Daily prompt: Label me Australian, female, aah…


Hard to know where to start, really.

My paternal grandmother was born in a tent and grew up on the goldfields, where her father was not one of those who struck it lucky. She left school at 13 and was apprenticed to a dressmaker. My paternal grandfather was a tram driver knocked down by a tram when sick pay and compensation didn’t exist. My father was set to leave school at 14 to help support the family, but his mother said ‘over my dead body’. He finished school on a bursary and attended University on a scholarship, graduating with first class honours and a university medal. He subsequently spent 2 years at Oxford (UK) and left with a D.Phil in economic history.

He then went on to design and establish the Australian Army Education Service in 1940, and serve as its Director until the end of WWII.  In 1947 he was appointed Warden of the New England University College (then a campus of Sydney University) and became its first Vice Chancellor when the university gained its autonomy in 1953.

My mother grew up on the far more privileged side of the tracks. Her father was a solicitor with a thriving city practice. They lived at Woolwich Point (Sydney) in a large and beautiful house with its own private harbour beach, boatshed and harbour baths. (The property was ultimately divided into 7 blocks.) My grandmother never quite came to terms with the fact that my father, for all his success, was not what she’d had in mind for her youngest daughter.

So there we were, social mongrels from birth, with parents impossible to label, and far more interested in developing our social and intellectual awareness than our social status. And then we went to Armidale (a town in rural NSW, home to the university) and landed squarely in limbo.

Armidale had three clear divisions, back then (and possibly still): Town, Gown (the university) and Landed Gentry. We obviously didn’t belong in the third, Town considered us Gown, and Gown regarded us with deep suspicion, being administration not academic. But people are people, to hell with labels, and my parents made good friends across the board because they were genuinely nice people whom other people liked. And to us, that was normal. But didn’t lend itself to easy labelling.

And then I went to drama school (Out There) and married and actor (Way Out There) thus ensuring that I was irredeemably unlabellable in perpetuity.

There’s a lot of freedom in this ‘no label’ business. You’re not stuck in a box with ‘like minded’ people, which makes life much more interesting. But it can be lonely, too.


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8 Responses to Daily prompt: Label me Australian, female, aah…

  1. Relax... says:

    Wow, that’s quite the history/legacy!!

  2. Interesting to learn of your pedigree. I didn’t know, or more likely I have forgotten that you studied drama.

  3. What an interesting story! I’m always grateful to happen on a like-minded person. It’s rare…

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