TWO AUSTRALIAS – the case for reparations for older women

Paul Keating recently expressed fears that as our population ages it will be divided into two Australias –  the privileged Australia with all sorts of assets, and the Australia of people condemned to the pension and poverty. But we are already there. We already have a generation of older women who have worked all their lives and now find themselves impoverished. They are women aged over 55 and there are over a million of them.

If we are to prevent a national crisis, the next Australian Government needs to start paying them reparations. This would be the most effective and just way to ensure financial security for older women, who constitute the fastest growing group of homeless. It is not a gift. It is restitution.

Although reparations are generally associated with the aftermath of war, the Oxford dictionary defines reparations as “The action of making amends for a wrong one has done, by providing payment or other assistance to those who have been wronged.”

Just how bad is the situation that it warrants an innovative policy such as reparations?


Referred to disparagingly as ‘boomers’, these women were actually the first generation of women in history to enter the universities, the professions and the workforce in mass numbers. This should have ensured their financial security as they aged. For many it did, but for too many it has not.

To try to find out how many older women face impoverishment you have to really search for the statistics. Older women are not only invisible socially, but are also often overlooked in economic data. Specific statistics about them are usually not included or appear as an afterthought.

Take for example, John Daley CEO of the Grattan Institute who rejected Keating’s fears of impoverished old Australians and breezily assured us that super and “savings won’t run out at 90 – multiple sources show that on current trends most Australians die with savings almost as large as when they retired.”

Which trends was he referring to? Certainly they totally overlooked older women who have neither savings nor super.

Two other recent reports were just as cheery. Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report pronounced that Australia has overtaken Switzerland as the country with the highest median wealth per adult in the world. Figures about older women facing dire financial stress were subsumed by the general affluence. And the Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research added to this bountiful picture by remarking that the median standard of living of older Australians has improved but is “held down by the typically much lower balances of women, which average 64 per cent less than men’s.”


The ABS 2016 Census recorded that there were 1,060,515 women aged 65+ whose income was less than $499 per week, with $433 per week being the poverty line. That was two years ago. The number of women in this cohort has increased since then and will continue to do so.

OECD statistics this year recorded that 35.5% of Australian pensioners, the majority being women aged 65+, live in income poverty compared to only 18.4% in Turkey! The figures in the table show just how badly Australia compares to other OECD countries.

One in three Australian single women – unmarried, divorced or widowed – live in poverty by the time they are aged 60.

Thirty percent of people on Newstart are over the age of 50, and most are women.

About 40% of renters aged 65 and over are below the poverty line. And, among those living alone, the poverty rate rises to 60%. The majority are women.

We are already seeing thousands of homeless older women who can only afford to eat one meal a day, who couch surf, sleep in cars, or on the streets, or even in cemeteries.


Their economic disadvantage is the consequence of a history of gender discrimination.

An entire generation of women over 55 spent decades in the workforce but have little or no superannuation whatsoever because super was introduced only in 1992.

And throughout their working lives, these women suffered decades of economic discrimination, inequality and injustice in the following ways:

  1. Working women were forced or encouraged by their employers to quit their jobs once they married, became pregnant or had children. This was a widely acceptable practice. Nowadays, women would sue for wrongful dismissal. It was not an option back then.
  2. They received unequal pay and unequal opportunity across all professions and jobs throughout their working lives, regardless of position and seniority.
  3. Maternity leave was unpaid.
  4. Barriers prevented women re-entering the workforce after time-out raising children. If women were able to re-enter the workforce, it was usually part-time. Both their pay and promotion were consequently severely compromised.
  5. No childcare subsidies were available to enable them to remain in the
  6. Women carried out unpaid labour caring for dependents, including the elderly.

This economic discrimination has resulted in financial and social problems on an unprecedented scale. It has meant that unlike men, women enter old age with little savings, super or assets. And they are expected to make it last for 20-30 years.

These women worked, raised families, cared for relatives, and contributed essential services to society. Society could not function without their essential work. And it was work. A lifetime of unpaid and underpaid labour, as well as unequal access to employment and advancement. To abandon them now is unconscionable. It is also not a realistic option.


Nor is it realistic to tell them to go get a job.
The reality is that because of ageism, older women cannot get work however much they would like to both earn an income and use a lifetime of skills and professional expertise.

A newly released government report, Employing Older Workers, overseen by the Australian Human Rights Commission, found that almost a third of Australian employers will not employ people over 50, despite the practice being illegal. The government has let them continue to do so without sanctions. Some of those discriminatory employers may include government agencies.

Nevertheless, the Federal Government just issued new regulations that will make things even worse for older job seekers. As of September 20, in order to continue receiving Newstart, job seekers aged 55 to 59 who previously had to do 30 hours per fortnight of voluntary work, must now do at least half of these hours as paid work. And those over 60, will for the first time, have to do 10 hours of paid work per fortnight.
In the face of the clear evidence of discrimination against older workers, this regulation can only be interpreted as a cynical policy to cut off even the inadequate Newstart funding that they receive.

Inevitably, it will exacerbate an already perilous situation for older Australians.


A reparation policy to ensure financial security for women over 55 is the only sustainable policy.

Paying older women reparations would enable them to stay in their homes or in affordable rental accommodation. It would be cheaper and more effective than other options. It is essential to build affordable public housing and make it available, but it cannot cope with the overwhelming demand in the short term.

Reparations would also avoid the trauma and dislocation women are already enduring.
Not to mention the disastrous effects on our society of having a tsunami of older women in desperate straits.

That’s why the next Australian government needs to make reparation payments to women over 55 part of its economic and social policy.

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Our names are Augustine Zycher and Rosalie Zycher. We are the Founders and Editors of WomanGoingPlaces.

We are now setting up a Facebook Group called:
Email: [email protected]

We belong to a generation of pioneers – women over the age of 50.
But we don’t really see ourselves as a pioneering generation. And we certainly are not given any credit for it. So maybe it’s worthwhile remembering just what we did pioneer.

* We are the first generation in history of older, highly educated women to number in the
tens of millions.

* We are the first generation of older women who have spent decades in the
workforce in professions and skilled employment, and not in the
sweatshops and fields.

* We are the first generation of women to be able to take control of our bodies and our
fertility and access contraception and legal abortions.

* We are the generation of women who made feminism mainstream.

And now that we are the first generation of women who can expect to live into their 90s, we really need to talk about how we want to age.

In the OLD SHEILAS SPEAKING UP group, we want to be able to speak up about our lives as women over 50 – our achievements, our struggles, what worries us, what’s not right, and discuss how we can improve things for women in our age group.

In the same way we pioneered the choices for women when we were young, now we need to spearhead social change regarding women ageing. This is the last frontier of feminism.

We know that ageing somehow makes us invisible and silent to the rest of society. This is really not acceptable since we are one of the largest sectors of the Australian population. In the OLD SHEILAS SPEAKING UP group we’ll speak and listen. And we intend to make ourselves heard.

We could have called our group matriarchs or elders because that is what we are. But being Australian, we do serious things with a bit of a giggle and that’s why we take pride in calling ourselves Old Sheilas.

We would love to have you join OLD SHEILAS SPEAKING UP and have your say. Email: [email protected]

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WOMEN OVER 50 – what shall we call ourselves?


Let’s start by listing what other people call us, we women over 50 – matron, old lady, granny, biddy, old bag, crone, hag, witch, are some of the names used.

There is nothing positive about these appellations. They are either neutral or negative.

They denote weakness, ugliness, helplessness and even evil.

They constitute a massive put down.

In a society that values women primarily for their youthful beauty, sexual and reproductive powers, the more we age, the more we lose value. Our currency as women is devalued.

