by S Lowe 5THE FM newsonline wattlerangenow
Today is International Women’s Day and we asked Janice Nitschke, recent winner of the AM (Australian Medal) to tell us how she has found working in Local Government, as a woman, and if she thought women had progressed in positions of government, career and boards. Ms Nitschke said that she, like Ita Buttrose, thought that women would have progressed more in her lifetime but in saying that there were many successful women taking a lead in many fields. One of her mentors was former Mayor, the late Gladys Smith, who wattlerangenow featured last year on International Women’s Day.
Success is not achieved in isolation nor without a lot of hard work and commitment always underpinned by loving and supportive family, extended family and friends. Being awarded an AM is indeed an honor and something that I would never have expected and I have been absolutely amazed by the number of people who have sent their best wishes and the memories that have been recalled and reflected on.
Yes indeed there has been much change! What great opportunities for a woman in Local government to be able to build on her passion and drive and be able to advocate for her community, provide leadership for libraries and do what she really believed in.Always underpinned by family, staff and colleagues and their unending support. Perhaps sometimes harangued and cajoled but we got there.
It has been great for women in Local Government to be recognised and Libraries and indeed my own library at Millicent. It is a journey that I have enjoyed albeit the odd challenge or two but always the community were at the forefront and what we could offer them no matter who they were. My family et al and staff have always been the support base encouraging, willing to pick up and run with a new idea and change
Being a woman is indeed challenging and this has always been with me from the time I returned to work with a young baby over forty years ago, totally unheard of particularly in the country and in Local Government. I received tremendous support from my family and Mayor Gladys Smith and some elected members. How lucky are the young mothers of today – I used up my annual leave to take leave and spend some time home! Greg and I worked and my parents and family provided the support and care. Our daughter attended child care one day a week – a new initiative in Millicent The Gladys Smith Child Care Centre (as it was then and Gladys Smith was one of my first mentors and as a woman she understood the barriers)
I commenced at the District Council of Millicent as a library assistant and often look back and think how fortunate I have been to have worked with so many people, colleagues and now friends who were willing to share their experiences with me, offer support and encouragement and build a can do attitude. A library assistant to be awarded and AM proof that anyone can be successful and achieve – long hours lots of work and always willing to learn and take on board new ideas. I am sure that living and working on the farm and being sport orientated gave me lots of life skills and taught me much.
I set out with libraries as my career and in the seventies with a young family and in now charge of the library set about studying – I did so for eight years with no study leave but lots of determination and support. Over this time we extended the library, gained a mobile library service through a CMV Grant (the first in the country and I recall Greg drove it home from Adelaide at 80 kms an hour) The library service continued to grow and so did my great band of volunteers, and I had many wonderful opportunities from studying and travelling overseas on scholarships, to working alongside of some amazing mentors who did not worry that I was a woman but what they saw was the opportunity to work with someone from the country, who was committed and willing to give a considered view and work hard for what she believed in. Many a story or two on reflection that only now do I recall.
Des and Joyce Ross were amazing and Des a ‘country boy’ he would say a Local Government Association President and a change maker, always encouraged and we had many a conversation mulling over ideas (and remember this was during great changes across libraries, funding and local government) late at night. He encouraged me to apply for the LG Hockeridge Scholarship and this enabled me to work in the US within libraries, local government, networking and IT. I do miss this inspiration and ability to pick up the phone and discuss an idea or a thought for change and moving on. Jim Crawford was another chair of the Libraries Board, a gentleman with ideas and a willingness to listen ( how fortunate to receive the inaugural Crawford award that enabled me to travel and study overseas and bring back many ideas for SA and our library and community. The Churchill Fellowship was the icing on the cake and an opportunity to work with many and to learn more!
During this time I worked with many inspirational library colleagues and have made some great friends many women, Vanessa Little always willing to listen and give advice and how she has achieved to be the CEO of the Canberra Libraries, Anne and Ian Short whose home was my second home, we would sit up late at night discussing working through the issues. Anne Dunn, Jim Hullick, Wendy Campana, Ann Reece, Geoff Stremple, DeeO’Loughlin, Dee Maloney, Vicki Nicholson, John Dunnery, Public Library services staff, Libraries Board members, Directors of the State Library, Public Libraries Advisory Committee members, ALIA, Local Government CEOs and Mayors and so it goes on have all been at the end of a telephone at any time of the day and night. Limited to libraries and Local Government the list is endless. And then we have the arts, TAFE and IT. I have indeed been very lucky!
It was as though I had two lives One in Adelaide and elsewhere and then at home and locally. Often my friends would say more was known about me in Adelaide and elsewhere than locally. At home I preferred to grow the library and the arts and work with my staff, many loyal friends and colleagues. The community was at the forefront, quietly working away at many odd hours. Perhaps because I was a woman I worked harder and longer hours always ensuring that my employers got their money’s worth from me. Something that I had learnt from the farm I am sure and a family involved in Local government and the community.
Perhaps being a woman and being able to multi task has been as asset. Juggling many balls and catching most of them.
All along my family grew and I enjoy spending hours watching them at sport an opportunity to reflect and enjoy. My family are now all involved in the community and sport and I am very proud of them. I hope that as a mother and woman I have been able to provide them with much love, many opportunities, encouragement and a desire to be fair and community minded. Sport is a great leveller and team builder a character builder you don’t always get it right but you give it a go!.
I still work on the family farm and enjoy being with my family no doubt with many an idea that is often just passed over but that is life, you need to learn to listen to those who have the knowledge and assess. There is always a way!
As a woman yes I agree with ItaButtrose I would have thought that women would have achieved a lot more and be represented on more Boards and had more opportunities in their careers – perhaps they were often put in the box of a softer option with the arts/ community service orientation that many have selected as their career – this is changing- however today I have read about so many influential women so inspiring and so well deserved on International Women’s Day.
I am blessed for the many opportunities and kindness shown to me by so many; I have made many lifelong friendships and have many fond memories.