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Dinner In Melbourne

Summary

Geraldine Doogue returns to establishment Melbourne to meet up again with Joan Kirner, Ann Peacock,
Christine Nixon, Louise Adler and Jill Reichstein, and finds much has changed in their lives too.

What's really important when you are rich or famous? How do your relationships and friendships
survive media attention, gossip or scandal? Geraldine Doogue continued her inquiry into how the
beliefs and values of Australia's women are changing by inviting five influential women to dinner
in establishment Melbourne in 2007. And seven years on she finds much has changed in the lives of
Joan Kirner, Ann Peacock, Christine Nixon, Louise Adler and Jill Reichstein.

Story

Narration, Geraldine Doogue

Six years ago I got up close and personal with women around Australia.

Paula, six years Ago

Being a single mother living on the breadline, boring

Narration, Geraldine Doogue

There were the "real desperate housewives" busy building the suburban dream in Sydney's north-west.

Janet, six years ago

I fought tooth and nail to hold onto the house.

Stacie, six years ago

It's only, what is it, bricks and mortar.

Narration, Geraldine Doogue

Women of "Power and Influence" in establishment Melbourne.

Jill Reichstein, six years ago

I mean, you don't go to a private school and live in a big house in Toorak and not know that you
are privileged.

Louise Adler, six years ago

I want to, you know, publish books that have meaning, that have significance, that add to public
discourse. That's the agenda.

Joan Kirner, six years ago

When I was premier and we were clearly going to be defeated.

Narration, Geraldine Doogue

And Queensland's "Outback Dames" battling the worst drought in history.

Ann Ballinger, six years ago

It's not necessarily that we're tough.

Narration, Geraldine Doogue

Fifteen brave women who didn't know each other but who turned up with a plate ready to bare their
souls to me and you. We've often wondered where they are now? And how have their lives changed? So
we thought it was time to catch up over dinner on Compass.

Geraldine Doogue

They're wealthy, powerful, influential and, in some cases, a bit of all three. I'm here at
Parliament House in Melbourne to have dinner with five of this city's most prominent women.

Narration, Geraldine Doogue

Wealthy philanthropist, Jill Reichstein.

Liberal Party blue blood, Ann Peacock.

Former head of Victoria Police, Christine Nixon.

Book publisher, Louise Adler.

And former Labor Premier, Joan Kirner.

Geraldine Doogue

Well now it's been six years, believe it or not, six years since we all gathered together. So I'm
absolutely thrilled to be here again with you all, and of course been some big changes in some
lives, some more public than others. But I don't want to put words to it. I want to ask each of you
to say what the key things I suppose that have happened to you.

Ann, to you first, what's changed?

Ann Peacock

Oh, I've aged six years. Well it has been a very tough last couple of years. Clearly I separated
and got divorced and I watched back the DVD of the show all those years ago and I got to that point
which was so poignant for me...

Narration

When we last met, Ann Peacock was married to merchant banker and Liberal Party powerbroker Michael
Kroger. She was busy juggling motherhood and her work as Head of Marketing at Crown Casino in
Melbourne.

Ann Peacock, six years ago

When I'm not working the one thing that I just want to do is bury myself in my children. They're
four and six. They're not going to be this young for so long. One of the best things I found out
about motherhood is that every cliche is true. It just gets better and better.

Narration

Ann's marriage ended in 2009 and she's now a single mum.

Ann Peacock, today

I've had a lot of time to reflect over those last years and I just think the sadness that I've been
through and that our family have been through. When you devote yourself so obviously to someone and
it doesn't work out it's very difficult.

I'm still working at Crown. I've been there for 17 years, so that's something that's remained
solid.

The sense of support that you get when anything happens in your life that throws you a little bit
off balance is my children, my family and my sense of being. If you do not believe in yourself, and
of course at times you question whether or not, everything about yourself. You'll question your
confidence. You'll question your whole being. But the only way to get through is to have a secure
belief that you are okay. You know you get a little whisper of that, you get a little sniff of it
and that's what you carry yourself through with.

Geraldine Doogue

Ann, do you feel you can push on, you didn't ever think of pulling out of your job?