Until we become invisible.

Ask around and hear how many older women will tell you they feel invisible. Discarded.

Men gain gravitas and authority as they age, women are enfeebled and disappear from the

public stage.

This does not reflect our true role in society.

Nor does it reflect who we women are and how we see ourselves.

We are a powerful force not only in the lives of our families, but also in the general community.

We include millions of women, the first generation in history, to have higher education.

We are the first generation of women in history who, en masse, entered the professions and         an unprecedented range of occupations.

We are the first generation in history to have spent decades in the workforce – full-time and


All this while raising and/or caring for families – children, partners and parents.

We have a lifetime of expertise, skills, experience and knowledge.

And we just happen to be the largest demographic group in Australia.

There is power in our numbers.

It’s time for us to demand that older women be more visible and play a more prominent role in society. The campaign to have more women in leadership positions must include not only young women, but also older women. Older women should be present in all levels of government, on boards and in the media.

Older women must also be more involved in making policy and dealing with the critical issues facing women as we age – senior entrepreneurship, ageism in the workplace, poverty, homelessness, innovative housing and social solutions, aged care and elder abuse.

The existing approaches to an ageing population are outdated and collapsing.  And the political establishment has little awareness and no commitment to tackling these issues.

A good starting point is proper recognition and acknowledgement of the critical roles

women have played and continue to play. It’s time we got, what Aretha Franklin demanded –           R-E-S-P-E-C-T. As well as more decision-making P-O-W-E-R.

Changing the names we are called may begin to change the way we are perceived.

We should get to decide how we define ourselves and what we are called.

Earlier feminists didn’t want to be defined by their marital status so Mrs. and Miss were changed successfully to Ms as a form of address.

WomanGoingPlaces likes the appellation Matriarchs. It denotes respected status, power, wisdom, leadership and knowledge.  ‘A powerful and usually older woman in charge of a family, or the female leader of a society in which women hold power’ is the definition of Matriarchs given by the Cambridge Dictionary.


We’d love to hear your suggestions of what you would like to be called and how you would like to be described. Go to our FACEBOOK page and join the discussion.


* * * *

Photo: Maye Musk 68 year-old model Matthew Priestley/W Magazine


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Michelle Garnaut – My Top 5 Places in Australia

For centuries, empires, governments and global companies have vied with each other in displays of wealth, grandeur and power along the Bund in Shanghai. For close to a quarter of a century, one Australian woman has maintained her position on the Bund with no power other than the power of her reputation.

Michelle Garnaut AO, the CEO of the M Restaurant Group, has established restaurants and lounges that have pioneered independent fine dining in both China and Hong Kong.

M on the Bund, the restaurant she opened in 1999, has won numerous awards and was named one of the 50 Best Restaurants in the World by Conde Nast Traveler. Michelle herself has garnered Australian and international recognition. This year, she was awarded an AO for distinguished service to Australia-China relations as a restauranteur and entrepreneur, and for her support of literary and cultural programs.

In 2009 Michelle opened Capital M in Beijing with its breathtaking terrace overlooking Tiananmen Square. And in 2016 she added Glam, a dining lounge and bar in Shanghai.

Her clientele includes royalty, government and business leaders, diplomats, celebrities and the media.

As an entrepreneur, Michelle has had the daring, skill and tenacity to successfully establish and sustain several enterprises in China – a feat that has defeated many foreign companies seeking to do business in China.


View from the terrace M on the Bund

M on the Bund

When Michelle began looking for a place in Shanghai to open her first restaurant in China, the Bund in the 1990s was not the glamorous, glitzy and spectacular strip it is today.

“The Bund was shabby then. Everyone told me to open in the French Concession, the more fashionable area of Shanghai where all the 5-star restaurants and bars were,”  remembers Michelle.

Nevertheless, she went against conventional wisdom and made what looked like a crazy investment in taking a 15-year lease on the 7th floor of a 1930’s Art Deco building on the Bund, overlooking the Huangpu river. This view would later be described by her diners as “ the most amazing skyline in the world.”

M on the Bund was Shanghai’s first independent, international standard restaurant, and it was an immediate hit. Michelle created her own niche with her distinctive combination of ambience, decor, and contemporary cuisine, including some Australian favourites such as M’s Very Famous Pavlova.

“We were in the right place at the right time with the right thing.”

Glam M Restaurants

Starting Out

Michelle Garnaut became a chef and restauranteur almost by accident. She had grown up in Melbourne, gone to Elwood High School, dropped out of Uni and headed off to Greece, because it was the cheapest ticket she could afford. She went by herself “ because I had no-one to go with.” After a year there she returned to Melbourne.

While flipping through a William Angliss Institute handbook, trying to find something to do, she spotted a course for a diploma in catering, cooking and hospitality. She and her 80-year old aunt, whom she describes as her role model, decided to do the course together. Surprisingly, she discovered “ I actually really liked cooking. And they said “you’ve got talent.”

But after completing the course it  was very hard to break into the profession in Australia. Women were not allowed to work in kitchens in many hotels and restaurants at that time. “Women had to fight much more back then. Today women feel they have the right and that is progress,” says Michelle.

Michelle Garnaut with staff of M on the Bund


Hong Kong

In 1984 she flew to Hong Kong. When she arrived she had no connections, she did not speak Chinese, and she was a woman  in a field overwhelmingly dominated by men. Yet by 1989, after working as a dishwasher, waitress, chef and caterer, she borrowed money and opened her first restaurant – M on the Fringe.

Here too she took a risk and went against conventional wisdom.

“When we opened in 1989 we had a new concept- a new style of restaurant. We opened in a nightclub area instead of the usual fuddy-duddy hotel area, and it was very successful “ says Michelle.

“When I opened the restaurant in Hong Kong I decided I didn’t want to be the chef. I could either be managing the business and dealing with customers or running the kitchen. I couldn’t do both. I did cook in the beginning because we were short-staffed. But I needed to be in charge,” she said.

Michelle developed her signature style of good food, chic and comfort in M on the Fringe and it remained one of Hong Kong’s best loved restaurants for 20 years, closing in 2009. Capital M in Beijing which had become a favourite destination, had to close this year, unable to cope with the restrictions placed on its location overlooking Tiananmen Square. It will be moving to another location in the capital.

Cultural & Artistic Hubs

Chamber Music at M Glam June 2017

Alongside running the M Restaurant Group, Michelle has vigorously supported the arts, the community and the empowerment of women.

Michelle opened up the M venues to function as cultural and artistic hubs.

She initiated the Shanghai International Literary Arts Festival, now in its 16th year. Over 1,000 of the world’s leading writers and thinkers have held talks and salons in her venues in Shanghai and Beijing. M on the Bund will host the 2018 Shanghai International Literary Arts Festival in March. The Festival will include Stella Prize winners and other leading Australian authors including Alexis Wright, Charlotte Wood, Fiona Wright and Richard Flanagan.

Michelle also sponsors the M Literary Residency Program that has provided residency in China and India for writers.

The M venues also host the Shanghai Chamber Music Festival and Competition that gives music students an invaluable opportunity to perform before discerning audiences, and provides a platform for chamber music in the city.

Village People Project

Far from Shanghai, along the old Silk Road in the arid, remote villages of Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, is where Michelle has set up projects with the local communities.

“Living and working in China I wanted to do something that was not just restaurants. There is enormous rural poverty and I wanted to work with women and children there. The lack of access to bathing facilities in poor rural areas leads to great physical and mental problems,“ says Michelle.

Michelle was a founder of the Village People Project, dedicated to building solar-powered bathhouses that are then run as businesses by local families. Four bathhouses have been opened.

