by Helen Hopcroft. Photo by Fiona Crane. p98-99, Oonagh Chan

Story by Katharine Gillett. Photo supplied by Oonagh Chan.


100 Women Sampler  

Sample of 100 women book

100 Women Sampler  

Sample of 100 women book