Ann Peacock

I was most grateful for the fact that I had something to throw myself into. And also that
discipline of all of us having some presence in public of actually making sure that when you're out
you're "on" and there's no breaking down. If I wanted to break down, which I did plenty of times, I
would do it in the privacy of my own home, but certainly not when I was out. So it calls in a lot
of discipline.

Geraldine Doogue

Which helped you.

Ann Peacock

It does help, yes. It gives you some strength.

Geraldine Doogue

Louise?

Louise Adler

Well not much has sort of changed. We just keep publishing books in one form or another.

Joan Kirner

You just get more successful.

Louise Adler

That's very nice but I don't know successful. And doesn't matter if it's a book or it's an e-book
or it's on an iPad, the challenges for publishing are really great. It's increasingly difficult but
it's interesting. It's an interesting time to be in book publishing, if you believe in the book and
you believe in reading. So that's fun.

Narration

Former academic and broadcaster, Louise Adler is the CEO of Melbourne University Publishing. When
we met last, she'd just scored a major publishing coup with the contentious Mark Latham Diaries.

Since then Louise and MUP have gone on to many publishing triumphs, achieving both critical and
commercial success.

Louise Adler

It feels like 2006 was just yesterday. I guess I count my life these days in books and publishing
seasons and they go very quickly.

Really at this stage in my career that it's been important to make a contribution to the industry
as a whole. And so it's been quite interesting to work, for example, on the book industry strategy
group report for the Minister of the day, Kim Carr, to try and propose some solutions as to how you
make the Australian Book Industry a competitive and profitable industry for the future.

Geraldine Doogue

Now Joan actually a lot has changed in your life, but I don't think many Australians know about it.
In fact your life has been transformed by poor health.

Joan Kirner

Yes, well we won't start on that because my purpose in life is to keep going. So you don't focus on
the disability you focus on the ability obviously.

You too Ann, people have admired how you've kept on keeping on, which all of us have done in some
way or another.

Geraldine Doogue

You had a fall didn't you?

Joan Kirner

I had a fall, broke four ribs and nearly passed on to the other side. Not the other side of
politics.

[Laughter]

Geraldine Doogue

That would be truly shocking

Joan Kirner

I missed a step and fractured four ribs and punctured a lung. But nobody realised I had except I
felt the pain. So that shocked everybody and me. It took four weeks in hospital. Just took a long
time to get the energy, purpose back again.

Narration

Joan Kirner was the first woman to become premier of Victoria in 1990.

Joan Kirner

I knew in the timing there would possibly be a long while before a woman got a chance again to be
the Premier of Victoria. I wanted to show that women could do it. I wanted keep going with our
social justice model, and we still managed to do things even though there was no money.

Joan Kirner, archive

I wish to congratulate Jeff Kennett and the coalition on their stunning victory...

Narration

Two years later Joan suffered a landslide electoral defeat, and was labelled one of the so called
"Guilty Party" responsible for Victoria's financial woes. She retired from state politics in 1994
due to ill health but did not receive a parliamentary pension. This has hit her particularly hard
since being diagnosed with osteoporosis.

Geraldine Doogue

You know Joan, I know that in all of that health issues, you were faced with some pretty big
decisions in terms of how much money could be spent on various medicines and so on.

Joan Kirner

One of the things for osteoporosis was not on the medical list.

Geraldine Doogue

The pharmaceutical benefits list.

Joan Kirner

So it was $1,200 a month for twelve months. And what happened really, and I thank my friends for
this, they knew we couldn't afford that, so they took up the old collection and bothered people
like Lindsay Fox and others. So, yeah I mean there are ways of doing things. But I have a big
network of friends. You would never be able to do that if you didn't have.

Geraldine Doogue

Let me ask Jill. What would you say has changed in the last five or six years?

Jill Reichstein

Well I think the fact that both of my children have left home, or not completely left home, they
never seem to. There's always a bedroom there for them but they're certainly doing their own thing,
which has freed me up to do other things. Which usually means another committee or a board, amongst
other things.

Narration

Jill Reichstein, the only child of a wealthy industrialist, is one of Australia's most prominent
philanthropists. She chairs the Reichstein Foundation, which supports projects aimed at bringing
about social change.

