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

Car crashed into supermarket, alcohol stolen
Certainly not the first time that kind of offence has occurred at those premises!


Nationals in Canberra run Country Liberals media
Perhaps it’s splitting hairs but there were two previous Trades and Labour Councils established in Alice Springs before Warren Snowdon “founded” the Central Australian Regional TLC.
The first was in December 1976 when Miscellaneous Workers Union officials Bill Thomson, from Sydney, and Ray Rushbury (Melbourne) arrived here to establish the Alice Springs Trades and Labour Council, as an adjunct to the TLC in Darwin. This was achieved by the end of the year, and Rushbury was appointed the permanent organiser in late 1977.
In early 1977 the Alice Springs TLC shared office space with the NT ALP in Reg Harris Lane. The new NT Labor leader, Jon Isaacs, was the secretary of the MWU in Darwin – he rose to prominence during 1976 when the North Australian Railway was closed.
The first Alice Springs TLC appeared to have become defunct by the end of the decade. In January 1981 a new organiser, Ray Ciantar from Perth, was appointed to re-activate the Alice Springs TLC but with responsibility extending to Tennant Creek and other regional communities; however, this effort seems to have been even less successful than the first.
The third “founding” of the TLC in Alice Springs was by Warren Snowdon in 1985, this time called the Central Australian TLC.


Wards for Alice council, including one for town camps?
Wards for the Alice Springs Town Council are not a new idea but have never been supported by the NT Government.
There was discussion about wards in the mid-1990s, which was firmly rejected by the government.
It was also raised by candidate Steve Strike during the town council election campaign in May 1988. Like Eli Melky’s current proposal, Strike also suggested five wards, each with two aldermen; however, he didn’t overlook the rural area on that occasion over 30 years ago (the other wards suggested were for Eastside, Gillen, Braitling and the Gap Area).
The town’s municipal boundaries were expanded significantly in early 1988, incorporating the whole rural area for the first time despite widespread opposition from affected residents. The idea of a ward system was the final suggestion to differentiate the rural area from the town, after calls for a separate community government and a shire were rejected by the NT Government.
It’s interesting to note that during the operation of the original Alice Springs Progress Association from 1947 to 1960, the town was divided into wards a couple of times for choosing delegates onto the association. The wards were the (now old) Eastside, town centre (now the CBD), the south side of the town, and the Farm Area along what is now Ragonesi Road. The town’s population grew from about 2000 to over 3000 residents during this period, which was long before there was a town council.
One person who represented the south ward from 1958 onwards was Bernie Kilgariff, kickstarting what was to become an illustrious career in NT politics.
Personally I support the concept of wards; for one thing, it would substantially reduce the cost and inconvenience of town council by-elections.
With regard to increasing the number of councillors from eight to 10; well, it’s just over a decade ago the reverse occurred.
Moreover, the ASTC first started off with eight aldermen (plus the mayor) in 1971 until 1977, when the number was increased to 10.
Here we go again?


Move School of the Air to Anzac High building
@ Watch’n (Posted April 15, 2019 at 4:48 am): Remember when the Drive-in was de-listed? To make way for real estate? Wasn’t that a great development.


Gallery fiasco: school heritage process ‘massively flawed’
It’s obvious the majority of voters in Araluen got it right in the last Territory election campaign.


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