How much strength does it take to be a disruptor

Sometimes you just have to step up and say it like it is

Tonight I will watch the young people I work with step up organically and  deliver one of the highlights of my career realisation aspirations

In 2012 I won the inaugural Bob Hawke Landcare Award

I remember the event

I remember the morning after

The first call was from the CEO of a dairy co-operative who told me they were going to sue me for information I had provided to Senate Estimates on Milk Price

The second call was from me to Australia’s second largest agricultural research and development cooperation who had decided the organisation who was building their cohort of  confident communicators and trusted voices was at the bottom of the list of organisation they paid and it was perfectly acceptable that my family business would carry their debt.

Its tough out there.

My tips when you eventually find the people who genuinely want the best outcomes for the greater good.

Embrace them.

Work with them

Do something amazing together

I am finally in that space and I am sooooo grateful

 

 

 

 

Life begins at 65 – help me show it can

If you have been following my socials you might have noticed I seem to be having a minor meltdown over turning 65.

I could say its a gender thing

Women of my generation understand, without having to be told, the pitfalls and perils of owning your gender, of sharing the universality of experience that comes with being a woman trying to rise in male-dominated fields

But I don’t think it is

I am part of the missing link – the untapped potential ( men and women everywhere 65 and over.)

The path to a more equitable society must be paved by the business community.  The missing link is the pathway to do this in a way that makes business sense

I am currently working with a cohort of extraordinary women who are equally dedicated to tapping into untapped potential – men and women everywhere no matter what their age, demographic, region and industry.

What Will It Take to Lead in the Decade Ahead?

The successful CEO of the future will be the one who can effectively manage through the coming talent shortage. That leader will understand the nature of this challenge, develop strategies to attract, develop, and retain a workforce, and inspire every level of company management to follow.  Source 

If this is something you feel strongly about I am just an email away

Magnificent read from Avivah Wittenberg-Cox

The fabulous news is whilst ageism is alive and well and many women of this age will complain of their ‘invisibility.’ Remember it was JK Rowling that turned the invisibility cloak into a super-power. Look around the world. See at what age significant numbers of women emerge onto a larger stage (see table).

Some Global Female Leaders, by Age

They are only the tip of the first massive wave of educated women moving through life. They are the role models of our collective, more gender-balanced futures. There are more on the way, each wave more educated, more powerful and more connected.

This phase isn’t limited to the 50s. With longevity, it stretches ever longer. The women in visible leadership roles around the world are more often over 60 than under it.

  • Barbara Beck, a role model, worked full time running The Economist magazine’s Special Reports section into her late 70s.
  • Scilla Elworthy, at 76, continues a half-century’s work in conflict resolution and peace-making. 
  • Germaine Warkentin, Emeritus Professor at the University of Toronto, after contributing or co-authoring 17 books, is writing her first solo book, at 86, on the history of the book as an information medium.

Who knew? And that’s one of the challenges. We mostly aren’t aware of the shape of women’s careers. And because their shape is unrecognised and unacknowledged, we’re too often found wanting and under-performing in our first halves – even by ourselves. But pre-50 may just be the warm-up act to our new, 100-year lives.

 

The message for women in these decades? Relax, pace yourself, prepare strategically for the peak. Let time be your friend, rather than your foe. You’ll want a backpack full of strong relationships, happy couples and families, deep knowledge, wide ranging experience and networks. Enjoy building, adjusting and fine-tuning them. They are worth every bedtime story, every couples’ therapy session, every negotiation with resistant employers. Your time is coming, just not when you think.

 

You can have it all. Just not all at once. It might just be later than you were planning. Luckily, you’re likely to live a lot longer than you thought. So wherever you are in these four phases, pace yourself for a marathon.

The world needs you.

 

 

How do we help everyone to soar like an eagle

We have all heard a eulogy that includes “He/She didn’t suffer fools gladly”

When I hear it I cringe – I know some-one will say that in my eulogy and I face palm ( after washing my hands for 20 seconds)

How do you change years and years of habits that include eye rolling, heavy breathing and saying what you think before you think about what you said.