Jill Reichstein, six years ago

Quite young I got really impassioned about issues of injustice and became involved in the Anti
Apartheid Movement. Then I got involved in the Women's Refuge Movement. And I think those issues
gave me an opportunity to see how you could engage with the community and create shifts.

Narration

Since we last met Jill in 2006, the global financial downturn has restricted the foundation's
funding activities. But last year Jill still managed give grants to more than 50 projects covering
human rights, the environment and indigenous issues.

Jill Reichstein, today

One of the ones that I am particularly fond of at the moment is working with the Yorta Yorta up on
the Murray. For years they fought a battle over the land rights, which they lost, and then was
about having the National Park along the Murray to become a National Park. It's good for tourism.
It's good engagement with the local government. And so there's some very positive outcomes.

Geraldine Doogue

You talk Jill about the fact that really the guts were knocked out of your funds weren't they?

Jill Reichstein

Oh absolutely. A lot of foundations lost a third. And so it meant that their income generating
source was way down, so they had a lot less to give.

Geraldine Doogue

So what did you do?

Jill Reichstein

We shut down our open granting and went into a different model where we worked more closely with
limited number of organisations. Tried to bring them up to a point where with support and
volunteers and pro bono, where we encouraged other foundations co fund with us. And that was
actually really successful. And I think that increasingly foundations are going to operate in that
way.

Geraldine Doogue

Well I mean Christine; I suppose in some ways, you're the most vivid change in public life that
we've seen. I just wonder what you say about that change?

Christine Nixon

Well I think there was a series of issues really. I suppose the first one was that I actually did
make the decision myself to leave Victoria Police. I always intended that you need to understand
when it's time to go, and so I had for much of, I suppose, 2008 attempted to suggest to the
government it was time I should go.

Narration

When we last met Christine Nixon she was Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, the first woman to
lead a police force in Australia.

Christine Nixon, six years ago

Being the Police Commissioner is quite a powerful role. You have a lot of gravitas. You have a lot
of position and power in it, and you also have 14,000 people who happen to work for you. And so
it's a fairly significant support around you as well.

Narration

In 2009, just before retiring, devastating bushfires swept across Victoria claiming 173 lives. A
year later, a firestorm of controversy erupted around Christine when it was revealed she'd gone out
to dinner on the night of Black Saturday.

Christine Nixon, at Bushfires Royal Commission

The notion that I would turn my phone off, I think, is a disgrace.

Narration

Despite spending two years in charge of bushfire recovery and reconstruction, her leadership and
personal integrity were all called into question.

Christine Nixon, today

When the Royal Commission occurred and I went before them, I certainly felt ambushed and understood
that there were people who would be very unhappy about what happened and the way you had behaved,
in that relatively short period of time of a couple of hours really.

Geraldine Doogue

What about if you make a mistake? Everybody who takes any sort of decent career has mistakes. I
mean obviously this is what you really wrestle with, because you acknowledged, in your book anyway,
you acknowledged some genuine things you'd do differently. What have you thought about on that
score?

Christine Nixon

Oh look, I think you know, part of what I've talked to lots of people about is, if you make a
mistake then you need to get out and say so. In terms of the bush fires, I think that I did let
some people down, but I also believed I was consistent in the way that I'd managed the organisation
and had trust in the people who worked for me.

But it is, I mean your point about, not talking about me but about other people when you make a
mistake, the media these days, and we haven't really talked about where they sit in this, because I
think what we've grown is a group of commentators who are being paid a lot of money to be
extraordinarily critical of people.

Joan Kirner

To be destructive...

Christine Nixon

Well to destroy, and they say so. And I think there are more of them now and I think that's a
shame.

Geraldine Doogue

I think it's high emotion they seek. I mean I think it's both destructive, it's not deliberate
destruction but it's a search for high emotion.

Joan Kirner

No, it is deliberate destruction.

Christine Nixon

I think they set out to destroy people.

Joan Kirner

Sorry Geraldine, but it is.

Louise Adler

It's conscious. It's strategic. It's politically motivated. It's ideological. One of your
colleagues describes it as "Jihad Journalism." You don't think it's that?

Geraldine Doogue

Isn't it just too easy for women to say that it is in the media or there's some underlining awful
attitude on the part of the Australian people. I feel like saying "well that's what you've got to
work with".

