tasmanian writers

women in media tasmania launch

Virginia Trioli and Caroline Jones, speakers at the event.  Image credit

Virginia Trioli and Caroline Jones, speakers at the event. Image credit

Women in Media (WiM) Australia is  a nationwide initiative for women working in all facets of the media – from journalists, creatives and media advisors to those working in public relations and corporate affairs. Their mission is simple but profound: to improve the working lives of women in media by addressing fundamental inequalities in the sector - in pay, conditions and opportunities - and to empower women to achieve their professional goals.

WiM now has chapters in every state and territory of Australia, with the launch of the Tasmanian chapter at the world-renowned Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart a few Sundays ago making the initiative truly national. I was delighted and honoured to attend the launch as the guest of the Launceston Freelance Festival and spent a wonderful afternoon meeting new people, making some valuable connections and being truly inspired by some of the stories shared.

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At a time when media freedom feels very shaky, it was a balm to be in a room bustling with energetic, passionate people who believe in the incredible power of storytelling, and the obligations we have to those who trust us with their stories to be brave and back ourselves.

The full room was testament to the generous spirit on which WiM was founded, supporting the wellbeing and advancement of women. “When I started in journalism, there was nothing like this. Women doing my job were very rare,” said Dr Caroline Jones, distinguished broadcaster, who gave the opening address. Caroline is probably best known for being the first woman to anchor the current affairs program Four Corners as well as presenting on ABC Radio National for many years. She is also one of my personal heroes!

Dr Caroline Jones

Dr Caroline Jones

“In my early years I would have loved a women in media group to belong to - to learn how to cope with information overload, how to stand my ground, how to avoid the dreaded imposter syndrome,” said Caroline as many heads nodded around the room.

And then there was the incredible Virginia Trioli, formerly of News Breakfast on the ABC and now host of Mornings of ABC Radio Melbourne, who gave a blistering, moving and powerful keynote address, sharing her experiences of being a ‘difficult’ woman in a very difficult industry. She spoke about the #metoo movement (“we keep men’s secrets, and we do it without even thinking”), about the need for support networks (or rather, escape hatches and safe rooms, as she put it) for women in journalism so it can be easier to stand up for ourselves when we have to, and about the need for truth in our stories, “even if it points out realities that might make you unpopular.”

Virginia Trioli

Virginia Trioli

I loved her honesty and courage and hung on every word (and live tweeted). “If we’re here for one thing it’s surely to be brave,” she concluded. “With others and with ourselves. In the end we can only ever make the calls we do, back ourselves and be brave...we have to be authentic and candid and let the cards fall where they may.”

Virginia Trioli’s wonderful speech was followed by a Q&A with her and Caroline Jones, and then we watched a wonderful short film from the ‘Women of the Island’ series by director Rebecca Thomson. “Everywhere you look, there is a woman with an interesting story,” Thomson said. So very true! Participating in this day really fired me up about storytelling and getting back into my own work, telling the stories I want to tell about the lives of women I’ve met through research, imagination, chance and circumstance.

The Tasmanian Women in Media committee getting some well-deserved applause!

The Tasmanian Women in Media committee getting some well-deserved applause!

It was a magnificent day - a testament to the power, talent and generosity of women in media - where I met so many interesting people and made lots of valuable connections. I even got to shake the hands of the two speakers and tell them how much their work and shining courageous examples have meant to me. “Just be yourself,” was Virginia’s Trioli’s parting advice to me as she left. Words I strive to remember every day, in my work and in life.

I can’t wait to see what the Tasmanian chapter of Women in Media does next!

I attended the day as the guest of the Launceston Freelance Festival and very much appreciate their support!

This weekend, Women in Media are holding their national conference at Bond University in Queensland.

to the east of your own island: remembering margaret scott

This is a piece I wrote for my old blog Green Ink, about 10 years ago. As today would have been Margaret Scott’s 85th birthday, I thought I’d republish it here.

When I was sixteen years old, my school held a kind of activity day in late October in the lead up to the end of the year and the Christmas holidays, when attention levels were drooping and we were in need of some fun, with the HSC (Oz equivalent of GCSE) exams on the horizon for most of us. The day was filled with workshops in various recreational activities designed around the theme of "Let Your Lives Speak", as per the Quaker ethos.

I signed up for the creative writing workshop which was to be run by Margaret Scott. Margaret was a poet, novelist and well-known intellectual, both throughout the state and on a national scale, and at this time she was a regular on Good News Week. Students and teachers alike were abuzz with excitement about her coming to the school - I, on the other hand, almost exclusively inhabited the world of nineteenth-century literature at that time (oh, how cool I was!) and didn't really know who she was. I was just interested in doing a creative writing workshop!

She gave us a topic to write on and we were given fifteen minutes to write a piece, and then we went around the room where everyone read theirs aloud. I was surrounded by students who I think quite fancied themselves as the top dogs of the arts at the school, and most of them eagerly volunteered to go first, with Margaret offering some brief comments, but nothing along the lines of "oh my goodness, that is amazing for one so young", which I think they were expecting! (I'm sure you all went to school with people like that!)

It came to my turn and I read my piece. When I finished, no one said anything.

Margaret started saying something, but then she trailed off and looked directly at me. Her eyes were so perceptive I felt like she could see right through me.

"Would you read that again?" she asked.

Being an insecure teenager with no confidence in my abilities, my immediate thought was "why? What's wrong with it?!" I felt very stupid! But I seem to recall the rest of the people in the room looking at me with a mixture of awe and envy. So, I read it again. Of the whole group, I was the only one asked to read again. And then the piece was discussed for almost the rest of the session, until one of the teachers supervising remembered that there were a few more people to get through! I can't even remember what it was about, but I seem to recall everyone's comments on the hidden symbolism in my piece making me sound far more in command of the craft than I actually was.

I never told anyone about it at the time because as I say, my first reaction was to be embarrassed, but I look back on that episode now with pride. Sometimes in my low moments I think back to it, and think that if a piece I wrote made a fine writer and scholar such as Margaret Scott have to think twice, then maybe I do have something.

It's a memory I treasure. Thank you, Margaret.

She passed away in 2005. It was only in the last few years of her life that I got to know her through her work, not just this memory. I love her poems, particularly the housework ones (which I'm trying to find a copy of) and I recommend trying to find her novel Family Album - if you're in Australia you should be able to get a copy from most libraries. It's a lovely book.

Do you have a moment like this that you look back on, to spur you forward?

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

CASTAWAY

 

Sometimes a neighbour's look, a post-card, a telephone call

will carry you up the shore of another life

and leave you gaping amazed at sudden jungle

a world away from the dolorous desk

the spruce back-yard, the brick-and-tile in Rosebud.

This glimmering shade's cacophonous with

unfamiliar names of long-dead pets and teachers,

side-streets in distant cities and faithless lovers.

The canopy's alive with flitting shapes unknown

beyond the confines of this island.

Here is the castaway's camp, his palisade,

contrivances he's fashioned year by year,

stores he saved from the wreck of his old ship

before it sank from sight beyond the reef.

Fragments of once-proud sails now patch his roof.

A saw, a pannikin hang by the bed

where every day he wakes alone at dawn

to a view of mountains. Those peaks rise

over the trees in a blue scrawl whose message

you seem to have read from a different angle

on the wall of sky to the east of your own island.

© Margaret Scott