Its a given

” In the course of your life you will be continually encountering fools. There are simply too many to avoid. We can classify people as fools by the following rubric: when it comes to practical life, what should matter is getting long-term results, and getting the work done in as efficient and creative a manner as possible.”

Fools carry with them a different scale of values:

  • They place more importance on short-term matters-grabbing immediate money, getting attention from the public or media, and looking good.
  • They are ruled by their ego and insecurities.
  • They tend to enjoy drama and political intrigue for their own sake.
  • When they criticize, they always emphasize matters that are irrelevant to the overall picture or argument.
  • They are more interested in their career and position than in the truth.
  • You can distinguish them by how little they get done, or by how hard they make it for others to get results.
  • They lack a certain common sense, getting worked up about things that are not really important while ignoring problems that will spell doom in the long-term. Source 

The natural tendency with fools is to lower yourself to their level. They annoy you, get under your skin, and draw you into a battle. In the process, you feel petty and confused. You lose a sense of what is really important. You can’t win an argument or get them to see your side or change their behavior, because rationality and results don’t matter to them. You simply waste valuable time and emotional energy.

So how do you learn to be strategic? I am learning to be more strategic in the language I use by surrounding myself with people who think and talk strategically and when I meet them I introduce them to the young people I work with.

Meet Charlie Arnot who conducted a two hour workshop for the young people I work with yesterday. Charlie is the ultimate strategic thinker. In this short extract from the workshop he discusses traditional issues management in agriculture  and how we can move from being the “Party of No” to the “Party of Solutions”

Charlie finished his workshop by giving the young people I work with an Optimising Sustainability Framework model to help them work with people in agriculture to create an culture of accepting change and being willing to listen to, and hear the message.

In dealing with fools you must adopt the following philosophy: they are simply a part of life, like rocks or furniture.

All of us have foolish sides, moments in which we lose our heads and think more of our ego or short-term goals. It is human nature. Seeing this foolishness within you, you can then accept it in others. This will allow you to smile at their antics, to tolerate their presence as you would a silly child, and to avoid the madness of trying to change them. It is all part of the human comedy.

Now that Barnaby is back in charge of the pork barrel what does that say about us

I believe Catherine Marriott

I believe all the women whose names are not in a public space

Extraordinary isn’t it we have two unresolved sexual harassment allegations against two sitting federal politicians and both the women have the same first name C/Katherine?

Extraordinary isn’t it both these men seem bullet proof?

One of them is now sitting on the special cabinet taskforce for the status of women.

“When good men and women do nothing” comes to mind

Why don’t good men and women speak up

Life is a balance.

Everyday we make choices

We think about our high-profile government appointments

The impact on the organisations we advocate for

The impact on our businesses

The impact on our mental health

The impact on our families and friends

The list goes on

We all learn to live with our choices in different ways

For me it’s the impact on the young – what message are we sending the young people who make up 20% of the population but are 100% of the future.

These are the values of the young people I work with. This is why I cant sleep at night when their future is threatened by the choices others are making

What the journalists are saying

None of this caper – the behaviour, the leadership spills, the dodgy standards – serves rural people. Source

Five reasons why Barnaby Joyce is a terrible, horrible, no good choice for the Nationals Source

So what has Mr Joyce’s re-appointment taught us? That any transient focus on women is now over. Shade’s been called on our time in the sun. Source

As always Annabel Crabb tells it in a way that makes me smile despite my heavy heart

Helluva Week To Give Up Sniffing Glue

If the Second Coming of Barnaby Joyce (now reinstated as Deputy Prime Minister after a National Party coup against serial Elvis-impersonator Michael McCormack ) seemed like a weird development to you on Monday, have some pity for the quarantined Prime Minister, who effectively viewed the event helplessly through plate glass like Dustin Hoffman in the concluding scenes of The Graduate, unable to intervene as Barnaby made off with his Coalition bride.

“It’s not about me,” said Mr Joyce in his inaugural press conference after his restoration to the leadership, struggling at times, one imagines, to make himself heard over the hysterical laughter of anyone who’s ever met him.

So it’s goodbye McCormack. Less than a week after encouraging regional mice to relocate to the apartments of inner-city activists and scratch their children, he’s now National Party history and will record no more raps like this one.