Christine Nixon

Yeah like I understand that, but sometimes, if you're not tough enough or your skin's not thick
enough, you actually listen to what some of those people say. And what I spend half my time again
telling people these days, if you don't respect them anyway why would you bother to pay any
attention to them and don't read the letters to the editor and don't bother to listen to some of
those people on radio.

Joan Kirner

I still think there is a different respect for the way men do any kind of leadership than for the
way women can. Would any one, any male, doesn't matter how dopey they were, like Billy McMahon, be
treated with the same gender bias, against a male, as Julia Gillard is? The answer is no. They have
never been.

Geraldine Doogue

Do you agree with that Louise?

Louise Adler

I do. I keep on thinking about the lack of commentary in media about the series was it Life at the
Lodge? about Julia Gillard at the lodge, and the final scene, which I thought was really
remarkable, where she's on her knees in front of the Tim character's crutch and she has no voice
and she's asking him to come back to The Lodge so he can do her hair. And I thought nobody picked
that up, and I thought nobody had anything to say about that. No Prime Minister, male Prime
Minister, in our history would have been treated with that level of contempt.

Geraldine Doogue

I presume on the argument that humour rescues everything?

Ann Peacock

There is no argument on that, absolutely none.

Geraldine Doogue

So you thought it was what, contemptuous or humiliating or?

Ann Peacock

It's completely degrading and they wouldn't do it to a male.

Joan Kirner

Degrading of the office as well. They wouldn't have done that to Jeanette and John and nor should
you.

Geraldine Doogue

And Joan I want to know whether you're still going camping?

Ann Peacock

I was going to ask that question too. I remember you said when you said you liked camping, you said
"Ann I can see your face."

Geraldine Doogue, six years ago

Your little compensation to your dear husband Ron is to go away on camping.

Joan Kirner, six years ago

Don't laugh. It's just that you can't picture it.

Geraldine Doogue, six years ago

What is the longest trip you have conceded to him?

Joan Kirner, six years ago

Ten weeks

Louise Adler, six years ago

Ten weeks camping!

Joan Kirner, six years ago

Look at Ann's face.

Ann Peacock, today

I was going to ask, are you still going camping?

Joan Kirner, today

We've sold the caravan.

Geraldine Doogue

Oh that's a great pity.

Joan Kirner

However I also have to admit that, apart from seeing my husband watching it go off and looking so
sad, I felt a little bit sad, because it does limit your freedom, if you haven't got a big income.
I thought you might ask that question.

Louise Adler

Could I ask a question of Joan, your grandchildren saying "Now that you're not important" or "Tell
us about when you were important?" And I think about some of us at the table and our stage in life
and what that means to you, what that meant to you at the time, what you feel about that now?

Joan Kirner

Well first of all I gave them the "rock and roll" video to watch. [Laughter]

So that cemented my importance, authority

Louise Adler

Authority, charm, pizzazz...

Joan Kirner, archive, singing "I Love Rock & Roll"

I saw him dancing there by the record machine. I knew he must a been about seventeen.

Joan Kirner, six years ago

I Love Rock and Roll, which is clearly the thing I am most famous for or loved for, if I am loved
at all. And I was so embarrassed because it was so bad. I mean I didn't mind wearing the leathers
and the red satin shirt, but the singing was so bad.

Joan Kirner, archive, singing "I Love Rock & Roll"

I love rock n' roll. Put another dime in the jukebox, baby...

Joan Kirner, six years ago

I remember to this day Ron's face, my husband's face, when we were sitting down to watch this
program, which we usually watched. And I came on as the red hot mamma. And I still don't think he's
recovered actually.

Geraldine Doogue

If we're all or some of us are at the point of thinking, do we step back a bit or try to have a
slightly more balanced life, if that's possible, how do you do it with grace? Have you worked that
out Jill, how you do it with good grace?

Jill Reichstein

I suppose I try not to say yes to that extra board and try and stay focused on a few organisations
that I'm passionate about. The work of the foundation is still very involving and I'm fully engaged
with that, because I actually do want time with my husband, with my children, when they're around,
the big veggie garden that keeps getting overgrown, those sort of things.

Geraldine Doogue

You just work on saying no by the sound of it.

Jill Reichstein

Absolutely.