Now the Village People Project is working to install bathrooms with solar-powered water heaters in the homes of more than 2,000 families in Qinghai Province.

“We want to provide solar panels to everyone in the village and help individuals to build their own household bathroom. It is a communal project with 3 out of the 5 committee members being women. It empowers the local women,” says Michelle.

Her commitment to empower women has also been behind her support of two other projects.

Mentor Walks

Michelle spearheaded  Mentor Walks in Shanghai and Beijing and they have now spread to Australia in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and even Wagga Wagga.

Once a month, women Mentors from a range of professions, take a walk with women starting out in business and the professions. Each Mentor, with 3-4 mentees in tow walks, chats and answers any questions they may have. Michelle was inspired to set up these walks because she heard from women that they remembered snippets of advice she had given them over the years.

“You get snippets that resonate with you and stay with you,” says Michelle. “I think it’s very important for all women to encourage and mentor the next generation. I laid the groundwork in my industry and I’m happy to share that with anyone who wants to learn from it.”

Participant in Educating Girls of Rural China program

Educating Girls In Rural China

Mentor Walks raises money for important project for girls and young women in China called Educating Girls of Rural China . Traditional attitudes valuing boys over girls still prevail in these areas and consequently, many families only educate the boys.

EGRC supports girls from impoverished rural regions in Western China to attend high school and get university education by providing financial sponsorship, personal support and mentorship.

To date, 842 girls from the poorest regions of China have been supported to attend high school and university with a 99% graduation rate.

Work & Happiness

“To be happy you must have 2 of 3 things — passion, prestige or payment,” advises Michelle.

“If you want to start a business, work is your life. You have to love your work and live your life in it.  All of that has made my life interesting,” says Michelle.

“You gotta keep doing things. Gotta keep making things happen. You have to be determined.”


Michelle’s Top 5 Places


Sydney N.S.W

Sydney Harbour

Sydney is so beautiful!  It’s the water and the hills. And the flora.

I was 19 when I first went. It’s wilder than Melbourne. Rocks with houses built on top, glimpses of beauty wherever you look. Always glimpses of the beautiful harbour.

I live in Hong Kong and that’s what I love – those flashes of beauty.


Mornington Peninsula Victoria

Mornington Peninsula –

I’ve lived in cities all my life. When I was growing up in Melbourne I had friends with a holiday house at Balnarring beach. It was half-wild but also half-tame there.

I find the parts of Australia that are half-wild, half-tame enormously appealing. There are parts where you’re coming through a dark forest and then it opens on to a view of the beach.

The Mornington Peninsula is so dramatically beautiful. And now there are the vineyards and the food there.


Jervis Bay N.S.W

Hyams Beach, Jervis Bay NSW –

I stayed with a friend who has a house in Hyams Beach. There are spectacular cliffs on the other side of Jervis bay with walking trails. I love walking, but not climbing mountains. We walked along the cliffs and came down to the beach, did yoga and then found coffee.

I haven’t lived in Oz for 40 years, so when I am back it’s a mad, frantic visit to the cities to catch up with people, with some visits to beautiful places like Hyams.


Melbourne Victoria

Melbourne skyline – David Zycher

Melbourne to me is a place of family, of memories. It is a complex place. It also has a darker side, compared to Sydney which is a lighter city.

I left Melbourne in 1978 because I felt closed in. I went back for a year ( to do the hospitality course) and then left again.

But Melbourne has changed since I went to Elwood High School.

It has changed as dramatically as China has.

It is staggeringly beautiful and has amazing culture. It has all the variety of a big city. Its true multi-culturalism is fantastic.

I like the cultural side, the theatre and the food. But Melbourne is snobby about food.


Train journey across the Nullarbor Plain from South Australia to Western Australia

Indian Pacific 2 crossing Nullarbor Plain –

In 2000, I took the train tip across the Nullarbor Plain by myself and it was incredible!

It took 2 nights and 3 days. I ended up in Perth.

There is a common myth of that the Nullarbor plain is flat and boring.

Yes, it’s flat, but fantastic and fascinating. There is this vastness.

You don’t  get bored – yes, it’s the same scrub land, but you don’t get bored.

Before the train trip, I drove from Adelaide to Ceduna in South Australia which is the last town on the border before the Nullarbor Plain. I had a good friend there who was doing an enormous cooking performance as part of the Adelaide Festival. I helped out.

We were doing oysters on the beach and feeding 1500 people.

You can fly into Ceduna to get to Streaky Bay where you can eat Streaky Bay oysters – absolutely fantastic!




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Rosie Batty – My Top 5 Places in Australia

Rosie Batty made Australia listen.

Her son, Luke aged 11, was with his father playing cricket in the park when his father walked over to him and killed him. Speaking quietly from the depths of her horror, Rosie said “ No matter how nice your house is, how intelligent you are, it can happen to anyone – and everyone.”

In expressing her personal grief, Rosie compelled us to see that family violence was our business. She made us see that the plight of thousands of women and children could one day be our plight, or that of someone close to us.

The numbers are indeed frightening: in Australia, two women are killed every week on average; almost 1,000 cases of child abuse are reported every day; one woman is hospitalised every 3 hours; and one in 3 women have experience physical and/or sexual violence.

Rosie has described family violence as an “epidemic”.

On what would have been his 13th birthday on 20 June, 2015, Rosie established the Luke Batty Never Alone Foundation to raise awareness, improve crisis services and advocate on behalf of the victims.

Earlier this year, Rosie joined the Aboriginal Alice Springs Town Camp in their Women’s March Against Domestic Violence.  “I’m very keen to support this group of women who are working in their community and ensuring the voices of Aboriginal women are heard.”

Rosie has spearheaded a public campaign and presented the Prime Minister, lawmakers, the police and judiciary with tens of thousands of signatures urging fundamental change in the way the system responds to family violence.

“The conversations around family violence are definitely occurring now, compared with previous generations. Those women had no-one to talk to or lean on. The attitude was ‘ you made your bed, now lie in it’. There is still much misunderstanding and victim blaming, but I am being told by women that they have more confidence to come forward,” said Rosie. “It will take time but I see it as the kind of generational change we need.”

Rosie worked closely with Fiona Richardson the first Victorian Minister for Family Violence Prevention, on the Royal Commission into Family Violence which delivered its report on March 2016. Ms. Richardson died recently and Rosie paid tribute to her as both a mentor and a friend.

“I wouldn’t be where I am now without her love and belief in me. And I wouldn’t have been able to do what I have been able to do without the practical support she made available to me in so many ways.”

Rosie & Luke Batty

In 2015, Rosie Batty was recognised as Australian of the Year.

“If I can be seen as a leader of women, even if I don’t feel it myself, as someone who can create change in their mid-50s, it’s what I want to do,” says Rosie.

In July this year, she delivered a statement to a parliamentary inquiry into family law and family violence. Her statement, which received 11,000 signatures in 7 days, decried the federal family law system for endangering children in particular.

“The family law system is another avenue for the abuse to continue,” insists Rosie. She condemns the practice of the courts to grant abusive parents access to the children. “The children are absolutely forced to have access visits and forced to continue relationships. Their mothers have to drag them to the car where they self harm and are suicidal. And the mother is threatened that if she doesn’t allow it she will lose (custody of) the child.…So she has to give them up and hope that each weekend they come home safe and are not killed like my son was.” [See the full video below of Rosie Batty’s appearance before the parliamentary inquiry].

Rosie came to Australia from England 30 years ago, not expecting to stay. She was shy and alone and she wanted to challenge herself through travel. One of her earliest memories is of being 16 and not wanting to get to 80 with regret for not doing things and “not pushing myself out of my comfort zone”.