His colleagues, having just rissoled Mr McCormack, observed the lovely tradition of listing all the things they respected and loved about him as he dragged his carcass from the chamber. Politics, eh? Full of adorable people.

Building A New Cabinet: Weatherboard And Iron Required

Mr Joyce, in his not-about-Barnaby way, is widely expected to use his new position to boot non-signatories to the Barnaby Fan Club out of his way, most notably Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester who has long proved immune to Mr Joyce’s musky charms. There is some consternation within the ranks of veterans’ families at the thought of a SIXTH minister in the portfolio at this highly sensitive time. No doubt this will prove central to the decision.

Mr Joyce’s swearing-in, which featured two men and a flat-screen TV (a nightmare family-values scenario I’m sure I dimly recall from an Eric Abetz speech) also provided what is believed to be the first TV footage of his son Sebastian not to cost the Seven Network $150,000.

Why Do We Care?

For a PM attempting to undertake a certain degree of fancy footwork around his government’s position on climate and its yellowing fortunes with women, the return of Mr Joyce is like Rodney Dangerfield turning up in a leaded-petrol monster truck.

Brett Worthington summarises the new challenges facing the locked-down PM here, while Insiders host David Speers says we need to read the National Party tea leaves.

Not everyone restrained themselves to tea while celebrating the Joyce victory, it seems, but equally there were women in the party profoundly unhappy. Indeed, the party’s WA leader has had it up to pussy’s bow with the Joyce shenanigans.

The Joyce Redux emboldened various chaps in the Coalition party room to complain about the budget’s spending on child care (outsourcing the care of children, which should be done for free by our wives as nature intended) while Senate leader “Adventures With” Bridget McKenzie judged this an opportune moment to blow up the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Elsewhere, a forensic investigation commenced into how many of Barnaby’s backbench fulminations would survive into the Not-About-Barnaby new age; would he continue to support residency for the Biloela family, for instance? There have been no signs of that yet but the family has received a three-month bridging visa to work and study in Perth.

What is the call to action do you think here?

Are we supporting the whistleblowers enough?

What does that support look like?

Whatever we are doing its not enough YET.

Building trust requires building relationships not slick marketing campaigns

In a world where your message can go global agriculture is spending a lot of money wishing and hoping we can build trust and belief through slick marketing campaigns

Things we know:

  1. People trust people in preference to things – Marketing campaigns may contain people but they are still things
  2. Building trust requires building relationships and that takes time
  3. The people you chose to be your trusted voices also pivotal to success. They should be:
  • RELATABLE
  • CREDIBLE
  • UNDERSTANDABLE
  • MEMORABLE

4. To be UNDERSTANDABLE beware the BUZZ WORDS

A prime example of a buzz word is “Sustainability” 

Sustainability is a major concern among consumers. Food producers are aware of that, but often unsure how to address it.

The notion of sustainable food production is almost shrugged off as common sense among many in agriculture. Ask a grower if they’re sustainable and you’ll likely get an answer like, “Well, if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be farming very long.”

In reality what is sustainable for one grower maybe very different for another. It is certainly a word that means different things to different segments of the market place agriculture is trying to build trust with

As an example

You ask a large group of young people between the ages of 12 and 18 from diverse socio economic backgrounds what sustainability means to them  – the top three answers are

 

You ask a group of tertiary educated adults between the ages of 24 and 60 the same question – the top 3 answers are

As an aside I must admit I smiled when I saw Woolworths tag line. They leave nothing to chance

Building trust starts with being curious about your target market and an intimate understanding of their wants, needs, pain points and motivations.

Its requires providing opportunities for building relationships. People want to meet and talk to the people who are asking to be trusted. Slick marketing campaigns might attract a passing interest but their chance of being memorable are very slim.

PEOPLE TRUST PEOPLE – it takes time. We have to be prepared to invest the time

On a mission to support young people to have an abundance mindset

Its that time of year when we begin the onboarding process for our Cultivate Growing Young Leaders program and our school programs Kreative Koalas and The Archibull Prize

When our school programs in 2020 were officially identified as “Student Leadership” programs helping build natural disaster resilience I realised we had come full circle and there will be significant cross over in the introduction to all our programs of “Who We are and What we Do”

What do we do?

