It was an eye-opening experience for me in one sense, because as I entered the beautifully-arrayed function room in the top of the Museum of Contemporary Art (such amazing views straight down on to Circular Quay! Not a bad office for the day!) I realised with a stomach flutter that I had never in my life been in a room filled with a couple of hundred accomplished, important FEMALE business and political leaders. In my life as a singer, and my previous life as a paralegal, I’d had ample opportunity to mix with powerful men, but realising that this was a new and special terrain really gave me a buzz, and a feeling of pride.
I believe feminism and promoting women’s issues remains important. Like many Australian women of a certain (fortunate) demographic, I received a good education and was exposed to social power structures early on in life, so that I never FELT discriminated against when growing up, and believed I was capable of anything. Like many Australian women, however, I have experienced violence, abuse, harassment, and the frustrating inequality of the gender pay gap. My white, middle-class experiences pale in comparison to some of the difficulties and injustices faced by women countrywide, and it was humbling and wonderful to hear of the projects being run by this organisation.
Dame Marie, about whom I have already heard so many sweet stories regarding her charming and personable ways, delighted me with stories of her first visit to Vienna, age 20, and having to suck on her fingertips to keep them from freezing in her fingerless gloves. Despite rising to such public heights, she has retained her gentleness and warmth. I would love to see more examples of such humanity in public office! Thank you, Dame Marie!
[Photography, left and below: Carla Orsetti]