Her grandmother, an incredibly strong woman who lived to 100, was her role model.

Rosie stayed in Australia after Luke’s death because “Australia has been supportive and kind to me.”

She is determined not to just sit and exist. Her mindset is to “live life to the fullest. There is still that sense of adventure and the unexpected ahead of me and I will keep doing that as long as I can.”

See Rosie’s choices of her favourite destinations in Australia.

Rosie’s Top 5 Places


Cape Tribulation, Queensland

Cape Tribulation Queensland

I was 24 years old when I first arrived in Australia from England. I back-packed up the east coast. When I got to Cape Tribulation, I worked as a cleaner in a hostel. Coming from England I couldn’t believe how remote and isolated it was. Really remote. It’s where unique, ancient rainforest meets reef. It’s difficult to find somewhere else in the world as stunningly beautiful as it is.

There were crocodiles and jellyfish, and you couldn’t put a toe in the water.

There were no sealed roads then, and 4-wheel drives and the ferry were the only way in or out. You didn’t have the comforts you take for granted, no electricity, just a generator.

It was incredibly humid. But if you go July – September it is the most beautiful weather – very comfortable, not humid. Even though the roads are sealed now, it is still remote.

I like lots of different types of holidays – the hustle and bustle of cities but also to be far away in nature, remote, tuned out, embracing the beauty.

Australia is incomparable in beauty and still so remote.

Larapinta Trail, Northern Territory

Larapinta Trail trek with Rosie Batty

In August, I led a dozen supporters on a six-day fundraising walk for the Luke Batty Never Alone Foundation, along Australia’s most iconic desert trek, the Larapinta Trail.  Already one of the 7 Great Walks of Australia, the Larapinta Trail recently joined the ranks of the top 10 walks in the entire world.

I think that the Australian Outback is quintessentially Australian in a way suburban and metro areas aren’t. It is amazing and beautiful. We live in a large continent and don’t take the time to explore and appreciate its beauty. It is so evident how old Australia is when you see the rocks. You get transported back in time.

I didn’t realise it until we started the Larapinta walk, but all the participants were all living with the impact of family violence – whether it was a family member, a friend, or their own personal experience. It was a deeply moving realisation. We felt confident to share our experiences and it was comforting.

The purpose of the walk was both to raise money for the Foundation and to give these people an opportunity to do something physically challenging, and something for themselves – to take time out to sit under the stars. I have done several treks, others on the walk hadn’t and it was very challenging.

The Larapinta walk came close to raising $30,000 for the Luke Batty Foundation and that’s a significant achievement.

Broome, West Australia

Cape Leveque Western Australia

Broome is a long way away, but you’re not doing it tough when you get there.

The restaurants and resorts are stunning, and I had some of the best meals I have ever tasted. You can sit having a drink while watching the sunset and the camels coming back along the beach. While there, I was shown footprints of dinosaurs.

Looking down from plane on the way to Cape Leveque  you see a vast expanse of untamed beaches. You see crocodiles, but you see no-one, just a beautiful uninhabited place, remote and untouched. You have to understand the terrain, it’s risks and dangers.

Compared to England which is small with nothing dangerous, and where you are always surrounded by people, in Australia everything is big and dangerous. You have a pioneering feeling, a feeling of adventure.

I love that in Australia we can go to so many vast places and have limited contact with people, where you are not queuing up, not milling around and surrounded.


Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria

Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria

My greatest memory was of spending a week there with my brother.

We camped and went on long walks every day, stunning walks. I love walking. We saw everything, stingrays, koalas, wombats, kangaroos.

If you go at dusk you are guaranteed to see as many kangaroos as you ever could see. And stunning beaches – it’s just such a beautiful place, one of those gems. And not too far from Melbourne.


Sydney, NSW

Sydney is a fabulous city – so vibrant and beautiful. On a sunny day, with blue skies and views of Sydney harbour and Opera House, it is hard to find a better or more stunning city. I have climbed the bridge 3 times. I always take relatives and visitors from overseas to Sydney. It’s just vibrant and busy – lots of lovely restaurants with harbour views. I love the Rocks, the setting is lovely.

Sydney Opera House and Harbour



Rosie Batty’s statement to a parliamentary inquiry into family law and family violence – July 24th 2017



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We, the Matriarchs…

We, the Matriarchs… are the first generation in history of older, highly educated women to number in the tens of millions.

We are the first ever generation of older women who have spent decades in the workforce in professions and skilled employment, and not in the sweatshops and the fields.

We are the first ever generation of older women who have accumulated independent wealth and economic clout, despite discriminatory wage practices.

And we are the first ever generation of older women who can expect to live into their 90s.

But now we are entering the age of retirement.

What next? What does society expect of us?

Well, nothing really. We are the most invisible segment of the population. If they see us at all we are only seen as stereotypes – kindly grannies, old hags, frail spinsters or old biddies selfishly occupying homes that could better be used by young families. I went to a luncheon for International Women’s Day attended by over 400 women. So little was expected of this large congregation of women that the only sponsor was a funeral home.

The Last Frontier of Feminism

Over the last decades, feminists have addressed the issues in the life cycles of girls and women – contraception, abortion, education and workplace equality, child-care etc . But only now are we feminists of the ‘60s hitting our own 60s. Only now are we ourselves facing the problems of older women and experiencing the magnitude of the discrimination.

Women ageing is the last frontier of feminism.

A National Asset

Older women are seen as a national liability, whereas in fact, we are a national asset.

We are actually the fastest growing sector of the Australian population, we have significant spending power as a group, and remarkably we are a key driving force in the creation of start-up enterprises. More older women are creating new businesses in the US, England and Australia than cool young males.

We are society’s unlikely innovators. Creating new enterprises, re-inventing ourselves and re-defining how women age.

And we have had to take matters into our own hands and find our own way because there are no good roadmaps for women ageing in contemporary society. Society offers us few options. Thirty years is a long time to babysit the grandchildren, garden or play golf.

Instead, we see the coming years as a considerable period in our working lives uninterrupted by child bearing and rearing. Years in which to deploy a lifetime of experience and expertise. We enjoy using our highly developed talents and skills, but few employers are willing to give us work.

“Like kryptonite to Superman”, ageism is a huge barrier to female employment, notes the incomparable Kathy Lette.

Senior Women Entrepreneurs

Undaunted, many women over 50 have taken to the internet in mass numbers and are setting up our own enterprises. Astonishingly, baby boomers are expected to contribute an additional $11.9 billion to Australia’s GDP, specifically by starting online businesses. The numbers of male and female entrepreneurs are roughly equal at present, but Dr. Alex Maritz, Professor of Entrepreneurship LaTrobe University predicts a surge in women senior entrepreneurs.

Vulnerable Older Women

Older women continue to work, not only because we can and want to, but also out of necessity. We all know how precarious the situation is for many older women, particularly those in their sixties and older with limited or non-existent incomes.

We were the generation that worked decades before super was introduced. Then there are the cumulative effects of a lifetime of discrimination: lower pay than men because women were not “ the main breadwinner”; part-time work; lower paid professions and the exclusion from the top professional and business levels. Add to this, the years out of the workforce to have children and look after family members. Re-entry to the workforce then becoming either impossible or with reduced pay.

Since statistically, women live longer than men and only 15% will have their husband alive when they die, most women will lose the couples’ pension. Living on one pension with the government relentlessly chipping away at it, is forcing women to sell their homes.

With pensions cut and no jobs available for older women, not surprisingly, in the past five years, there has been a 44% increase in older women becoming homeless.