Picture You in Agriculture supports young people in the agriculture sector and young people in primary and secondary schools to solve tomorrow’s problems, today.

We offer a leadership growth journey in the agriculture sector for young people that is quite unique.

Agriculture has a wealth of excellent leadership programs that teach people how to be the best version of themselves and succeed in their careers.

We are giving it a red hot shot to teach young people to lead others and multiply their impact.

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In schools we support teachers to show young people what they teach is real and show students how they can apply what they learn in the real world.

Quoting our leadership development stream coach Josh Farr

“In the modern world, in 1990, in 2000, in 2010, in 2021 its really difficult to know if the technical skills we are being taught are going to be relevant. We don’t know if we are going to need to know how to code or to analyse data. We do not know what the robots are going to be able to do. This is why in the workplace there is a move back to the fundamental human skills. “

The top 3 skills 21st century employers want are

  • Communication
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Teamwork

How you communicate, empathise, the way you make people feel is fundamental.

There are so many ways of getting your ideas out to the world.

  • Verbally
  • Written
  • Artistically

The key is to find the medium that suits you and you enjoy producing and creating. Watch Josh talk about this here 

We provide opportunities for young people to find the medium that suits them, find their tribe and take action.

In essence we are agriculture’s equivalent of Oaktree and UNYouth

In life, our mindset determines which road we travel on. It gives me great joy to be part of a tribe supporting young people to have an abundance mindset.

#youthinag #optimism #resilience

What if there were no farmers could we feed ourselves from our backyards?

The team at Picture You in Agriculture has been surveying young people between the ages of 8 and 18 and adults with a tertiary education for 15 years to get an understanding of their images and perceptions of the industry that feeds and clothes us.

To see whether the community realises the depth and breadth of the role Australian farmers play in not only feeding and clothing us as well as managing  60% of the land in Australia we ask them three questions.

The answer to only one of these three questions is well known. The exact statistic is blurry depending on who is collating the data and their classification of what constitutes a “farmer”. Irrespective of that challenge Australians know Australian farmers look after a big chunk of Australia.

This year we decided to create a graphic to raise awareness of these facts. The below graphic is the first iteration.

The source of the data is the fabulous Climate Works Australia Interactive 

These statistics are important because:

  • Australian farmers produce enough food to feed 3 x the population of Australia. This means Australia is food self sufficient or food independent (see footnote)  and that’s pretty impressive and very rare.
  • Its imperative that Australian farmers have profitable, climate resilient farming systems because who is going to look after 60% of Australia if we don’t have farmers?
  • Australia is the hottest, driest continent. Water is a precious resource. Our soils are fragile. It is imperative our farmers be the best they can be

Above are the facts below is the reality

  • The majority of Australians think we import 50% of our food !!!!!
  • Australians know our farmers look after up to 60% of the Australia’s land.
  • The majority of Australians think we can grow fruit and vegetables. (horticulture) and crops on all our farmland.

Feeding and clothing people is a big responsibility and it is a risky business 

Not only do:

  • we want access to food when we need it (food security),
  • we want it to be affordable,
  • we want it to be safe, and
  • we want it to be nutritious.

And if we are forward thinking we want more

We want Australia’s land and waterways to be able to supply it for generations to come whilst ensuring we can live in harmony with all the magnificent wildlife we have here

How do we rank compared to the rest of the world?

Its pretty shocking that 1 in 5 Australians go to bed hungry every night yet 30% of us are obese and our environmental record is definitely one area we can do better  


Source

This is why it is a shared responsibility. It takes a village and more. Partnerships between those who produce ( farmers) and those who consume ( all of us) are so important and this is why our team love what we do.

Footnote

“Food security” means being able to afford to access to adequate and sufficient food, regardless of where it comes from.

“Food self-sufficiency” is when we grow all the food we need, right here in Australia .

Resource Recovery and Workplace culture – what does best practice look like

When you design and deliver a program that achieves this

the role models you meet and other people’s good behaviour tends to rub off.

Today I made my monthly visit to my local recycling depot run by my local council and there was mega activity  . 

I was witnessing our council’s replacement model for curb side collection in action.

