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

Party full throttle in battle against fracking
It’s time to end our reliance on the notion of political parties.
What we need in our parliaments and assemblies are elected individuals of integrity and competence, who can negotiate and cooperate with one another to provide the best standard of governance for all.
The evidence built up over many years demonstrates that political parties cannot be relied upon for the provision of good government.
They may start off well intentioned but inevitably end up being captured by powerful vested interests that equate their own aims to the public good.
I think it’s well overdue that another approach towards government and administration is given serious consideration.


When 20% royalties shrivel to as little as 1%
With such an apparently paltry return on investment, we’re effectively told these extractive industries are constantly marginally profitable at best.
We are expected to believe this errant nonsense.
Under the section of Powers of the Parliament, the Australian Constitution commands: “The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order and GOOD GOVERNMENT (my emphasis) of the Commonwealth with respect to” a range of powers.
The Northern Territory Government, being a creature of Commonwealth legislation, is under the same constitutional obligations.
I contend that being ripped off by mining and extractive industry corporations, with no real oversight or scrutiny of their claims for production costs, does not qualify as “good government.”
Equally, a Territory government that is plunging its economy into a financial abyss, and a Federal Government that permits this to happen with no apparent concern or regard for oversight of this economic mismanagement, cannot be construed as “good government”.
We are being (and have long been) systematically betrayed by our respective Territory and Commonwealth Parliaments.
Our system of governance is simply not being adequately held to account.


More to come?
For those who haven’t heard, Christmas Day set a new maximum temperature record at the Alice Springs Airport, reaching 45.7C which exceeded the previous record (45.6C) set in January this year and recently equalled in December.
The previous highest temperature record at the airport was recorded in January 1960.
It’s a sign of the times that reaching maximum temperatures around the 40C mark feels like a cool change!
We continue to be on track to smash the lowest annual rainfall record for the Alice Springs Airport which, according to the Bureau of Meteorology’s Daily Rainfall figures, stands at 53.4mm for the year – well down on the previous record driest year of 2009, and then 1965 (last year of the infamous 1960s drought).
This figure accords with a couple of records from private residences in town, both slightly above 50mm in total for the year; so it’s odd that the BOM recently stated on ABC radio that the total rainfall for the year in Alice Springs is 66mm – perhaps someone from the BOM can explain this discrepancy?
However, the news this morning is that the Positive Indian Ocean Dipole, the cause of our heatwaves, is breaking down at last.
It will be interesting to see how far the pendulum swings this time, in comparison to similar abrupt switches in weather one and two decades ago, respectively (see my comment).


Government corporation bids for Kilgariff Two
“Asked why the advertisement was published 12 days before Christmas, with the closing date the day after a Friday Boxing Day, the spokesman said the application was advertised “at the first opportunity … in accordance with the Department’s normal procedure”.
Now ain’t that the truth – “the Department’s normal procedure” over the summer holiday break, as has been in practice by agencies of the NT Government for decades.
Open, honest and accountable government, anyone?


Gas and solar: Still uneasy bedfellows
Stumbled across this article yesterday on The Conversation published a few months ago, reporting on US research into this problem.
The proposed solution is counterintuitive, to “overprovide” renewable energy infrastructure (solar and wind), with excess energy into the system essentially “discarded”.
While this project was confined to the state of Minnesota, asked if this model is specific to the US situation or can be applied elsewhere such as Australia, the reply was that it is universal.
Maybe some food for thought for our circumstances in the Centre.


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