I am reminded of a film I saw about a Japanese man taking his ageing mother on his back up a mountain to leave her there to die. That was a traditional way of dealing with ageing women.

Older Womanpower

We must speak out against our government’s policy of impoverishing older women.

But we must not frame the discussion around older women solely in terms of helplessness and national liability.

We must provide opportunities for older women to earn an income in dignity and speak out against ageism in employment.

Not all women want to open up their own businesses, but the many that do must be given the legislative support, funding and incentives provided to the start-ups of younger people.

Australia has an enormous reserve of skilled womanpower that we cannot afford to waste.

And we older women, don’t want to live this part of our lives in the straitjacket of society’s expectations.

That is the mandate of WomanGoingPlaces. To showcase the older women of Oz in all our rich variety, wisdom, strength and accomplishments.


Photo – Professor Lyn Slater- accidental

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Maureen Wheeler – My Top 5 Places In Australia

Maureen Wheeler AO is a pioneer of landmark enterprises in both travel and in the cultural life of Melbourne.

She was the co-founder, with her husband Tony, of Lonely Planet books – guides as indispensable to travellers as their backpacks and suitcases. Lonely Planet volumes, translated into many languages, significantly contributed to the popularisation of travel worldwide.

Maureen was also the co-founder of the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne. This centre for books, writing and ideas played a critical role in Melbourne achieving its status as a UNESCO designated City of Literature in 2008. And in less than a decade since it was established, the Wheeler Centre has become one of the most dynamic features of this city.

“We wanted to create something that didn’t exist before. We came up with the idea of lectures, talks, big events, most of it free,” says Maureen. Their endowment makes much of it free to the public. Acknowledging its staff Maureen says, “The Wheeler Centre really delivers for Melbourne. It’s like you filled a hole that you didn’t know existed.”

Lonely Planet 1975 South-East Asia on a Shoestring

Lonely Planet Publications began in the 1970s because Maureen and Tony, as a young couple, loved to travel but could not afford it. In working out ingenious ways of seeing the world on a shoestring, they built a publishing empire. Lonely Planet reached its apogee 40 years later when it had become the world’s largest independent guidebook publisher and was sold in 2011 to the BBC for $224 million.

Maureen, who was originally from Belfast, Ireland, says that when Lonely Planet started “it was like a hobby. We would travel and do a book, sell it, then travel and do another book. It was just Tony and I for the first 9 years. We worked out of our house. We did everything. So we learnt on the job. How to put a book together, how to sell it, invoice it, how to pack it and how to take it down to the docks and put it on the ships. I used to drive around town in a station wagon dropping off books in bookstores.”


The Wheelers travelled with their children Tashi and Kieran when they were small, but once they started school, Tony continued to travel while Maureen stayed with them and managed the business.  “By the time I realised I was a businesswoman, I had been one for a very long time. It’s a big learning process. It isn’t always that you get it right. You make mistakes. You work it out somehow.”

Lonely Planet grew very slowly in the 80s and that is when it went from being a hobby to being a business. “But it took another 10 years. In 1984 we had about 12 people. We moved to the United States and set up an office there which was an incredibly bold things to do because various Australian publishers had tried to make it in America but had failed. No one believed that a company with 12 people would succeed. And it was hard for a couple of years.” Then an office was opened in France and partnerships were developed around the world in different languages. By the 1990s, they had more than 700 staff around the world.

With the growing success of Lonely Planet, Maureen and Tony set up the Lonely Planet Foundation in 1987 to give 10% of their profits to NGOs in famine relief, maternal and child welfare, micro-financing for women’s groups, education, clean water and hospitals. Maureen ran the Foundation for 20 years until they sold Lonely Planet books. Then the Foundation became the Planet Wheeler Foundation. Her daughter Tashi has taken over day-to-day involvement with the projects, but Maureen still gets monthly reports and is involved in decision-making on which projects to fund.

Maureen is now in her second year as Chair of the Melbourne Festival. Planning the Festival presents a challenge because Melbourne has so many cultural events. “The idea is not to compete, but to bring things to Melbourne that are amazing, incredibly exciting and that people wouldn’t get to see otherwise. So it’s about finding those events that people will go ‘Wow’ and talk about years later,” she says.

The Melbourne Theatre Company, the Malthouse Theatre, and opera also occupy a lot of her time. And in addition, she and Tony continue to be involved in publishing as partners in award-winning Text Publishing, a Melbourne-based independent publisher.

In 2014, Maureen and Tony Wheeler were awarded the Order of Australia.


Maureen’s Top Places

When I think about what’s really special about Australia, I think of these three regions:

The Kimberley

Kimberely Coastal Camp

I love the Kimberley region. It’s not a particular place in the Kimberley region. I love that area, I think it’s beyond beautiful.

There’s a place up there, the Kimberley Coastal Camp which I love. The Kimberley region is quite large and you’re either driving, camping or flying, and staying in really lovely places. Not a lot of places to stay. I do like Broome. Broome’s rather an interesting town. The Kimberley area is so stunningly beautiful. The colour is amazing. There is amazing rock art. I feel stunned by the beauty.

Dinosaur Footprints Broome WA –


The Northern Territory

I like the Northern Territory. I was on the (NT Tourism) Board up there for a couple of years and I got to travel around quite a lot, and there are some amazing things to see there. There’s a place out of Katherine,  canyons, and you can’t get there except by helicopter, and it has the most amazing rock art. It’s a fascinating area.

Aboriginal rock art sites in Arnhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory – Tony Wheeler


Turtles & Fish Aboriginal rock art sites in Arnhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory – Tony Wheeler

The Northern Territory is a really interesting place. I’ve seen Darwin change over the years. It’s not an Australian town, it’s a Pacific town. It reminds me of all the towns on the Pacific islands, it’s got that feel to it. It doesn’t feel as if it belongs to the rest of Australia. It’s quite diverse. It’s been interesting over the years to see the diversity of the population increase. When I first went up there were nearly all white people and now there are a lot of Chinese and Indians, backpackers going through from everywhere. So Darwin is an interesting city and what interested me was that it was the wild frontier for quite a while.

The Northern Territory has the most stunning colour. It’s very vivid, very red. The Kimberley is more blues and greys and greens. And the Northern Territory is very stark, very red, very blue skies and so much emptiness. You feel that it’s empty. And of course it extends down to Alice Springs and Uluru and up towards Katherine. Kakadu in the wet season is just wonderful, it’s beautiful. So again its scenery, the landscape is fantastic.

Beswick Falls, Katherine, NT –



I love Tasmania. I first went to Tasmania back in the 70s, and we drove around. I was also on the Tasmanian (Tourist) Board for six years in the 90s. I went down seven times a year, and I got to see an awful lot of Tasmania. And then I kept going back. I love Tasmania, I think it’s fabulous. I even love flying in. It reminds me a bit of Ireland. I love travelling around Tasmania. It’s so beautiful and there is so much to see, and now that they’ve got MONA in Hobart, that’s even better. I love Stanley, a beautiful little village on the north-west. I’ve been there quite a few times.

Stanley Tasmania –


I like the walks – I’ve done the Bay of Fires, and I’ve done the Overland Trek, and I’ve done the Maria Island Trek, and I’ve done the Freycinet Trek. And the area around Coles Bay is absolutely gorgeous. And I love Hobart, I think it’s a great little town. Out of Hobart you’ve got places like Richmond, it’s just very pretty. And I love Bruny Island, That’s a great place to really get away.  Tasmania has changed over the years but it hasn’t changed so much, and places like Hobart have changed for the better. I think it’s fabulous, just a great little island with everything. It’s pretty, nice little villages, wonderful walks, a very interesting town Hobart and the history too.

