Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Another shift in personal direction, death of Madge Brown, ageism

I learned yesterday that the contract work I have been doing will finish Friday week. So another page begins. I have quite enjoyed the work despite sometimes frustrations with decision processes, and stayed longer than I had orginally intended, longer probably than I should have, for that reason.

I knew the assignment was coming to an end, but the exact timing was a bit unexpected.

In a post Paul Barratt recorded the death of Ida Madge Brown (1904-2009) at the remarkable age of 105.

From Milwarra where her father planted the first grapes in 1889 marking the start of the Brown Bros wine story, her life took her into the turmoil of the Second World War.

After serving in the Middle East with the 2/4th Australian General Hospital including service in Tobruk at the height of the conflict there, she was promoted to matron-in-charge on the hospital ship Wanganella. She was there when on July 14, 1944 in Bombay Harbour a British explosives ship blew up, killing 900 with 3,000 injured. Nurses and doctors on the Wanganella worked for 36 hours looking after the wounded and the dying. At the end of the war, Madge and her detachment of nurses were sent to Singapore to assist in the repatriation of Australian POWs from the camps of South East Asia.

In 1946 in a complete contrast Madge came to Armidale as household administrator at the New England University College and remained.

I did not know Madge well, although like Paul I knew her all my life. Paul puts its this way:
Madge was not one to talk about herself and I doubt that many of my fellow students had any idea of what this quiet, gentle, ramrod-straight lady had experienced in her past life.
My old blogging friend Neil Whitfield once commented that he and I seem to have grown up in different Australia's. In some ways that's true and people sometimes find it hard to understand my own continuing links and attachment to what I see in a deeply emotional sense as my country. It's just that things link and interlink.

It is now 102 years since my grandfather arrived in Armidale as a seventeen year old farm labourer starting on a path that would lead into senior political positions and result, among other, in the foundation of the New England University College as the first university institution outside the capitals.

It is coming up on 72 years since my father was the first of the foundation staff to arrive in Armidale, since Paul's dad became the first student to be enrolled at the new College, later to become a Professor there in company with my father. It is now 46 years, 47 in Paul's case, since I first became a student at UNE.

Links and interlinks.

In an earlier post I mentioned that I had applied for some form of honorary connection with UNE to provide a better structure for part of my writing and research. A week or so back my appointment as an adjunct associate lecturerer in the School of Humanities was confirmed. No money, but it does give me a formal staff position.

So 102 years since my grandfather arrived in Armidale, 72 years since my father arrived at the new College and Paul's dad enrolled, 46 years since I first became a student, there is once again a formal link.

Inevitably, some of the writing that Paul, I and others like us do simply records the passage of time. This is not always wise in a personal sense.

We live in an ageist world.

Ten years ago part of my professional work involved out-placement, helping people made redundant prepare resumees etc that might give them a better chance of finding work. I dealt with some very sad cases, people thrown up on the scrap-heap of time by the move away from permanent work.

With older executives, a key objective was to structure their material in such a way as to promote their experience without revealing their age to give them a chance of getting to interview. In the first cull of job applications, assessors look for reasons to exclude in order to get a short list.

This type of structuring has become much harder to do simply because employers have become more risk adverse. As part of this, they do things like demanding originals of qualifications and that candidates give them actual job dates so that any gaps can be spotted. Pretty obviously, actual ages peek out a lot earlier.

This is further complicated when people like me present material on their blogs in such a way that their age can be inferred if not explicitly stated. On-line checks are now standard. We cannot hide our electronic footprints!     

Well, to quote William Shakespeare, "Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more".


Neil said...

I am sure there will be a new stage, Jim. You may even get that history book finished!

Saw a lovely item on the news about an old lady who is still calling bingo at her local RSL and turns 100 on New Year's Eve/Day(??). Her advice to the interviewer and cameraman: "Keep up the binge drinking!"

They promised they would.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, Neil. I, too, loved the bingo story!

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