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Joan Kirner

I’ve just read in today’s Age that Joan Kirner, who was the first (and only) woman Premier of Victoria has been awarded Australia’s highest award, the Companion of the Order of Australia. Well done Joan! You deserve it.

I have said elsewhere in this blog that I have been a republican since the age of 11, so I wouldn’t choose to have Queen’s Birthday Honours. However, I do think that it is important that we recognise and acknowledge people who make a contribution, whether it is as public figures or by working quietly in the community. When we become a republic, we will develop our own way of honouring these people.

Joan Kirner deserves a medal for putting herself on the line. It is still very difficult for women to be in public life, with every little detail under scrutiny. Tandberg was an excellent political cartoonist, but I will never forgive him for portraying Joan Kirner in a polka dot dress – which she never wore. In one stroke of the pen he demolished her credibility and made her a laughing stock. This had no basis other than her sex. She was pilloried in the media for being overweight, and never congratulated when she made efforts get fitter. If you’ve been there, you know how hard it is to lose weight. Kim Beazley was overweight, and although the media might have expressed concerns along the lines of “is he fit enough to stand up to the rigours of being leader?” he was not ridiculed and portrayed in a polka dot suit.

I can also remember Joan Kirner constantly using the word “tough” to counteract the allegations that as a woman she did not have what it takes to be Premier. Why didn’t anyone highlight her compassion or sense of justice? Do we only respect politicians who are head-kickers and street fighters?

Joan is a leading figure in Emily’s List, and it is partly in reference to this that I call my other blog (under construction at the moment) Mairi’s List.

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