Richmond Tasmania –



Melbourne is great. Sydney is very lovely, but Melbourne is probably much more dynamic than Sydney in terms of what’s offered culturally.

Melbourne skyline – David Zycher


Tips for Travellers:

Take very little luggage and a large credit card.




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Maestro Simone Young – My Top 5 Places in Australia

Maestro Simone Young AM is one of the world’s great opera and concert orchestra conductors. She has been called a ‘superconductor’, a conductor whose elegance and power, strength and sensitivity on the podium inspire her orchestra. She is a highly esteemed interpreter of the works of Wagner and Strauss, Mahler, Bruckner and Brahms, as well as those of contemporary composers.

It is easy to recall images of famous conductors, many of them legendary figures idolised by the public. But there were few women conductors in this array. When Simone Young took her place at the podium on the international stage “she forged a path where there was no path,” says Alondra de la Parra, one of a handful of rising women conductors.

Born in Sydney to what Simone Young describes as a non-musical family, the girl who “grew up on the beach in Manly ” was invited to conduct the most prestigious orchestras in the world and became an internationally acclaimed conductor.

Maestro Young’s accomplishments are extraordinary regardless of gender.

She studied composition at the Sydney Conservatorium at a time when she was the only woman in that faculty and made her conducting debut at the Sydney Opera House at the age of 24. By 25, she was conducting assistant to James Conlon at the Cologne Opera House and then became an assistant to Daniel Barenboim at the Berlin Opera and the Bayreuth Festival. Since then, she has conducted at all the world’s leading opera houses, including at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London, and the Opera National de Paris.

She was the first woman to conduct Wagner’s full Ring cycle. Her first full Ring was in Vienna in 1999, followed some years later by her own Ring cycle in Hamburg.

She was Artistic Director and Music Director of the Australian Opera from 2001 to 2003.

Maestro Simone Young - photo Klaus Lefebvre

Maestro Simone Young – photo Klaus Lefebvre

On the concert stage, Simone Young has conducted the world’s leading orchestras including the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic and the London Philharmonic.

Last year, Maestro Young completed a 10-year engagement at the helm of one of Germany’s pre-eminent cultural institutions where Tchaikovsky, Mahler and Klemperer had conducted. She held the dual appointment Artistic and Music Director of both the Hamburg State Opera and the Hamburg State Philharmonic Orchestra where she was responsible for 500 performances conducted in the Opera house, 50 new productions, and more than 30 different operas performed each year. She oversaw a workforce of 700 people, including an orchestra of 128 musicians, a 70-voice chorus, and an ensemble of 20 full-time singers plus guest artists. She was one of the longest serving directors of the 333 year-old organisation in the past century.

For Maestro Young, the issue of gender, of being a woman in the traditionally male preserve of conducting, was not decisive. It was only one of many challenges that face the “musician whose instrument is the entire orchestra.”

She believes that artistry, not gender is the key.  A conductor as an artist must be both strong and sensitive, and neither attribute should be assigned a gender. She prefers to see it as a union between the left and right sides of the brain.

“Gender, nationality, upbringing, sexual orientation, shoe size, are all completely immaterial – it’s all about music-making.”

“I don’t think my professional qualifications and achievements are in any way revalued because of my gender.

Maestro Young has built her career by focusing always on the music and not on the obstacles. “ If your assumption is that this is going to be so much harder for me, then it will be harder for you,” she said. “ If your assumption is that this is a great piece of music, and what a privilege it is now to be able to conduct this, you and the people you’re working with will have a good time.”

And she credits growing up in Australia with giving her the freedom to avoid the more stultifying aspects of European music culture – and for a spirit that dares to overcome conventional stereotypes.

Maestro Simone Young

Maestro Simone Young

Simone Young has recently begun a new phase of her brilliant career and gone freelance.

In great demand as a guest conductor, she has engagements with orchestras in Zurich, Vienna, Munich, Dresden and Berlin, and her calendar is booked for the next three years.

Since leaving Hamburg, Simone Young is based in the UK with her husband, Greg Condon, a teacher and literary expert, her two daughters and grandchild. She credits the full support of her husband and children for enabling her to manage an overwhelming schedule.

She is the recipient of many awards and honours since she won the Young Australian of the Year Award in 1986. These include a Member of the Order (AM), honorary doctorates from the University of New South Wales, Griffith University Queensland and Monash University Victoria, the French Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, and the German Goethe Medal.


Simone’s Top 5 Places:


Anyone who knows me well, knows that I can’t stay away from water. I am drawn to the ocean, to rivers, to lakes in a way that can only be explained by a childhood in Manly. Picnics at Clontarf, walks along the Esplanade, paddling in the Queenscliff lagoon across from my grandparents’ home, secretly munching on fish cocktails (little pieces of battered fish for non-Sydney-siders) while waiting for piano lessons, and catching the ferry home from meeting my Dad in the city after school and lessons at the Conservatorium – this was my childhood, and how lucky and blessed I now know that it was!

I recently came to the shocking realisation that I have now lived more of my life in Europe than in Australia. I think such a moment is a turning point for us expats; I have yet to meet an Australian overseas who doesn’t want to go home “some time in the future”, but after more than half a lifetime away, I have now officially joined the ranks of the gypsies who have lives and families in two countries (or more) and who will never feel really whole in either one again. I fly to Oz as often as I can – a colleague recently suggested I just ask the orchestras I work with to transfer my fees to Qantas directly rather than to my bank account! – and when I do, there are always some must-see places that I try to visit, to find that sought-after feeling of “home”.


Manly beach, Sydney -

Manly beach, Sydney –

Manly Beach

I just love it. It’s sometimes down-at-heel, looks unloved in the rain, can be a bit dodgy late on a Saturday night, but when the sun’s out and there’s a light breeze over the beach, it is truly wonderful!

I recently arrived on a flight from Europe at a ridiculously early hour (all the passengers had that charming grey-tinge to their skin-colour that only 24hours on a plane can achieve!) and rather than wake up my elderly mother, I asked the driver to take me to Manly Beach. It was even too early for the café that caters to the early-morning swimmers, but just watching the sun slowly rise over the horizon, I found that my breathing relaxed, the stress and fatigue fell away and a meditative calm came over me. Soon the café was open, with obviously a faithful clientele of slightly shivering and surprisingly older surfers, who slung L.A-Story–style coffee orders around (just what exactly is a double skinny piccolo?), the day swung into life. The joggers gave way to business folk, running just that little bit late for the ferry and to school kids, jostling and comparing the latest instagrams, and I promised myself to return the next day to do the magical walk from South Steyne around to Fairy Bower. If you do it, don’t forget to look for the tiny metal figures of the local wildlife set into the rocks. Or better still, get your snorkelling gear on and go and look at some yourself! And after that exercise, fish and chips sitting on the beach wall, dangling your legs over the side, is the only way to go – but watch out for those seagulls, they’ll steal the chips out of your fingers!


Ningaloo Reef Western Australia

Ningaloo Reef Western Australia – womangoingplaces

Ningaloo Reef  Western Australia

The beach theme continues, but this time in a very different environment. It had been a tough season, encompassing many performances, almost as many farewell dinners (I was leaving Hamburg after 10 years running the opera and the philharmonic there) and then a massive move of the household from north Germany to the UK. If a teacher’s weakness is books (and my husband Greg was a teacher for more than 30 years) a musician’s is scores and CDs (and of course some old vinyl that I just couldn’t get rid of!) – oh, and a grand piano, a harp, violins in various sizes, a couple of flutes, guitars, etc – and then the rest of the household. I was in great need of some serious R & R before the annual tour of the Australian orchestras began, less than two weeks after the big move.

