I called in to the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of …

Comment on Humble objects of women’s work used to ask big questions by Alex Nelson.

I called in to the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame (NPWHF) recently in the hope of finding a book that I’ve been seeking to read, and became aware of the new exhibition “What’s Work Worth?”
The book wasn’t available there, and is out of stock elsewhere but finally I borrowed a copy from the Alice Springs Library (which has a mostly female staff, and a long history of female managers).
It’s called “Healing the Heart: 60 Years of Alice Springs Hospital 1939-1999,” researched and written by former NPWHF manager Pauline Cockrill.
One aspect of the hospital’s history (and of the history of medical services beforehand) is immediately apparent – the dominance of the workforce by women, mostly nurses but several as doctors and some in senior managerial roles, too. Many of the women who worked there became significant identities of Alice Springs.
I recall an occasion as a primary school student, I think within the context of learning about work and careers, when my teacher (a nun, incidentally) suggested that maybe the government should be paying wages for housewives and mothers.
I remember being shocked by this radical idea, as I felt it would be impossible for the nation to afford it (this was the time of the economic recession in the Whitlam years) but it certainly awoke in me an appreciation of the amount of unpaid work that my mother and my classmates’ mothers were doing for us children.
All of the teachers and staff at my primary school were women, as were many (if not most) of the staff at the Alice Springs High School when I was a student there, too.
Another area in which women dominate in numbers in the workforce is in retail.
When I started working in a large supermarket 16 years ago, my boss (a woman) informed me the majority of the workforce in the company across Australia are women. So I was rather bemused when, as she assisted me with a digital company form I was filling out, she noted that questions asking for one’s gender invariably defaulted to female – and she wondered why.
This new exhibition at NPWHF will help play a part in generating an appreciation of the true worth of work performed by women, so much of it billed as “domestic”, under-rated and under-valued, but really is the bedrock of our societies. Thanks to Kieran Finnane for her fine review and a reminder to make time to take a close look of the display.

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Four dogs suspected poisoned with 1080
@ Ruth Weston (Posted September 7, 2018 at 1:08 pm): Sodium fluoroacetate is the commercially produced 1080 poison, and is closely related to potassium fluoroacetate, the poisonous chemical found in a wide variety of plant species.
Both chemicals have the same effect, disrupting the Krebs Cycle (or Citric Acid Cycle) which disrupts the ability of cells to metabolise carbohydrates, fats and proteins for energy production.
It was biochemist Ray Murray, based in Alice Springs with the Animal Industry Branch from 1954 to 1966, who first identified the naturally occurring 1080-based compound that occurs sporadically in poison Gidgee (Acacia georginae) which plagued the beef cattle industry in the east of Central Australia and across the Queensland border.


Stagnant CBD; industrial land, rental shortage; houses hold
The photo caption “The ANZ Bank has relocated from this prime Todd Street North site, opposite the Visitor Centre, to Gregory Terrace” serves – perhaps inadvertently – to emphasise the “moving of deckchairs” in the CBD, as the Visitor Centre itself was relocated to its present site a few years ago from its former Gregory Terrace location adjacent to the Civic Centre … and that particular building, the former Queen Elizabeth II Infant Welfare Clinic, that was heavily modified and opened to great fanfare in 1997 as the new Visitor Centre, remains steadfastly vacant.
Aside from the shift of the ANZ Bank (which, incidentally, opened its doors on its former Parsons Street site in August 1962, exactly 56 years ago) and the recent Wicked Kneads shop on the opposite corner now up for sale, there has also been the closure recently of two nearby hairdresser businesses, too – one of which was for sale for a long time but obviously attracted no serious interest.
Just yesterday, walking along Gregory Terrace, I was shocked to see “For lease” notices plastering the windows of La Casalinga restaurant, a long-standing business in this town and even something of an institution.
This town has weathered significant economic downturns on previous occasions – the mid 1970s, the late 1980s and early 1990s – but I’ve never seen the relocation of so many businesses (the “shifting of deckchairs”) on such a scale as has been occurring in recent years. It’s quite a phenomenon.
This situation is concurrent with the only significant new developments – the Green Well Building in Bath Street and the multi-storey Supreme Court building in Parsons Street – being occupied by government departments and instrumentalities, to the detriment of existing commercial lease stock in town. These developments, along with the re-opening of Todd Street North to traffic again, have done nothing to arrest the decline of the CBD, notwithstanding all the hype and propaganda of government and the private sector arguing in support of them.
Recent history quite clearly shows that the proposed National Indigenous Art Gallery will prove NOT to be the economic nirvana for this town. Exactly the same rationale was given for the developments of the casino almost four decades ago, the major hotel developments in the 1980s and the Alice Springs Desert Park in the 1990s – clearly none of these institutions, either on their own or altogether, have assisted in averting the current decline of our town, and there is no reason or evidence to show that the gallery will prove to be any different.
On the contrary, it will be yet another expensive long-term burden for the taxpayer to bear.


Town Council riven by conflict, lack of leadership
@ Alex Hope (Posted August 15, 2018 at 11:43 am): You may not be aware just how true is your remark “party politics have always been a part of the town council.”
Here is the slogan for one candidate in the first town council by-election (for two vacancies) for March 24, 1973: “THIS IS YOUR … ALP CANDIDATE IN SATURDAY’S COUNCIL ELECTION. VOTE 1 HADDON, D.J.”
As it turned out, Dennis Haddon came third in the poll on that occasion; however, when Alderman Paul Everingham resigned from the town council in early July 1973, instead of going to another by-election it was decided to appoint Dennis Haddon to replace him.
Anybody who knows the history of Territory politics will appreciate the irony – but wait, there’s more: When Paul Everingham stood as a candidate for the first town council election campaign in June 1971, his election advertisements were authorised by “Peter Edward John Gunner, Stuart Highway, Alice Springs”. Yes, it was current CM Michael Gunner’s grandfather.


Town Council riven by conflict, lack of leadership
Councillor Matt Paterson was nominated by Jamie de Brenni for the position of Deputy Mayor, which was seconded by Jimmy Cocking. Matt Patterson has stated this on ABC radio.


Indigenous gallery: Show me the money!
Hmm, whatever happened to the notion of RESPONSIBLE self-government?
Seems like we’re running off the rails. Federal intervention again, perhaps?


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