My initial shock at what I was seeing was rapidly replaced by immense pride.

It was the most extraordinary experience  of workplace culture I have seen in a long time. Everyone I spoke to from the delightful person who checked in my recycling at the weighbridge to the young man who introduced me to Josephine who is the team leader for this extraordinary effort was so proud of what they were achieving for:

  1. worker safety
  2. environmental outcomes
  3. community cohesion and in reality community enlightenment

It was a lifetime highlight for me. Somebody at Kiama Council is doing something extraordinary for workplace culture. Mega kudos

So lets put this all in perspective. Recognising I am a rural resident so the previous curb side pick up service was not available for me and this is my understanding of how it worked (happy to be corrected) and this is how it now works ( again happy to be corrected).

In the past council provided the opportunity  twice a year for urban residents to use their curb side collection facility for unwanted household goods. Council team members collected no longer wanted household items from the curb side  and it all went to landfill. This as you can imagine also came with some potential worker safety and biohazard challenges

Today the new model sees urban ( and I assume rural ) residents take their own unwanted household goods to the recycling plant where it is determined whether or not their unwanted household goods fit into “RRR” (recoverable resources) or “landfill”

WOW  do the pictures tell the story

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All of this previously went into landfill

Now only this little bit ends up in landfill

Its not hard to see why the Kiama Council team are so proud

March in the Garden at Clover Hill

March 2021 will be remembered as the month women in Australia said #enoughisenough and 100,000 Australians  took to the streets to #march4justice

It has been wonderful to be take time out from the rage and celebrate the beginning of Autumn in the garden at Clover Hill.

Autumn is often a time of planning and preparing for the seasons ahead. During March the days are still warm. Traditionally as summer begins to fade, we look forward to the changes of Autumn arriving.  The nights begin to cool, and we wake to morning dew and changes beginning to happen in the landscapes around us.

In March 2021 we are seeing unseasonably wet weather with many parts of NSW have been declared a natural disaster area.

The dairy farm adjacent to township will be under water.

Up on the hill my garden is celebrating with windflowers and cyclamens that I am very chuffed to have grown from seeds I collected from my garden previously

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and the fern house has finally recovered from the series of scorching hot days in December

Extreme weather events seem to be here to stay

And as my blog is been recorded by the National Museum as part of Australia’s history below is the Saturday Paper article by Mike Secombe that I  think best encapsulates the March 2021 zeitgeist and everything that is wrong with it.

The children of gods: how power works in Australia

By Mike Seccombe.

Christian Porter as a Hale School student.

CREDIT: SUPPLIED
The rarefied and entitled boys-only private school network has created massive imbalances and injustice in the halls of power, public policy and broader society.

Francis Greenslade was never really part of the privileged class that runs our country. But he came close enough to get a good look at it, warts and all. Greenslade – an actor, teacher, writer, translator, musician – is probably best known through his work on the ABC’s satirical television show Mad as Hell. But in his youth, he had another claim to fame, as a champion debater.

Greenslade got into debating as a student at his “posh” school in Adelaide, St Peter’s College, a boys-only school favoured by the South Australian establishment. Alumni include eight South Australian premiers, plus two who went on to lead New South Wales and Western Australia, as well as a rollcall of prominent political, legal, business and scientific figures, including three Nobel laureates.

Greenslade says he was definitely “not part of the Adelaide establishment”. His parents were scientists, comfortably middle class. But his school was elite, and there was a pervasive sense that the boys who went there were “the children of gods and we would inherit the universe”.

Not all St Peter’s boys bought into the sense of elitism, of course.

But there was definitely a cohort of boys, he says, who were “arrogant and self-entitled”.

“But I suspect they were arrogant and self-entitled before they even got to school,” he says. “It’s often the parents, I think.”

St Peter’s equipped Greenslade with skills as a debater and the qualifications for university. What it did not equip him for, though, was women.

“It was difficult,” he recalls. “I think that the main thing for me about going to a single-sex boys’ school is that once I got out I was not prepared for there to be a completely different gender. You know, talking to women, and just dealing with women as though they were people, did take me a while.”

At university, Greenslade’s passion for debating took him into even more rarefied company. He met people who are now politicians, judges, lawyers, the heads of ASX200 corporations.