Where could I find beach, sun, some solitary, reflective time and a proximity to nature? I’ve had many wonderful holidays on the east coast of Australia, from the Whitsundays up to Port Douglas, and just about everywhere in between, but now it was the far less-known and wilder West Australian coast that caught my attention. I flew into Exmouth, smiling broadly at the tiny airport, climbed into my rental car, called ahead to my eco-camp/hotel and set off. Very soon I was in the only car I could see, the houses gave way to scrub and the welcome and familiar dry landscape opened out. Once in the national park, (entrance paid into an “honesty box” – another smile!) the only pedestrians were the odd kangaroo or pair of emus, until I arrived at my destination. Bags dropped, I was in the water in a matter of minutes, and already marvelling at the coral and marine life.

Whale Shark Ningaloo - australiancoralcoast

Whale Shark Ningaloo – australiancoralcoast

And yes, I swam with a whale-shark – an extraordinary experience that I will never forget. Swimming (quite vigorously – you’re on the open sea) next to one of these gentle giants of the sea is exhilarating and humbling.

I love the Great Barrier Reef, but Ningaloo is rather a hidden gem!





Bundanoon, Southern Highlands, NSW

Bundanoon, Southern Highlands, NSW –

Bundanoon New South Wales

Ok, I must move away from the beach for a bit. In the early days of my marriage, when we were living in Sydney and a holiday meant throwing everything you might need in the car and just setting off west, we visited some wonderful places. Most of them have long been on my list to revisit, but I have rarely been able to do so. One place that I would love to see again, and is so close to Sydney as to be almost a day trip, is lovely Bundanoon.  Next time, I’ll do it in style, staying in one of the charming hotels with big open fires and gloriously indulgent menus. Last time, we did it as you do when young – we stayed at the YMCA and explored the National Park on a bicycle built for two. Very romantic.

The whole area of the Southern Highlands has a great deal to offer  – and the drive from Bowral to Kangaroo Valley is one of the loveliest I know – just look out for the speed cameras……


West region of NSW - David Gordon

West region of NSW – David Gordon

The West (of NSW, that is!)

My Dad was a teacher in his early years, and his first postings were to one-teacher schools in small towns in the West of NSW. As kids, we often piled into the old 1964 Ford and we would all set off towards “the West”. There was almost always a breakdown on the road up the Blue Mountains, and we had a number of near-misses on winding and steep dirt roads, but a love of the “dry country”, the gums and the wild flowers, was instilled in me for life. With the luxury of the beaches on our home doorstep near Manly, the wide horizons and constantly changing colours of the countryside beyond the tablelands was another kind of exoticism….. and the birdsong at dawn charmed my ears and engaged my developing musical mind.

Like a lot of girls of my generation, I married a man who greatly resembled my Dad – Greg was born in “the Bush”, moved to the Big Smoke at 8, and like my Dad, struck out for the dusty west at every opportunity. He prided himself at one point of having driven over every mapped road in the state – and I’ll swear we drove over plenty that weren’t mapped.



But it is the wildflower season, and the wattle in particular, that always grabbed us and made us come back again and again. There’s a stretch of dirt road (well, it was in 1982!!) between Yeoval and Cumnock where the wattles were astonishing. But if you don’t want to be laughed at by the locals, check the pronunciation of the local town names – Greg’s family still gives me a hard time about Ardlethan – which I mangled, not to mention the trouble you can get into with Tibbooburra……


Lavender Bay Ferry Wharf -

Lavender Bay Ferry Wharf –

Sydney NSW

Back to the water and back to Sydney – and to one of my favourite spots – McMahons Point. A place to be avoided at NYE or at any time when there’s an event on the harbour – but at all other times one of the best spots for looking at the magnificent view that is the Bridge and the Opera House.  I will often take a detour, when heading north over the Bridge from the City and just stop for a few minutes in the parking bay at the point, to take in that majestic sight. My daughters list it as one of their favourite places for munching on a steak sandwich, drinking a milkshake and watching the life on the Harbour. And if there’s no pressing appointment waiting, then a little meander around the tiny streets in the area, marvelling at the charming, historic houses that stand so close together here, does the soul good!  Or park somewhere and go for a walk down to the ferry wharf at Lavender Bay and picnic on the grass or on the wharf itself. Very busy during the day, it’s magic in the early evening, when the air is soft and the bells in the moored boats there in the Bay ring slowly as the tide moves them gently. Ah, I’m feeling homesick already……


Travel tips:

*  I always travel with my noise-reducing headphones – listening to classical music without them on a plane is almost impossible. I’m not a very social animal on long flights – my headphones, a couple of Sudoku puzzles or a cryptic crossword and a good book, and I’m set for the trip.

*  I invariably get to the airport way too early – but I’d rather work a bit airside than stress about getting through the ever-growing queues at security….

*  Everything I need for my first day’s work is in my hand-luggage – thank goodness they don’t usually weigh it! Added to a few toiletries and the obligatory spare undies are my laptop and a couple of orchestral scores and a long, narrow case with batons in it – which often leads to some amusing conversations at the security check-points….

*  I try to smile every time a passport officer reads “conductor” on my visa/entry card and says “Ha ha, on the buses, love?”. After nearly 30 years, it’s hard to make it look as though I’m hearing that joke for the first time…………..


For more information about Maestro Young and upcoming performances see




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Olivia Newton-John – My Top 5 Places in Australia

Olivia Newton-John is an internationally recognised superstar. But Australians have a special and enduring affection for Olivia not only for her talent, but also for her courage and commitment to a range of important issues.

Her extraordinary career as a singer, songwriter and actor spans several decades. She has sold 100 million records, topped the record charts multiple times, garnered four Grammy awards and starred in one of the most successful musical films of all time – Grease.

Her career continues with successful tours and appearances, recordings, TV and film roles.

Alongside her career, Olivia has championed environmental issues and animal rights, raised funds for humanitarian causes, and actively promoted health awareness. Since surviving breast cancer in 1992, she has played a prominent role in encouraging women in the early detection of breast cancer.

In Australia, she partnered with Austin Health and successfully raised millions of dollars to build the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne which opened in June 2012. As part of her fundraising, she led a team of fellow cancer survivors, celebrities and Olympians on a three-week, 228 km. walk along the Great Wall of China. The Centre provides a comprehensive range of services and facilities for cancer treatment, education, training and research including a wellness center for the mind, body and spirit.

This holistic approach was also behind the multi award-winning Gaia Retreat and Spa in Byron Bay in New South Wales which she co-owns. The Gaia Retreat was honoured at the 2013 and 2014 World Travel Awards as Australia’s “Leading Boutique Hotel & Leading Spa Resort.”

Olivia has been inducted into the prestigious Australian Music Hall Of Fame. And in 2010, she was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia from Governor General Quentin Bryce.


To read more about Olivia go to her website:

For more information on the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre go to:

For information on the Gaia Retreat and Spa go to:


Olivia’s Top 5 Places:

Asking me to name my top 5 favorite places to visit in Australia is difficult as I love so many!

Gaia Retreat & Spa New South Wales

Gaia Retreat & Spa
New South Wales

Gaia Retreat & Spa

I have to say my number one favorite is Gaia Retreat and Spa – an amazing healing property in the hinterland of Byron Bay, of which I am a very proud co-owner. When I spend five or more days there with nurturing treatments, relaxation and great food, I feel completely restored. Five days there is equivalent to a month off! I am able to find my perfect balance and re-centre myself, especially during my busy touring schedules.


