I recently read My Polar Dream, the autobiography of Jade Hameister who at 16 years of age became the youngest person in history to pull off the “polar hat-trick”. That is, she skied to the North and South Poles, and across the second largest polar icecap on the planet: Greenland. Hameister travelled over 1,300 km on these three missions, which totalled almost four months on ice.
Originally my interest lay in what made a 14 year old girl from Australia want to undertake such an expedition and what motivated her to commit to two years of rigorous training in preparation. At 14 I was being screamed at to get out of bed in time to catch the school bus each morning.
This is a rather simplistic read but that’s okay because Hameister admits that her target audience is young women and “trying to shift the focus from how we appear to the possibilities of what we can do.” She includes several lists in bullet point form detailing facts and figures about the environment (such as if just the West Antarctic Ice Sheet melts it is estimated that global sea levels will rise by 5 metres), as well as the logistics of her expeditions.
This was fascinating as everything taken onto the ice must be brought back out. This means all things. I loved a young person’s perspective of what was important to pack for these travels; how many pairs of underpants, how many clothing changes. ( Tip: this is information to avoid with regards to male wardrobe requirements. It will make you run for the shower).
Hameister was awarded the Australian Geographic Society‘s Young Adventurer of the Year for her 2016 North Pole expedition, which was captured in the National Geographic documentary On Thin Ice: Jade’s Polar Dream that aired in 170 countries and included a strong environmental message. In 2019 she was awarded Medal of the Order of Australia for her “service to polar exploration”.
It will be interesting to watch what this courageous young women turns her hand too on the completion of her tertiary studies.
My bedside table is laden with books the width of doorstops so with the holiday fuelled brain fog I’m opting instead for light, fluffy reading material. Like who designed the Messerschmitt aeroplane, quantum physics, and 500 ways to cook squash.
Do you know who was named Australian of the Year in 2018? No cheating, no referring to Dr Google please.
No, I didn’t know either. Even without holiday brain fog I was clueless.
So I took this question to the people for a response via the Pub Quiz method. This is the Aussie way of determining the general consensus. You walk into a pub and ask the drinkers for their opinion. Is the Prime Minister doing a decent job? What do you think about the Dow Index? Is Prince Harry really intellectually challenged?
I wasn’t anywhere near a pub so resorted to asking the question during a group discussion on Zoom during which at least two of us had a glass of wine in our hands which is pretty much the same thing, I guess.
No one was able to name the Aussie of the Year for 2018, though footballer Adam Goodes – the 2014 Winner – was one suggestion.
Michelle Yvonne Simmons and her team created the world’s first transistor made from a single atom and the world’s thinnest wire in 2012.
Professor Simmons, AO FRS FAA FRSN FTSE , has twice been an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow and is an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow. She is the Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation & Communication Technology and is recognised internationally as the creator of the field of atomic electronics.
In 2018 she was named the Australian of the Year for her work and dedication to quantum information science. In 2019, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in recognition of her “distinguished service to science education as a leader in quantum and atomic electronics and as a role model.”
Isn’t there something dreadfully wrong when we can remember when Pat Rafter, tennis player, Steve Waugh, cricketer, and John Farnham, entertainer, were all recipients of this annual award but the name of a quantum scientist totally baffles us?
On to recipe Number 6 for my home grown squash. Squash in Tomato, Onion and Basil Sauce. Only another 494 to go. Who knew squash were such prolific producers?
Winter temperatures in Queensland are at their lowest for over a hundred years and we are only twelve days in! Actually, I don’t mind it. You can get a lot done when you’re not a wet slimy mess as is the case in summer. Achieving heaps but at a relaxed pace. Even my reading is less frenzied.
Late last month Australian journalist, Caroline Jones died at age 84. One of the obituaries stated that Jones was a “groundbreaking Australian journalist and champion of women in media…who paved the way for women and became a passionate and generous mentor to young rural and regional reporters”.