Geraldine Doogue

And Joan I mean

Joan Kirner

I'm hopeless.

Geraldine Doogue

I know you are.

Joan Kirner

Couldn't say no to you. I can't say no to most people, if it's about working with people to share
some experiences and make them feel as though you're offering them something that they can take the
next step. So I'm really bad at saying no.

Joan Kirner, at Thomastown Community Forum

The people who matter are yourselves. The challenge is to get the people who have the power to
notice that...

Narration

Joan continues to work on behalf of the Victorian Government as Communities Ambassador.

Joan Kirner

That role is to go out and work with communities, more or less as a mentor...

Joan Kirner, at Thomastown Community Forum

As Ian's heard me say three million times now you've got to own your own future...

Joan Kirner

What I've learnt since I left parliament is that when you shift from a position of power to a
position of influence you can still work effectively in the area of your choice. My choice is to
work with the community and continue to strengthen their ability to shape their own futures.

Geraldine Doogue

So you're not even trying to really step back? Well I suppose you are in some ways.

Joan Kirner

Physically I have to step back. Some would say that's a blessing, but that's not how I would
describe it.

Geraldine Doogue

Louise?

Louise Adler

I'm going against the grain here. Everybody tells me I need a work-life balance and I think, my
work is my life and my life is my work, and I really love it and I don't see any reason to be
embarrassed by that. I know one is not supposed to, but I don't really care if I'm emailing someone
at 10.30 at night. I mean, they may be aggrieved and think could she do something else, take up
knitting or something, but I don't mind it.

Geraldine Doogue

So retirement isn' in the air at all?

Louise Adler

No. But I do actually think, I have women friends of my age and younger and older and I do think
about how one moves into whatever that next stage is with grace and a kind of willingness. I work
with young women. They are fabulous women and they're in their late twenties and I think they do
think that I'm a fossil from another generation, sort of quaint really. Wheel her in. Wheel her
out.

Narration

Two years ago Louise became the Chairperson of the Board of Directors at her old school MLC.

Louise Adler

I come away with every encounter with them absolutely inspired. And so in my conversations with
them about leadership I'm trying to encourage them to think about leadership, there is not just one
kind of leader. One can be a leader in a variety of ways. And that the most important thing is to
actually make a contribution to civil society. Choose the way you would like to be that is true to
yourself, but actually seize the opportunity to make a difference and to be part of the society we
inhabit.

Geraldine Doogue

Christine you're probably, maybe more pertinent than most. You're certainly stepping into
something. With grace?

Christine Nixon

Oh yes, always with grace. I think it is about figuring out what your choices are and the sort of
idea of retiring, I think, although someone said should be retired, that notion is that we don't
retire. I think we just now move into other phases where you put other sorts of energy and try and
get a bit more of a balance.

I do public speaking. I'll go out and talk to Probus groups. I also have been delivering courses on
women and leadership and women leading change, that kind of idea. And I think I've had about 700
women do that, as well as work with the Australia and New Zealand School of Government.

Geraldine Doogue

I take it Ann you're not vaguely near retiring?

Ann Peacock

No. Not yet.

Geraldine Doogue

That was fast.

Ann Peacock

Not for a while.

Joan Kirner

Ann I want to know if you've passed the test which I failed. Which was, my daughter was asked "Well
did you suffer because your mum was so busy etc?" She says "No I don't think so, but I never was
like the other children." And I thought "Oh my God, what have I done wrong?" And she said "I never
had homemade cake in my lunch box." [Laughter] "I never had homemade cake in my lunch box."

Ann Peacock

I go to the supermarket or the bakery, buy what's been already made for me and then dust it up like
there's baking power underneath and icing sugar on top. So in a way I've passed the test.

Joan Kirner

I have to say, my daughter grew up perfectly well and runs a marvellous children's centre, so it
didn't really matter. But at the time I thought I'd failed.

Ann Peacock

No well don't let anyone think that you've failed, let alone yourself. Just go to the bakery and
you'll pass every test.

Joan Kirner

Well I hadn't thought of that.

Geraldine Doogue

Well I think that's a perfect point to say thank you very much for a wonderful night. I hope we can
gather in another five to six years. Thank you all for joining Compass for dinner, thank you.