This is hardly surprising. Not only does debating attract the brightest and most articulate students, it is often seen as part of preparation for public life, providing skills particularly useful in politics and the law. Greenslade never had ambitions in these areas; he simply enjoyed the cut and thrust of argument, the performance. He was very good at it, and went on to become an adjudicator of others.

And that’s how he first encountered Christian Porter, who was then a student at the elite boys-only Hale School in Perth. It was at a competition between school debating teams in 1987.

“I was the South Australian adjudicator in 1987 in Perth, so I would have adjudicated him. And I was part of the committee that chose the Australian schools team. So, I would have put him on the [national] team,” Greenslade says. “He must have been good … [but] I have absolutely no recollection of him at all.”

Greenslade does, however, have a very precise recollection of another member of the team, an exceptionally bright young woman – a girl, actually – from his home state, South Australia.

“She was a very, very good debater. She was selected for the state team in year 10, which was pretty unheard of,” he says.

He can still clearly remember the grand final debate of the 1987 national schools competition. The topic was “the future justifies optimism” and South Australia was to argue the negative.

The other team redefined the issue so cleverly that Greenslade – who was watching from the audience, but not adjudicating – recalls telling the South Australian coach: “I have no idea how they’re going to get out of this.”

It was that girl, the second speaker, who got them out of it. “And I thought, she won the debate for us.”

They were friends, and saw each other regularly at debating events over nearly a decade – including a big one held at the University of Sydney in January 1988, where he was awarded the best speaker gong. Greenslade was not, however, among those in whom she confided about what allegedly happened there. He supports calls for an independent inquiry into Attorney-General Christian Porter in the wake of the sexual assault allegation.

That exceptional young woman did not have the brilliant career her friends expected for her. She struggled with mental health issues and took her own life last year.

Late last month, friends of the deceased sent a letter to several federal politicians, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, along with a 32-page dossier written by the woman. In it, she graphically detailed her alleged rape, 33 years ago, by a person who subsequently became a federal cabinet minister.

Morrison says he did not read the dossier, but referred it to NSW Police, who said they could not proceed with a criminal investigation due to “insufficient admissible evidence”.

While traditional media did not identify the alleged perpetrator, social media did – to the extent that his name became a trending topic on Twitter.

On Wednesday of last week, Australia’s first law officer, Christian Porter, held a press conference and announced that he was the subject of the allegations. He categorically denied them.

“Nothing in the allegations that have been printed ever happened,” he said.

Porter said he would not stand down or stand aside. To do so, he said, would mean that anyone in public life might be removed from an elected position by the simple reporting of an allegation.

There were echoes of the schoolboy debater in his sweeping assertion that if this became the standard, “there wouldn’t be much need for an attorney-general anyway, because there would be no rule of law left to protect in this country”.

The prime minister agreed. As far as he was concerned, it was case closed. “He is an innocent man under our law,” Morrison declared.

But as many legal experts and others have pointed out, there are means of inquiry other than a criminal investigation that could be employed, and are employed frequently to determine whether all sorts of people – teachers, lawyers, sportspeople – are fit and proper for their roles.

The government, though, appears determined in its opposition to any further investigation of the allegations against Porter. Time will tell if that determination holds.

This is not just a question of law but, as Greenslade says, a matter of sociology. It’s about privilege and entitlement and the “club” of people like those he went to school with and debated against, who went on to careers in the law, judiciary, public service, business, media and, particularly, politics.

The composition of the Morrison government illustrates the point: 16 of 22 members of the cabinet are men. Save for one of these, all are white. The Saturday Paper has established the educational backgrounds of 15 of them.

Eleven went to non-government schools, mostly elite private ones. Seven of them, including Morrison himself, attended boys-only institutions. The Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, provides some diversity; his schooling was elite, but also co-educational and Jewish Orthodox.

This world is so small that both Communications minister Paul Fletcher, a former dux of the private Sydney Grammar School, and Health minister Greg Hunt, who attended the Peninsula School in Victoria, were also in attendance at the ’88 debating competition.