Which led me down a rabbit hole, of course……
I’ve just finished reading Jones’ 2009 book, Through A Glass Darkly : A Joy Of Love And Grief With My Father, a personal account of her father’s death and how she manages the grief over several years.
Of course it’s not that simple. Loss and Grief and Love and Family and Responsibility are all big subjects and so I’ve been dipping in and out of this book slowly, like dropping a spoon into a can of Milo and licking the grains aways at a pace that allows you to enjoy every single malty morsel.
Written in four parts, Jones initially provides a landscape painting of her father’s life. This resonated with me as it would with many whose parent’s lived through a Depression and World War. It’s a delightful read with it’s remembrances of times past : the weekly ritual of polishing shoes, back gardens laden with fruit trees, listening to the football on the radio.
Part two deals with her father’s illness and ultimate passing after an operation. This is brutal reading, with all the patient’s suffering, the medic’s attempts to play God, and the daughter’s inner rage, though again is so beautifully written. Maybe ” the medic’s attempts to play God” is poorly phrased, but you can guess, this resonated with me as well.
Caroline then exams her grief and questions her faith, even seeking out spiritual guidance from a psychic. Been there, done that. Seven years after losing her Dad Caroline concludes having coming to terms with the loss she experienced.
This is Caroline’s personal journey but it is a journey we all share in one form or other. The grim topic is made bearable because of its authenticity and it is so beautifully written. I’m sorry not to have paid her more attention whilst she was still with us.
“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you’ll learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”
– Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler
Please be aware that I have not recently suffered any loss and am not in mourning. I was simply intrigued by Jones’ career path and wanted to learn more about what made the woman tick. I’m so glad I did.
I will admit that something else about Caroline did resonate. Her mother died when Caroline was a young though there was no time for mourning as her father, a returned serviceman, was from that stiff upper lip generation. But the time does come, often years later, and when it does it ain’t pretty.
Next book will be fun and fluffy : decapitations, poisonings, nuclear war, genocide. Promise.
Zelda D’Aprano (nee Orloff) grew up in a two-bedroom house in Carlton, Victoria, in an Orthodox Jewish household, with two siblings and working class, migrant parents.
She left school before she was 14 to work in various factories to support her family. Married at 16 to Charlie D’Aprano, who left her 21 years later, Zelda had a daughter at 17. In 1961 she fully qualified as a dental nurse and completed her Leaving Certificate in 1965, at the same time as her daughter. She attended night school for two years graduating in 1967 as a qualified chiropodist.
It was whilst employed in factory jobs that Zelda first started to notice the inequalities that female workers faced, especially related to the pay gap.
Whilst working at a Psychiatric Hospital as a dental nurse Zelda joined the Hospital Employees’ Federation No.2 Branch, where she was made shop steward in charge of all female dental nurses, though she had little support due to her gender. In 1969 she went to join the Australasian Meat Industry Employees’ Union (AMIEU), to work in a clerical position where she was appalled by the conditions in the office, and even more so after discovering that there was nowhere to air her grievances.
During that year the AMIEU was being used as a test case for the Equal Pay Case and Zelda and several other women waited as the case was being decided in the Arbitration Court. In October 1969, after the case failed, she chained herself to the doors of the Commonwealth Building alongside women who worked in the building supporting her, eventually being cut free by police. Ten days later, she was joined by Alva Geikie and Thelma Solomon, and they chained themselves to the doors of the Arbitration Court, the one which had dismissed the Equal Pay Case. For this activism Zelda was dismissed from the AMIEU.
The next year, these three women founded the Women’s Action Committee to jump start the Women’s Liberation Movement in Melbourne, encouraging women to become more involved in activism.
Zelda said “we had passed the stage of caring about a “lady-like” image because women had for too long been polite and ladylike and were still being ignored”.
This led the women to take more militant action on their path to equal pay. The Women’s Action Committee continued to grow and Zelda travelled around Melbourne paying only 75% of the fares, because women were only given 75% of the wage of men at the time. Because women weren’t allowed to drink in bars, only in lounges, they did pub crawls across Melbourne.
