Saturday, June 6, 2015

Vale Joan Kirner

I'm sure I'm not alone in not recognising what an important figure Joan Kirner has been in Australia's political life until after her death.

When I was asked to write an article about her legacy for younger feminists, I felt ashamed by my own ignorance about what that legacy might be. My overriding memory of Kirner was her having a red-hot go at covering Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" on ABC TV's The Late Show.

It wasn't until I began speaking to those I work amongst in the union movement, that I realised what a profound impact she'd had on women on the Left. Every person I spoke to had an anecdote about having a cup of tea at Joan's house, or just sharing an elevator with her, where she would ask them about their lives -- as well as the ins and outs of the current political landscape -- and let them know that she was there for them. Not only that, Joan remembered everything they said next time she saw them, including the names of their children.

ACTU president Ged Kearney told me that she doesn't know of anyone more revered or loved by those who came in her wake than Joan Kirner. She was tirelessly giving in the support and mentoring she offered other women, and she fundentally believed that the stuff of women's lives gave them what it takes to be leaders.

Former ACT chief minister Katy Gallagher told me that when Joan Kirner met her daughter they discussed tooth fairies. "So she bought her a book about tooth fairies and wrote a little message inside saying Abby, who she called Princess, was lucky to have me as her mother."

Just the kind of message all women need to hear.

Vale Joan Kirner. A woman like no other.

You can read my article in Today's Age newspaper (page 30) or online here.

3 comments:

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