Mullock Heaps, Coober Pedy South Australia

Mullock Heaps, Coober Pedy
South Australia

Coober Pedy

Many years ago I did a TV special, filming all around Australia. One of the places that fascinated me and I really loved was Coober Pedy.  It is a unique and quirky place with many colourful characters, that are hard to forget.


Bondi to Bronte Walk Sydney

Bondi to Bronte Walk

Bondi to Bronte Walk

I absolutely love the Bondi to Bronte walk – it is simply stunning. I feel like a world away there. It has a great combination of beaches, parks and spectacular views which makes it one of my favorite walks along Australia’s coastline, another being Tallow Beach – Byron Bay.





My old home town Melbourne, still holds many fond memories for me especially as my mum lived there and most of my family still live there. I stay at the gorgeous Lyall Hotel, a warm cosy boutique hotel which is privately owned and offers grand hotel service and facilities on an intimate and personal scale.


Lizard Island Queensland

Lizard Island

Lizard Island

Last but not least is the tranquil Lizard Island in north Queensland right on the Great Barrier Reef.  It is one of my most cherished little Aussie islands, boasting powdery white beaches, and amazing snorkeling on beautiful fringe reefs. I can’t wait to take my husband John there, as it has all the elements he loves: stunning nature and Australia’s amazing botanicals, all surrounded by ocean.


Travel Tips:

* Moisturise and drink water often! Travel can dehydrate you inside and out – Gaia’s hydrating “Mist Refresh” from their certified organic skin care range “Retreatment” is a must!!

*I always have a warm scarf with me to keep my neck and chest warm and to cover my eyes in the plane for sleep.




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Professor Marcia Langton – My Top 5 Places in Australia

Professor Marcia Langton AM is an anthropologist and geographer and holds the Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne. This year she was appointed Associate Provost. In 1993 she was made a member of the Order of Australia for her work in anthropology and advocacy of Aboriginal rights.

Marcia Langton, a descendent of the fighting Yiman of Queensland, is a strong Indigenous leader with an unwavering commitment to achieve justice for her people.

She is a speaker and writer who has produced a large body of knowledge in the areas of political and legal anthropology, Indigenous agreements with the mining industry, and Indigenous culture and art.

Marcia Langton helps shape the public debate on Indigenous affairs by challenging entrenched views.

And she is a effective activist who lobbies and works with governments and mining companies to change the economic and legal discrimination governing the lives of Aborigines.

There are approximately 600,000 Indigenous people in Australia and 50% of them are young. In public forums, Professor Langton warns of an “impending tragedy” when those quarter of a million young Indigenous Australians will need jobs. Most are not trained, literate or numerate. The rising number of youth suicides and incarcerations show that “ we have no time for cowardice or compromise.”

Marcia Langton 1982 - National Portrait Gallery -photo Juno Gemes

Marcia Langton 1982 – National Portrait Gallery -photo Juno Gemes

Professor Langton identifies the twin problems of poverty and economic exclusion as being at the heart of all the health and socio-economic disadvantage of the indigenous population.

She created a flurry in the media when she advocated the need for Indigenous Australians to compete in the meritocracy and in the economy in the same way white Australians do. Disadvantage needs to be addressed in a more rigorous way, she argues, with properly targeted programs that meet needs, “ without trapping Indigenous people in the welfare ghetto.”

Professor Langton has been forthright in her support of Indigenous agreements with mining companies as a vital way of creating economic opportunities. She authored a book called ‘The Quiet Revolution: Indigenous People and the Resources Boom’.

She recalls that in a meeting she attended with Rio Tinto in 2001, it was argued that the company could not employ Aboriginal men because they had problems with alcohol and the police. She told them to employ Aboriginal women. They did. In the last decade, mining companies and ancillary services have employed Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders, men and women, in larger numbers than ever before in Australian history.

The Mabo case, the Native Title Act and engagement with the mining industry have    “ catapulted Aboriginal people engaged in the mining industry into the mainstream economy. I have worked at mine sites and witnessed this extraordinary change.” she says.

Professor Langton is one of the leaders in the campaign for Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous people. In October 1999 she was one of five Indigenous leaders who were granted an audience with the Queen in Buckingham Palace to discuss Recognition.

She also served with Noel Pearson on the  Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians set up by Prime Minister Julia Gillard. The Panel made recommendations for Constitutional Recognition and the abolition of the race provisions.

“The most crucial matter to understand about the Constitution is that when it was drafted in the 19th Century, it specifically excluded the Aboriginal people on grounds of race and it is this exclusion that lies at the heart of the state authorised discrimination that continues to this day.”

She argues that “ the Constitutional tradition of treating Aborigines as a race must be replaced with the idea of First Peoples.”

Despite intensive campaigning, Professor Langton and other Indigenous leaders are in a dilemma. The Australian Constitution is one of the most difficult in the world to change. If the referendum fails, she believes that no government in the near future will take up the cause. So the question is – might it not be better to delay the referendum for another generation?

Even if a decision is taken to delay, Marcia Langton will not cease in her fight to ensure Aboriginal people are accorded their rightful place in the nation.

Marcia’s Top 5 Places:


MONA, Tasmania

I have been twice, once during construction and once after it opened. This is one of the best art galleries in the world. The architecture is stunning. I don’t want to say much because the Museum of Old and New Art, the private gallery owned by David Walsh, is such a surprise. No spoilers.


The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

The Great Barrier Reef is the most beautiful place in the world. However, the Reef is too big as a place – at over 2,000 kilometres long – to suggest as one place to visit: it is many. Unfortunately for travellers, it can be very expensive to see the most beautiful and biodiversity rich parts of the reef and the least expensive and accessible areas are impacted by too many visitors. That said, I have visited the reef at several places and the coral reef and its many life forms are always stunning and unforgettable. Green Island is easily accessible from Cairns, as are several other areas. I have also toured parts of the reef departing by boat or yacht from Townsville. I would love to visit Lizard Island.


The Daintree Rainforest, North Queensland
Daintree Rainforest, Queensland

Daintree Rainforest, Queensland

The rainforest covered mountains of north Queensland are heritage listed and there are many places to visit. The Daintree Rainforest is the most famous and because the rainforest meets the sea along this stretch of coastline, this area is magical. I have camped at Thornton’s Beach (many years ago) and, sitting on the beach, watched the ocean traffic in wonder. Pilot whales, dugong, schools of fish, and stingray passed by, while the beach itself is a peaceful and beautiful place to rest. The fire flies come out in the evening here, and the animals that create irridescent clouds float on the waves. A full moon night is the best time to sit on the beach here.


 Gariwerd, The Grampians, western Victoria
The Balconies, Grampians National Park, Victoria

The Balconies, Grampians National Park, Victoria

The ancient landforms in the Gariwerd Grampians National Park date from the Gondwana period and it shows. These mountains and valleys feel old. And they are old: hundreds of millions of years old. This is a unique place because of its geological history but it is rich in Aboriginal history and culture. I always go to the Brambuk Cultural Centre before heading off on a walk or a swim in a lake. The waterfalls are beautiful after rain. The forests and vegetation are endlessly fascinating and full of birdlife.


The Ian Potter Centre National Gallery of Victoria

The Ian Potter Centre
National Gallery of Victoria

The NGVA and NGVI on opposite sides of the Yarra River in Melbourne CBD are my favourite home town haunts. These art galleries have great collections and the staff are friendly and accommodating. The restaurant and cafes are delightful. Parking is easy at the Federation Square parking station, but it’s an uphill walk to Collins Street to look in the designer shops. Fortunately, Movida is across the road and I can stop there for a wine and tapas.








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