In 1972 the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission finally extended the equal pay concept to ‘equal pay for work of equal value’, and subsequent revisions have made sure that women in Victoria retain this hard-won right.
Zelda was awarded a degree in Law honoris causa by Macquarie University in 2000, and was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2001. She was awarded the Order of Australia in 2004.
……………….We owe much to women such as Zelda, Alva and Thelma for their courage and perseverance.
That concludes the #A-Z Challenge. Thank you so much for your patience and for sticking with me during this time. I hope you have enjoyed meeting some of Australia’s amazing and courageous women past and present.
Simone Young studied composition, piano and conducting at the Conservation of Music in Sydney. Commencing in 1983, she worked at Opera Australia gaining experience from accomplished conductors and in 1985 started her operatic conducting career at the Sydney Opera House.
In 1986 Simone was the first woman and youngest person to be appointed a resident conductor with Opera Australia and was named Young Australian of the Year.
She travelled overseas as an assistant to well known conductors at both the Cologne Opera and the Berlin State Opera and from 1998 until 2002 was principal conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in Norway.
Young was the first female conductor at the Vienna State Opera in 1993 and in 2005 was the first female conductor to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic. In March 2016, Young was appointed a member of the board of the European Academy of Music Theatre. In December 2019, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra announced the appointment of Young as its next chief conductor, effective in 2022, with an initial contract of 3 years, its first female conductor.
-2004 in the Australia Day Honours, Young was named a Member of the Order of Australia “for service to the arts as a conductor with major opera companies and orchestras in Australia and internationally”.
Born in New Zealand Nancy relocated to Sydney, Australia, as a child along with the rest of her family. She trained as a nurse and a journalist and moved to Paris in the 1930’s.
When World War 2 commenced she was living in Marseille with her French husband. When France fell to Nazi Germany in 1940, Wake became a courier for an established escape network where she helped Allied airmen evade capture by the Germans and escape to Spain which was neutral. She herself fled to Spain in 1943 and continued on to the United Kingdom when the Germans became aware of her activities, calling her The White Mouse. Her husband was captured and executed.
In Britain, Wake joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE) under the code name”Helene”. In April 1944 as a member of a three-person SOE team code-named “Freelance”, she parachuted into occupied France to liaise between the SOE and several Maquis groups, participating in a battle between the Maquis and a large German force weeks later. At the aftermath of the battle, a defeat for the maquis, she claimed to have bicycled 500 kilometers to send a situation report to SOE in London.
Veena Sahajwalla was named one of Australia’s 100 most influential engineers as well as one of Australia’s most innovative engineers by Engineers Australia 2015 and 2016 respectively. She is Professor of Materials Science in the Faculty of Science at UNSW Australia and also the Director of the UNSW SM@RT Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology and an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow. She also runs a mentoring program for women in science called Science 50:50 with the Australian Research Council which aims to inspire Australian women to pursue degrees and careers in science and technology. In 2022 Veena was recognised as the NSW Australian of the Year.
Before we share what this trailblazer has achieved – and boy, has she achieved- a little about Veena’s motivation :
Born in Mumbai, India, Veena saw first hand the piles of waste and the “pickers” who went through it on a daily basis looking for something reusable. This sparked her interest in saving waste from landfill.
She was one of a handful of women in India to study Engineering and gained a Material Science doctorate from the United States before relocating to Australia and is known internationally as the Inventor of ‘green steel’. Essentially that means that recycled truck tires are a sustainable alternative to using coal as an environmentally friendly process that could prevent over 2 million tires from being diverted to landfills each year while simultaneously creating a renewable energy source. Tires can be ground into pellets and be used instead of coal as they release fewer greenhouse gases.
She also launched the first e-waste microfactory, which processes metal alloys from old laptops, circuit boards and smartphones in 2020. At the height of the pandemic, Professor Sahajwalla’s team turned the plastics from old printers into face shields for health workers at Port Macquarie Hospital. Her most recent success has been using old beer bottles and ageing mattresses, breaking them down and turning them into ceramic tiles for use in buildings.