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

Minister Lawler determined to demolish Anzac High
@ James T Smerk (Posted July 21, 2019 at 12:09 pm): Uh huh, and there were people like you who said the same kind of thing about all other heritage listed places in town that barely avoided the bulldozers.
How little do you know!
That old school was once the pride of Alice Springs and a major tourist attraction – yes, truly it was!
Because that’s where the world-famous School of the Air was located from 1954 to 1968 – and there’s no reason why that can’t happen again.
Isn’t it easy for the instant experts to make pronouncements from a position of ignorance – I mean, have you or the other critics actually bothered to find out about the building’s true history?
No, I thought so.


‘Catastrophic’ drop in construction work
@ Evelyne (Posted June 28, 2019 at 3:15 pm): Perhaps you should ask people working within the public service/bureaucracy about the difference between democracy and tyranny. On second thought, don’t bother – they all have to keep their mouths shut.


‘Catastrophic’ drop in construction work
@ Interested Darwin Observer (Posted June 28, 2019 at 8:04 am): Oh! Are we a democracy?


Alice to get first Aboriginal owned earth ground station
If I recall correctly, the Geoscience Australia Antenna commenced operation as a Landsat receiving station in 1979, so this year marks its 40th anniversary.
Our family was living at the CSIRO residence by Heath Road at the time, now the Centre for Appropriate Technology.
There was one funny occasion when my brother was wandering around in the paddock nearby the new facility, and wherever he went the antenna would swing around and point towards him.
I think he got a bit spooked by it but it was the technical officers in the adjoining demountable lab that were just having a bit of fun.


Architect of Katherine’s masterplan to be Alice council CEO
This is tremendous good news for Alice Springs. I shall put on hold my plans to move to Katherine 🙂


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