Porter is from a similar rarefied pedigree, the son of Charles “Chilla” Porter, an Olympic high jumper turned Liberal Party powerbroker in Western Australia. Chilla’s own father, Charles Robert Porter, served in the Queensland state government from 1966 to 1980 and was appointed the minister for Aboriginal and Islander Affairs in Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s fifth ministry.

But when one looks more broadly at the composition of the federal parliament, the numbers tell a similar story of homogeneity. Just 23 per cent of Coalition members and senators are women, compared with 47 per cent for Labor, and 60 per cent for the Greens.

The conservatives’ “women problem” – more accurately a lack of women problem – has been the subject of commentary for years. It flared up particularly about the time of the dumping of Malcolm Turnbull from the Liberal leadership, with claims of sexism and bullying.

Several capable women, among them Julia Banks, Kelly O’Dwyer and deputy leader Julie Bishop, subsequently quit politics. As Bishop reminded us again in an interview this week, a group of men describing themselves as the “big swinging dicks” conspired to thwart her career.

Other Liberal women complained at the time but stayed on. Senator Linda Reynolds was one of them, after she publicly lamented in August 2018: “I do not recognise my party at the moment. I do not recognise the values. I do not recognise the bullying and intimidation that has gone on.”

Reynolds, the Defence minister, is now a central figure in another gendered crisis for the government, accused of being insufficiently supportive after the alleged rape, in March 2019, of one of her staffers, Brittany Higgins, then aged 24, by a more senior staff member, in Reynolds’ ministerial office.

The male staffer was sacked days later over what’s been described as a “security breach”. Despite the fact Higgins told Reynolds what had happened, and that multiple senior staff, several of them in the prime minister’s office, knew about it, Morrison claimed to have been unaware of the allegation for almost two years. Until the story became public last month.

The political damage done to Morrison by his denial was exacerbated by an apparent lack of concern for the victim. He gave his wife credit for awakening his empathy, by asking him to consider what he would want if it were one of their “girls”.

A devastating rejoinder was delivered by Grace Tame, the Australian of the Year and a sexual abuse survivor, at the National Press Club last week: “It shouldn’t take having children to have a conscience,” she said. “And, actually, on top of that, having children doesn’t guarantee a conscience.”

When parliament resumes this week, Morrison will be down two senior ministers. Porter has taken leave while he tries to recover his mental health. Reynolds has taken time off due to a heart condition – pre-existing, but likely exacerbated by the stress of the Higgins revelations, including that she labelled her young former staffer a “lying cow”.

It is not just the Liberal Party that is burning here, though. A bigger, more widespread bonfire of the elite male vanities is blazing.

The sex discrimination commissioner, Kate Jenkins, has been called upon to lead an investigation of the workplace culture of the parliament – grudgingly established after the Higgins allegation. Jenkins believes Australia is now at a “turning point” in its attitudes to sexual harassment and assault.

“In my time working in this area … over the 30 years, I’ve never seen any moment like this,” she told the ABC last Sunday.

Cultural change, she said, was happening “across the board”.

Recent events have certainly lit a fire under elite boys’ schools, which so disproportionately turn out national leaders. And interestingly, the fire has been fuelled by their elite female equivalents.

About three weeks ago, Chanel Contos, a former student of Sydney’s Kambala girls’ school, began an online petition calling for schools to do more to instruct students about sexual consent, and at a younger age. She was driven by concern about the toxic masculinity evident among private schoolboys.

“I have lived in three different countries and I have never spoken to anyone who has experienced rape culture the way me and my friends had growing up in Sydney among private schools,” Contos told one interviewer.

Within a couple of weeks, the petition received more than 3000 responses from young women, sharing their stories of sexual abuse.

The private educational establishment responded with some commitments to do more about consent instruction, but also attempted to lay the blame for the apparent culture of misogyny on external factors: indulgent parenting, intoxicants and online pornography.

A note to parents from Tony George, the head of Sydney’s prestigious The King’s School, whose alumni includes federal Energy minister Angus Taylor and former NSW premier Mike Baird, questioned how effective more consent education could even be, given the examples of aberrant behaviour in politics, sport and elsewhere. George wrote, in part:

“… do we really think an intoxicated teenage boy is going to have the presence of mind to recall his sex education curriculum and restrain himself at a boozed-up party when given the opportunity to pursue his porn-filled imagination and desire?

