Geraldine's cover image
Geraldine

Geraldine DOOGUE AO

Year of Award: 2000 Award State: New South Wales Multimedia > General
To study the reporting of social and cultural affairs - UK, Ireland, Canada, USA, Netherlands, Italy
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Debate about the changing roles of women and men, the position of children in relationships and the work-life balance had been intriguing Geraldine Doogue for some time when she applied for a Churchill Fellowship in order to explore these issues more fully. Awarded a Fellowship in 2000, Geraldine travelled to the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland and the Netherlands, with a week in the United States to attend the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue.

Believing that the codes of domestic life were under stress, Geraldine observed that this was expressed in different ways in the three countries she visited. She writes in her report that the balance between work and home life was emerging as one of the big unsolved issues everywhere, since family time is competing with the demands of a globalised market. ‘The UK communities were under the most pressure … [with] the longest working hours in Europe, putting tremendous pressure on individuals and families.’

At that time the Blair Labour Government was stressing the idea of return-to-work as a means of reducing disadvantage. Geraldine saw that two new strands were being introduced into this debate: the needs of ageing parents alongside children and the wish to humanise working hours while still keeping Britain competitive.

In the Netherlands, Geraldine found very progressive views on a range of social rights co-existing with a strong motherhood culture. Yet it has a falling birth rate. Geraldine summed up her impressions as ‘a society at its own crossroads, a bit shocked at what lies ahead but leaning towards a libertarian solution, that is, different people will be genuinely free to choose their own family styles.’

Irish society felt more conservative than Australia and the influence of the Catholic Church still seemed pervasive there. Geraldine assessed Ireland as undergoing rapid social change, ‘packing into the last 15 years what has probably been unfolding in Australia for the previous 30 or so.’ She observed the happy fact that in Ireland ‘the media/press is far more broadsheet than tabloid – contributing to a far less sensationalised, divisive coverage of these delicate issues. This will serve them well.’

After her journey Geraldine was convinced of the need to prompt better discussion about contemporary relationships and the need for government and business to actively seek out contributors to this debate who are less partisan and more interested in charting new ground. She also discovered the importance of tailoring information about relationships for men, in particular, many of whom struggle to keep up with the changes occurring in society. She saw the need for ‘realistic, practical guidelines for people to apply in their working lives’ and suggested awards for firms who foster balanced lives among their employees and naming in an equally public way those firms who do not.

Excerpt from “Inspiring Australians” written by Penny Hanley (2015)

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