“If footballers and parliamentary staffers can’t do it, I think not.”

Other defenders of the elite status quo have similarly blamed exogenous factors, particularly pornography, rather than the culture their institutions help foster.

“They are identifying the wrong problems,” says Catharine Lumby, who serves as a pro bono gender adviser to the National Rugby League, as well as being a professor of media studies at the University of Sydney.

“The problem is not online pornography. It is a gendered order in society where men, some men, think they can control women, and children, like property.”

Single-sex schools especially, she says, “are a bad idea”.

Not only do they encourage a sense of entitlement in their charges, a sense that they are better than others, those “others” include a whole gender.

“As a girl from a working-class background, I did an arts/law degree at Sydney University and I was shocked by the behaviour of the elite, privileged boys from single-sex schools,” she says.

“I will never forget when one of them brought a blow-up plastic sex doll for the lecturer to hold during a criminal law class on sexual assault.”

These days, Francis Greenslade wonders whether Australia’s private school system is desirable at all.

It’s a good question. The data shows not only that this country is sliding down international rankings in terms of education, but also that Australia’s educational outcomes are more polarised than in most comparable nations.

It is clear that students from less advantaged backgrounds suffer in under-resourced schools. But it is less clear whether those from more-privileged backgrounds actually benefit much, in purely academic terms, from private education. An array of socioeconomic factors means they would likely do well anyway.

Economists have a term for things that are valued more for the status they advertise than for their utility: positional goods. Perhaps a private school education could be seen in a similar way, as something valued for the status and contacts it provides.

It’s often said that the eye-watering fees paid for places at some of Australia’s elite non-government schools are an investment in a child’s future social network, far more than in their academic future.

Jordana Hunter, education program director at the Grattan Institute, says it’s complicated. “It can be hard to disentangle learning effects from networking effects. Networks seem to be quite significant in terms of success later in life. And that’s above and beyond a cognitive literacy and numeracy learning effect,” she says.

Which is to say, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

Hunter offers another insight, of particular relevance to politics: “It’s hard to understand the concerns of people you don’t empathise with, and hard to empathise with people [who] you don’t know.”

And when you have leaders drawn from a very narrow, privileged background, that has serious ramifications – both in terms of understanding of sexual consent and beyond.

Consider, for example, the Morrison government’s response to the Covid-19 recession. Women, as the Grattan Institute detailed in a comprehensive report this week, lost their jobs at twice the rate men did. They were saddled with more unpaid work, including supervising children learning remotely. They were less likely to get government support, because JobKeeper excluded short-term casuals, who in the hardest-hit industries are mostly women.

Yet the government directed substantial support to sectors, such as construction, that were little affected. It pumped more resources into apprenticeships, which historically are 70 per cent male, and ignored tertiary education, which is heavily female.

Grattan’s chief executive, Danielle Wood, can cite innumerable examples, from childcare to superannuation to homelessness, where women are relatively disadvantaged.

It comes back to a lack of diversity among politicians, she says.

“They just haven’t had the lived experience. And they don’t necessarily deal with a lot of people that have had that lived experience. And so, we end up focusing on a narrower set of policy issues than we should.”

This criticism goes beyond gender to class and race issues, too. For the moment, the focus is on the treatment of women.

Kate Jenkins may be right. Perhaps we have reached a moment of real change. But the “club”, as Greenslade calls it, is very good at protecting its privilege.

It is also very good at silencing its critics by deflecting, intimidating, stonewalling and using the shame felt by its victims against them. But if the past few weeks have shown anything, it’s the power of those victims’ stories when they are told.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 13, 2021 as “The children of gods: how power works in Australia”.

How to make the monsters go away

For the last 15 years I have been designing and delivering programs to help young people to be more resilient than I was when the perfect storm hit

One of those programs Kreative Koalas has been identified by an international organisation as having the capacity to help young people be resilient to natural disasters

I have never been more thrilled in my life to do a deep dive into the risk assessment process for  “How to deal with Latent Trauma

I know my programs teach others what I want to learn and I have never been more hungry to learn something in my entire life – How to make the monsters go away